Week 4: Aran Islands
See you never Canada!! I am never leaving this beautiful country, especially after visiting the Aran Islands this past Sunday.
Okay, okay I’m just kidding. To my mom and dad reading, don’t worry, I’ll come home….eventually.
On Sunday I took a solo day trip to Aran Island, Inis Mor. The Aran Islands are 3 Islands off the coast of Galway consisting of incredible limestone landscapes, quiet, beautiful beaches, peaceful, farmer’s fields and vast, stunning views. The second you step on one of the Islands and experience that far removed feeling you’ll never want to leave.
I started my trek at 9am. First, a bus picks you up outside a church in the city center. The bus ride was about 30-40 minutes. From there I got on a ferry to the Islands which was about a 45 minute ride. If you are an antsy person who doesn’t like long rides – don’t worry both the bus and the ferry are very scenic rides. There is lots to see to keep you occupied. Or you might even end up sitting next to someone with a ton of knowledge on Irish History, as I did. A very sweet German lady (living in Dublin) shared some very interesting facts and history with me. By the time the bus ride was over I was even more excited after everything I had just learned.
When I arrived on the island I had no plan but the weather was PERFECT and I was ready for my solo adventure. As soon as you step off the ferry, at the end of the ports are multiple “bike hires” and horse buggies ready to greet you. In a split second decision I had determined that I would rent a bike for the day. It was an easy decision at €10 for the day (that is about $15 Cdn), so I picked one with a basket and went on my way.
I was given a brochure with a map and a marked trail for me to follow in order to see all the island has to offer. There is so much to do, I recommend choosing the main 5 sights you want to see in the interest of time. The last ferry leaves the island at around 4:30/5:00, so unless you’re staying overnight at one of the precious B&B’s you only have so much time and you want to experience each stop to its’ fullest. Also, be prepared to stop quite often in the first hour because as you travel further on the trail you will eventually emerge into this wide open space where all of a sudden you see far stretched ocean on one side and stone-lined rolling hills on the other. I was stopping every 20 meters to take another picture.
The stops I made on the island include a) the seal colony b) Kilmurvey Beach c) Kilmurvey Cafe d) Dun Aonghasa (the oldest stone fort in Western Europe) e) Aran Sweater Market and f) Bayview Restaurant for some wings and a Guinness. There are also multiple lookouts along the trails.
Unfortunately there were no seals at the seal colony that day, but it was still a beautiful lookout spot. Further down from the colony was the Kilmurvey Beach, where I stopped and took some time to walk on the beach and enjoy the fresh air and the canvas of blues in front of me. Then on my way to Dun Aonghasa I stopped at a quaint restaurant among multiple other shops (from crepes to ice cream to cakes to famous Aran sweaters) for a quick snack and refresher before continuing on. As far as my favourite goes, it would have to be Dun Aonghasa. Although I was unaware there was a small hike to it, as well as a fee of €4, €2 ($3 Cdn) for students (small price to pay), when I reached the top the view was absolutely worth it. You can see anything and everything from up there. Between the cliffs dropping straight down to the pounding waves and the stone walls of the fort standing strong in the winds, it was breathtaking. I stood up there for a good long time just taking it all in.
Finally I headed back towards the ports, mostly uphill, to the restaurants and shops…it was time for a well-deserved Guinness. I did some shopping and bought myself an Aran Sweater straight from the Aran Islands then enjoyed lunch with a view before catching the 4:00 ferry back to Galway.
The rides back were just as easy and this time I sat next to a lovely woman from Missouri who told me all about her adventures here in Ireland and her grandchildren.
I know I still have so much to see in Ireland (and Europe) but The Aran Islands will be a tough act to follow. It was such an incredibly beautiful day. I wouldn’t have done it any differently. If you’re ever in Ireland make sure the islands are on your list!
Side note: Try travelling solo sometime, it is a very different, but wonderful travel experience to do something like this on your own. 10/10 recommend.
Make sure you check out the slideshow at the top of this post with all my pictures from my day in Inis Mor.