Inis Mór, or Inishmore, is the largest of the Aran Islands, a group of Islands off the Galway Coast in Ireland. Famous for their woolly Aran sweaters, I hadn’t realised just how beautiful Inishmore Island would be. I visited Inishmore on a day trip from Galway as part of my Shamrocker Adventures 5-day tour around Ireland, and Inishmore is well worth exploring, either by spending the night or by taking a day trip to the Aran Islands from Galway. Here is everything you need to arrange a fabulous trip to the Aran Islands.
What & Where are the Aran Islands?
The Aran Islands are a group of three Islands which lie off the west coast of Ireland, at the mouth of Galway Bay. The largest of the Islands is Inishmore, and the two smaller islands are Inishmaan and Inisheer. The islands’ inhabitants primarily speak Irish as well as English, so it is a great place to come and practise your Gaelic. In Gaelic, the Islands have different names: Inis Mór, Inis Meáin, and Inis Oírr, and the anglicized spellings are more or less phonetic pronunciations of the Irish names.
How to Get to the Aran Islands
Galway is a great base to use for visiting Inis Mór and the Aran Islands. Spend a couple of nights in the town and enjoy some famous Irish drinks (like a pint of Guinness or two!) at one or several of the many pubs in Galway. As part of our Shamrocker tour, we spent two nights in Galway, and spent one day at the Aran Islands and another day going to the Cliffs of Moher. All our transport was arranged by Shamrocker Adventures which was much easier than worrying about it myself, but if you are travelling independently, here’s what you need to know about how to get to the Aran Islands.
Ferries to the Aran Islands from Galway
The ferry is the most popular way to get to the Aran Islands, and there are ferries to the Aran Islands from Galway running regularly throughout the year. Aran Island Ferries have offices in Galway and arrange transport to the ferry terminal in Ros a’ Mhíl (Rossaveel), or you can drive to the terminal yourself. Ferries to Inis Mór cost €25 return for an adult, with discounted rates for children, students, OAPs and large groups. If you want to take the shuttle bus transfer from Galway to the ferry terminal, it is an additional €9 per adult. Check the prices and timetable for Aran Island Ferries here.
For our Inis Mór tour with Shamrocker Adventuress, we all took the shuttle bus from Galway which arrived in good time for the 10.30 am ferry to Inis Mór. The ferry company recommend buying your ferry and transport tickets in advance, which you can do at their office in Galway, or online. The ferries are comfortable, but the crossing can get choppy if its windy, so if you suffer from motion sickness come prepared!
Ferries to the Aran Islands from Doolin
Further south, Doolin also has a ferry port and Doolin 2 Aran Ferries run regular ferries to each of the Aran Islands, as well as a Cliffs of Moher cruise. Check their website here.
Flights to the Aran Islands
Aer Arran have some flights to the Aran Islands from Connemara Airport. They use small Check the timetable and prices here.
Inis Mór Transport
When we boarded the ferry at Ros a’ Mhíl, there were a couple of people handing out an Inis Mór map with the key things to see in Inis Mór so you can plan your day. When you arrive at the port in Inis Mór, there are four options for exploring the island, on foot, by bike, with a horse and cart, or in a mini-bus.
If you are taking a day tour to Inis Mór you probably won’t have time to see as much of the island if you decide to go on foot, so I would recommend one of the other options.
Aran Islands Bike Hire
At the port, you can’t miss the Aran Islands Bike Hire building, where you can hire bikes for the day from €10. They will also give you a map if you didn’t get one on the ferry. Aran Islands bike rental also have electric bikes, tandems and child seats and buggies too. This can be a great way to explore Inis Mór independently, but bear in mind it is often very windy (and sometimes wet!) so you’ll need to be quite fit to pedal your way around the island.
Horse and Cart
Walking up from the port you will see several horses and carts waiting to take people on a tour of Inis Mór. The driver doubles as a guide and will take you to the key sites around the island, explaining more about the history and culture on the island. The horse and cart costs around €20 per person.
Inis Mór Bus Tour
If you prefer to be inside and see a lot of the island then the bus tour is the way to go. There are minibuses waiting for the visitors to get off the ferry, and they will whisk you around the island explaining the sites as you go. I chose this option for my Inis Mór tour, and was really happy with my choice – there was a small group of us from Shamrockers who decided to do this, most people took bikes and a few opted for the horse, and it seems everyone was happy with their choice! We had a red minibus with a guide called Patrick who was fab. We drove up to Dun Aonghasa where we had time to walk up to the ruins and have lunch at the café as well as doing a spot of shopping. We then hopped back in the minivan to visit some of the other stops on the island. Our guide Patrick was fab, and we had plenty of time to stop for photographs along the way.
Exploring Inis Mór
Whichever way you choose to explore the island, you won’t be disappointed. Thatched cottages, golden beaches, dramatic cliffs and miles of stone walls create an absolutely gorgeous island. It is even more impressive considering that the fields that now make up large parts of the island had to be created by the hardy inhabitants of the island. They built stone walls to make small sections of ‘fields’ which were then covered with layers of seaweed brought up from the coast which gradually decomposed and eventually formed soil.
As you travel around the island, you’re bound to meet some of the friendly locals – of the two and four-legged variety like donkeys and Connemara ponies. Everywhere you look there are beautiful views, and what looks like ruins of old cottages, which are left here to make sure future generations can re-build without requiring new planning permission on the plot. I was also fascinated by the memorials to islanders who left Inis Mór and never returned, either lost at sea or moved to the mainland.
Things to do on Inis Mór
Dun Aonghasa is the oldest stone fort in Europe and is perched on top of some of the highest cliffs on Inis Mór. There is a healthy 20-minute walk from the entrance at Kilmurvey Craft Village to the fort, and it can be slippery in the rain so watch your footing. It costs €2 per adult and is definitely worth it! The views of the island are stunning, and the cliffs are incredible. Be careful on the cliffs as there are no fences!
The Worm Hole
There is another walk down to the wormhole from the road, unfortunately, we didn’t get chance to visit here on our tour but it looks very cool! The Worm Hole is a natural swimming pool which Red Bull uses as a cliff diving venue. To get here you can walk east along the cliffs from Dun Aonghasa from the road which runs between here and Gort Na gCapall.
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The Seven Churches
The ruins of two small churches and their churchyard are a beautiful and thought-provoking stop.
The Aran Seal Colony
From the beach you can find Inis Mór’s seal colony, but only during low tide. On high tides the seals are in deeper water feeding so are harder to spot.
Dun Duchathair (The Black Fort)
Another cliffside ruin on the southern side of the island, in an equally stunning location as Dun Aonghasa.
The Church of Saint Benan
The church here is said to be the smallest in the world, measuring a mere 3.7m by 1.8m.
Kilmurvey Craft Village
Close to the entrance of Dun Aonghasa, this cluster of pretty cottages has craft shops where you can buy Aran sweaters, jewellery and tasty handmade fudge. We ate lunch here at the fabulous café Teach Nan Phaidi, which serves hot and cold meals and a tasty selection of cakes.
Aran Sweater Market
In the main village of Kilronan, the huge Aran Sweater Market is your last chance to buy the famous sweaters on the islands where they’re made. Check the labels though as not all of the sweaters are knitted on the islands.
Inis Mór Accommodation
As I mentioned, we used Galway as a base to visit the Aran Islands, but if all this has tempted you to spend more time exploring Inis Mór, there are several options for accommodation on the Aran Islands.
Aran Islands Glamping & Camping
Recently opened 5 minutes’ walk from the port at Frenchman’s Beach, Aran Islands Camping and Glamping have pods and camping huts which have everything you might need to enjoy a night or two on the beautiful Inis Mór coast. There is also space for pitching your own tent. Check the details here.
Inis Mór Hotels on the Aran Islands
There are a surprising number of hotels and bed and breakfasts on Inis Mór, check out all the options with prices and availability here.
Hostels on the Aran Islands
Or check the options on Airbnb. If you have never used Airbnb before, use this link to sign up & get up to $40 credit to use on your first trip! Read more about the Airbnb first time discount code or click below for your Airbnb coupon.
How beautiful is Inishmore?? Which would be your top thing to do in Inis Mor? Leave your comments below.
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I received a complimentary 5 day tour with Shamrocker Adventures, but all opinions are my own.
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Tales of a Backpacker is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. I only recommend goods and services I believe are useful and reliable.Last updated: February 15, 2020