A short guide to the Aran Islands

photo by tiarescott

Ireland the island is surrounded by scores of other tiny islands, some inhabited and some not, but all of them undeniably beautiful. Some islands are the home of particular traditions and cultural customs which cannot be found on the main island, and which have become representative of the small island communities. Other islands have become known for their historical relics, or the manufacture of precious local goods. The Aran islands, a small archipelago off the coast of County Galway, embody all of these traits. If you want to see a side of Ireland that hasn’t changed much in the past century or so, where tradition and a sense of community are stronger than anywhere else, then you should visit this place. So here’s a short guide to the Aran Islands.

Understanding the islands

There are quite a few differences between the Aran Islands and most of the mainland, especially larger urban areas. First

photo by Tallis Keeton

of all, the islands are Gaeltachtaí, that is, regions where Irish language is the first (and sometimes, though very rarely, the only) language of the inhabitants. This is not a problem because most islanders speak English, but road signs are usually only written in Irish, so you should have a good map on you.

Transport and accommodation

You can get to the islands by ferry, and there are several you can take: from Doolin, in Co Clare, in Rossaveal, Co Galway, or from Connemara, the islander operated ferry services from Ros an Mhíl. If you don’t have any patience with ferries and you have the budget to spare, you can fly to the islands from Indreabhán Airport in Connemara. Once you get to the islands, it will be easy to arrange a bus tour, which are not expensive and are usually lead by a local guide who is knowledgeable about the history and culture of the islands. However, if you like self-guided tours or if you want to roam free, you can do that by foot or bike. Walking is really the most recommended way to see the sights

photo by Eric Mill

on the island, it takes some time but it is much more worth it. Accommodation is not difficult to find on Aran islands, since tourism is what sustains much of their economy. There are several guesthouses, bed and breakfasts and inns, you can find a comprehensive listing on the official website of the islands:

Sights

Even if you are not out to hunt all of the sights on the islands, chances are that you’ll bump into them while you’re exploring the place. There’s an ancient fort in Inishmore, on the edge of a cliff, the 14th century O’Brien’s Castle on Inis Oirr, several other ringforts and lots of beautiful countryside. There are far too many attractions to be listed in short guide to the Aran Islands, but you’ll likely discover them yourself once you get there.

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