Aran Islands Day Trip from Galway to Inishmore

by Vanessa Wanders Miles

Inishmore (Inis Mor) is the largest (7.4 x 1.8 miles) and most popular of the three main Aran Islands which lie off the west coast of Ireland 30 miles from Galway Bay. It is also the quickest and easiest island to get to. 

If you’re visiting this part of Ireland, an Aran Islands day trip is a must. It’s a stunning place, that offers beautiful views, sites of historical interest, and vast wide sand beaches that roll into the turquoise waters of the Atlantic Ocean. 


About Inishmore, Aran Islands

The Aran Islands, Inishmore, Inisheer (Inis Oirr), and Inishmaan (Inis Meain) are part of the Wild Atlantic Bay and have guarded the bay against strong seas and foreign invasion for thousands of years. They were first populated 3000 years ago, and Stone Age and Megalithic monuments can be found on all three. 

Inishmore is famous for being the home of traditional Irish music and the pubs on the island are full of the haunting sounds of Sean Nós singing (old-fashioned solo and unaccompanied) and Céilí dancing. 

Galway County and the Aran Islands a part of a Gaeltacht, an area of Ireland where the Irish language is the main tongue of the community. They are also the best places to see an authentic Ireland where the traditions and culture are still a big part of life. 

One of the most distinctive parts of the Inishmore landscape is the dry-stone walls that crisscross the rocky fields. They were made many, many years ago to protect the farms and topsoil from the raging winds coming off the sea. 

The walls are crafted from the karst limestone rock that the earth of the Aran Islands is made from. This is the same distinctive limestone that can be found across the water in The Burren area of County Clare and shows that millions of years ago this landscape was all connected.  


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How to get to Inishmore


Ferry from Galway to Inishmore

Galway City is a lively city that has a vibrant music scene, world-class restaurants, and a fascinating heritage. It is the easiest town to reach on public transport from Dublin or Cork, so this likely is where you will catch the Inishmore ferry.

A Galway to Aran islands day trip will leave from Ros a’ Mhil Harbour, 23 miles west of the city. There’s a daily shuttle bus service that leaves Queen Street. Prepare for a journey of at least an hour to get to the ferry from Galway.

The Aran Islands ferry takes 40 minutes. On board, you’ll find a warm Irish welcome, a fully stocked bar, hot drinks, and snacks. Keep your eye on the water, you might see puffins, seals, or dolphins.

The views of Galway Bay are wonderful and, on the journey, back to the mainland, the boat will sail past the Cliffs of Moher. This five-mile stretch of coastline reaches 200 metres and is Ireland’s largest colony of seabirds. You’ll also see An Branán Mór Sea Stack and a cave that was a location in one of the Harry Potter films.

The ferry runs daily at 9.30 am between April and November and lands at Kilronan harbour. The ferry back to the mainland departs at 3.30 pm, arrives at the Cliffs of Moher at 4.15 pm, and Galway City Docks at 6 pm.


Ferry from Doolin to Inishmore

Doolin is a small town on the edge of The Burren (the karst limestone landscape) in the northwest of County Clare and it’s a great place from which to catch the Inishmore ferry. Doolin is a thriving hub of Irish music, and the location of breath-taking clifftop walks that overlook the Atlantic Ocean and, in summer, are edged with colourful wildflowers. 

The ferry to Inishmore takes just 35 minutes and sails daily from the Doolin Pier between March to November at 10.00 am and 2.30 pm. There is also an indirect service at 11.00 am and 1.00 pm. The ferries back to the mainland are at 10.45 am and 4.00 pm. 

Parking at Doolin Pier is free as long as you have a valid ferry ticket. 


Aran Islands Day Trip | Things to do on Inis Mor


Seal Colony Viewpoint

The seal colony is a popular attraction on the island. Sadly, I was left a little disappointed as I didn’t see one seal! Still, the views of the Connemara mountains were spectacular, there was a snack cabin selling cake and it was only a short cycle from lovely Kilmurvey Beach. 

If you’re lucky, the sight of the cute yet noisy grey seals (Rón Glas) lounging on the rocks below is heart-warming. It’s also a fantastic location for bird watchers as several rare varieties, wild swans and ducks can be spotted in the small lake next to the seal colony.  

The Atlantic seals you’ll see here are some of the least common, so they are a protected species. The Irish coast is home to over half of Europe’s population of this type of seal. 

Not everyone loves the seals, and their relationship with humans can be fraught. In this part of Ireland, a seal might be a Selkie, a mythical creature that can shed its seal skin and become human. They are also the bane of fishermen, thanks to their habit of cheekily munching on the fish caught in fishing nets. And in the 18th and 19th centuries grey seals were hunted to near extinction for their meat and fur. 


Stroll on Kilmurvey Beach

Kilmurvey Beach is a glorious stretch of white sand on the northern coast of Inishmore. It’s the perfect place for a picnic and building sandcastles. Even better, during the bathing season, it is safe to swim as the beach is lifeguarded, it has Blue Flag status and there are no hidden currents. This area of the coastline is also significant for the rare plants and birdlife that can be found here. 


Visit Dún Aengus Fort (Dún Aonghasa)

Dún Aengus Fort is a magnificent stone fort that sits precariously perched on a sheer cliff top. There is a visitor centre that describes the history of this incredible 3000-year-old edifice. You must then walk 1km across rough terrain to see the fort and the Atlantic Ocean, a ferocious body of water the inhabitants of Dún Aonghasa watched for invaders

You’ll need walking boots or sturdy trainers and a careful step, and be aware there is no barrier between you and a very long fall over the cliff edge. However, the walk and exposure are worth it. 

Dún Aonghasa is made up of three huge drystone walls and a ‘chevaux-de-frise’, a band of thousands of jagged rocks arranged to impede the progress of intruders. Archaeologists digging around this pre-historic fort have discovered evidence of early metalwork, houses, and burial mounds. 


Shop for Aran knitwear

The Aran Islands were the birthplace of the Aran jumper, an iconic, practical, and cosy garment made by the skilled hands of fishermen’s wives and mothers to keep their loved ones warm and dry. The Irish Gaelic word for them is ‘geansai’, and was made originally from un-dyed and unwashed home-spun yarn called báinín.

Traditional Aran (or Arran) jumpers are made from sheep’s wool, a fabric that is warm and waterproof, a property that comes from the lanolin in wool, and is perfect for wearing during a tempestuous Irish winter. They are cream-coloured and have various intricate patterns that represent a ‘wish’ for the wearer. A cable knit is for safety and good luck, a diamond shape is for success, wealth, and treasure and the basket stitch is a prayer for a good catch.

These chunky knit jumpers have become a symbol of Irishness all over the world and what better place to buy one from than the island of their birth?


Visit Seven Churches (Na Seacht d’Teampaill)

The Seven Churches are in Eoghanacht, a village in the west of Inishmore. The saint Breacan came here from County Clare, and so it became the largest monastic foundation and place of pilgrimage on the west coast of Ireland. 

The ‘seven churches’ are only two: Teampall Bhreacáin (St Brecan’s Church) and Teampall an Phoill (Church of the Hollow). The name is thought to come from the pilgrimage to seven churches around the Roman Empire by its pious citizens. 

The first church has parts dating back from the 8th to the 13th century and has a fine arch, nave, and chancel. The second church is from the 15th century and has a simpler style. Both are beautifully preserved, incredible considering their wild location. 


Visit the Worm Hole (Poll na bPéist)

The Worm Hole is one of Inishmore’s most quirky places to visit. It is also known as The Serpent’s Lair and is about a mile east of the stone fort at Dun Aonghasa. 

So, what is it? It is a giant rectangular hole in the limestone at the base of a cliff. It plunges deep into an underground cavern that feeds it with seawater and at high tide, the sea crashes into it from above too. The laser sharp edges make it look man-made, but it is an entirely natural phenomenon. 

This unique place was once used for a Red Bull Diving Series in 2017 and the location subsequently went viral. 


Cycle along Cottage Road

The Cottage Road is the elevated road back to the harbour. From it, you can see the distinctive network of miles upon miles of limestone walls that define the landscape of the Aran Islands.

There are no major tourist sites up here, but the views will take your breath away, you will pass idyllic thatched cottages, and there are fewer vehicles and other tourists, so you can go a little faster, feeling the wind in your hair and fresh sea air in your lungs!


Explore Kilronan (Cill Rónáin)

Kilronan is the main village on the island and is where each Inishmore ferry will land. It’s a bustling little place, especially in summer, and where you will hire your bike and board a minibus or pony and trap.

A day trip to Inishmore will start and end in Kilronan, but it is unlikely you’ll spend much time here. If you have time, the Aran Heritage Centre is worth a look, and there are plenty of shops, restaurants, and bars that seem to become more animated once the last ferry full of tourists has left.

Joe Watty’s Pub and Seafood Bar is a popular haunt, and we were hoping to refuel here before heading back to Galway. However, everyone else had the same idea, so we just had a pint of creamy Guinness and rode the bikes a little further out of the village and enjoyed the beautiful seaside view and a meal at the Aran Islands Hotel instead.

 


FAQs to Visit Inishmore

The ferries to Inishmore island are seasonal and you will need to leave your car on the mainland as ferries do not carry vehicles. There are various ways to explore the island once you’ve arrived but bear in mind that the island is seven by two miles long and covering everything there is to see would take at least two days on foot so booking accommodation would be wise if you’re planning on hiking. 

If you only have time for an Aran Islands day trip from Galway, excellent transport options include a minibus tour, pony and trap experience, or hire a bicycle as we did. 


How do you get around Inishmore?

Bikes + eBikes  

I hired a bike from Aran Bike Hire, a family business who are based at the harbour at Kilronan. It was a great way to see the island. They supplied a detailed keepsake map of Inis Mor, free use of helmets, and roadside assistance.

On average, cycling from Kilronan to Dun Aonghasa on the low road (avoiding the worst of the hills) will take half an hour, so covering all the delights the island has to offer will take around four to five hours. You can choose from mountain bikes, city bikes, or electric bikes.

Inishmore is a safe place to cycle as there are so few cars. However, keeping to the left is still important as on busy days, you’ll meet lots of other people exploring by bike.

Minibus 

There are several tour companies in Inishmore that offer minibus tours. It’s not necessary to book one in advance, but on busy summer days, it’s a good idea as you’ll get the time slot you prefer. Bus tours will leave from Kilronan and cost around €10. 

A minibus tour is perfect for rainy days if you’re short on time or don’t feel fit enough to hike or cycle. The drivers are all very knowledgeable about their home and you’ll learn all about the history and culture of the island. 

Horse + Trap 

Taking a horse and trap is a traditional method of transport on the island. You’ll see the ponies and carriages as soon as you get off the ferry, and the price of hiring them is between 50 and 100 euros for up to four people. 


Is Inishmore worth visiting?

Oh absolutely! I had an incredible day on the island. It was like stepping back in time and I loved the combination of human history, gorgeous views, the proximity of the natural world, and the fresh Atlantic Sea air. The locals are super friendly too, and it was wonderful to hear the Irish language spoken and be part of the craic for a day. 


How long do you need on Inishmore?

Most people will enjoy an Aran islands day trip from Galway or Doolin, rather than staying overnight as Inishmore is easy to explore in a day. However, I would have loved to have experienced the island when the day trippers have gone. I could have woken up for an early hike and visited some of the hidden gems without the pressure of catching a ferry back. 


Where to stay in Inishmore?

So, you’ve decided to stay longer in Inishmore (or thinking about it)! Here are some highly-recommended accommodations on Inis Mor to suit all types of travellers.

Aran Island Camping & Glamping provides modern pods (standard and superior) with a private beach area, barbecue facilities and a shared kitchen.

Seacrest B&B provides comfortable accommodation with a terrace in Kilronan. Enjoy welcoming local hospitality and a tasty breakfast to start the day.

Aran Thatched Cottage is a traditional-style holiday home with a fully equipped kitchen and terrace. 

Kilronan Holiday Homes offer all the comforts, a kitchen, BBQ terrace and incredible garden views.

 

Useful links for your Aran Islands Day Trip to Inishmore

Ready to get planning your Galway to Aran Islands day trip? Here are some useful links to finding places to stay on Inishmore island, finding tours, and transport. These are websites I have used and can recommend with confidence.

Accommodation on Inishmore

Transport + Tours for Inishmore

Transport for your Ireland Road Trip

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PIN FOR LATER – ARAN ISLANDS DAY TRIP FROM GALWAY TO INISHMORE

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5 comments

Carly 17th December 2022 - 8:54 pm

Looks like a beautiful beach for swimming (in the summer!). Coming from Canada, I don’t mind if the water is a bit chilly!

Reply
Vanessa Wanders Miles 17th December 2022 - 11:31 pm

I didn’t have my costume with me so I missed out on a swim on Kilvurney Beach. Cycling on Inishmore was so much fun!

Reply
Lina 17th December 2022 - 10:54 pm

Inishmore looks like such an amazing and beautiful island! I never heard of the Aran Islands before so this was completely new for me. I’d love to visit Kilmurvey Beach and the seven churches.

Reply
Vanessa Wanders Miles 17th December 2022 - 11:39 pm

Inishmore was so beautiful and had so much history to explore. I definitely would love to have stayed on to explore without the Aran Island daytrippers (like me).

Reply
ANUKRATI DOSI 19th December 2022 - 12:48 pm

Aran knitwear would be such a nice souvenir to buy.

Reply

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