On the very edge of the European continent and easily visible from the coast of Counties Galway and Clare, the rocky, wind-swept Aran Islands have a desolate beauty that attracts visitors who want to experience real north atlantic island life. Although only a 40 minute ferry journey from the mainland, there is a unique feeling of separation on these islands.
The Aran Islands are an extension of the limestone escarpment that forms The Burren in Clare and have a shallow topsoil scattered with wild flowers, grass where livestock grazes and jagged cliffs pounded by the wild atlantic surf. The ancient forts which are found here are some of the oldest archaeological remains in Ireland.
Weather permitting, you will arrive by ferry to Inishmore (Irish: Inis Mór) is the largest island and home to the only town, Kilronan. Here you will rent a bicycle and set off across the island to the hill top fort of Dún Aonghasa, which is one of the largest prehistoric stone forts in Europe and stands guard over Inis Mór on the edge of a 100-metre sheer cliff drop.
Sometimes anglicised as Dun Aengus, the fort was built around 1100 BC and is protected by remarkable chevaux de frise, fearsome, defensive limestone spikes. The entirety of the site is about 14 acres and the displays at the small visitor center provide additional context.
As powerful swells pound the cliff face below, on top you’ll get some of the finest and most jaw-dropping views you’ll find anywhere in the Aran Islands. To preserve the site, there are no railings or any other modern additions so you can go right up to the cliff’s edge, but also potentially fall to your doom below…so be careful.
Explore the island
After your visit to Dun Aengus you will have the opportunity to explore the island at your leisure. There are plenty of sights on the island including Dún Eoghanachta, another ancient stone ring fort with towering high walls. There is also Dún Dúchathair, another ruined ancient fort, dating from the Iron Age or early medieval period, which many locals pick this as their favourite historic sight in Inishmore. It’s dramatically perched on a clifftop promontory 2km southwest of Kilronan with terraced walls up to 6m high surrounding the remains of a clochán (early Christian beehive-shaped hut). Its name, meaning the Black Fort, comes from the dark limestone prevalent on this part of the island.
After all your exploring, it could be time to visit one of the beautiful beaches on the island for a bracing dip in the ocean, followed by a leisurely lunch in one of the island’s cafes or pubs.
Joe Watty’s Bar
A trip to the Aran Islands can be a day trip or we can combine it into a longer trip where you can visit the smaller islands of Inisheer and Inishmaan. Also worth visiting with many wonderful sights and a charming laid back way of life that you will find hard to leave behind. The islands also host the best in traditional music, dance and art. There are regular music session and dance events which attract many visitors. Whether you stay one night, a few days or even a week, this is entirely up to you and we will organize everything for your stay.
I think my time on the Aran Islands was one of the most enjoyable holidays I ever had. Everything about the Island was so beautiful, interesting and relaxing. We walked, talked, swam, laughed, fished, danced……..and learned some Irish language.