The Aran Islands is one of those places that must be on your bucket list if you haven’t visited already. National Geographic voted the Islands as one of the worlds top Island destinations- and they know a thing or two about destinations. Situated just off the coast of Galway and Clare the Islands are made up of Inis Oirr (the smallest of the three Islands), Inis Meain and Inis Mór (the largest of the Islands). At the end of August myself, Jane, Caroline and Stephanie took the ferry from Rossaveal in Co Galway to Inis Mór for a weekend of walking, cycling and a few drinkies in between.
There are ferrys all year around from Rossaveal in Co Galway (you can get a ferry bus from Galway city also) and from April to October you can also get a ferry from Doolin in county Clare. If you book online with Aran Island ferries you will get a 10% discount. The adult ticket was €22.50 return. The crossing from Rossaveal only takes 40 mins and there is a shop on board that serves tea, coffee, snacks and a selection of beers and cider also. We had decided to stay in Kilronan Hostel on our trip. Kilronan Hostel is literally a 5 minute walk from the main pier and offers great value for money on the Island.
The lovely Helen checked us into our 5 Bedroom dorm when we arrived. Our dorm had 2 bunk beds and 1 single bed (I quickly claimed that for myself) and a shower room that as far as I could see was just for our use. We had a fantastic view of the pier and beach from our window- as do all the dorms in the Hostel. We dumped our bags and headed out for a walk before dinner. Helen advised us that Dún Duchathair, or Black fort, was an easy hour and a half walk there and back.
We headed towards Trá Mór and passed the Aran Island sweater store and the Aran Islands Hotel. I did take a wrong turn on this road and took a road to the right for Dun Aonghusa when we should have stayed on the main road a little longer. I made the big mistake of wearing my flip flops on this walk and they were fine while we were on the road. However, once we took the correct turn right (which was signposted for Dún Duchathair) the road got quite rocky. My poor feet were in bits by the time we reached the Black fort but it was definitely worth it. Once you reach the top of the road you come to sheer cliffs with no guardrails so on a misty day take caution!
The sea was so peaceful on the day we were there and we could see all the way over to Co Clare. You turn to the left here to make your way over to the fort across lots of flat stones. The fort itself is very similar to Dún Aonghusa but obviously not as busy. The name Black Fort is believed to have come from the black limestone that is so prevalent in the area. Part of the ring fort has been washed away with the receeding cliffs but you can still make out the shapes of the huts that would have been within the fort also. We sat up on top of the fort for a good 20 minutes just taking in our amazing surroundings and wondering what it would have been like here hundreds of years ago. Bit chilly in the winter I would imagine!
We heading back down to Kilronan after our walk so I could soak my feet in hot water and to start our BBQ! This Hostel really does have great facilities. There were plenty of fridges to keep our food cold and lots of crockery and cutlery for us to use. After fighting with the BBQ for around ten minutes and telling everyone that I was not asking a man for help…. I asked a man for help. He worked in the hostel and in fairness to him he had it up and running for me in around 30 seconds. So we sat down on the outside benches drinking our cans (very classy), cooking our food and watching the amazing sunset across the sea in front of us. Pretty epic first day to be honest (and that was before we had one too many vodkas in “The Bar” up the road.)
The next day I awoke to Jane hanging her head out our skylight telling me that the tourists from the first ferry were taking all the bikes from Aran Bike Hire and we would be left with none! I was pretty sure we would be safe enough (there’s around 500 bikes there) so we got a lovely continental breakfast downstairs in the hostel kitchen. Lots of cereal, toast, buckets of fruit on the table and all the tea you can drink. This set us up for the day so we headed down to Aran bike hire which is just down to the left when you come out of the Hostel. To hire a bike for the day is €10 with a €5 deposit that you will get back as long as you don’t lose the bike 🙂
We took off up through the village of Kilronan and past Joe Wattys Pub. Our first stop was Poll na bPeist or the Worm hole. This really unusual natural rock formation in the cliff has become famous since the Red bull diving competition last summer. Before you come to Kilmurvey beach, before you go down the hill, there is a road to the left. This is signposted for Poll na bPeist. Its another 5 minutes to cycle in. We left our bikes at the end of the lane way and made our way over to the cliffs. There are red markings if you keep to the field above. I had decided myself that it was of course possible to jump into the hole but I was well warned that if I jumped in, there was no way out. We took our few snaps and made our way back to the bikes safe in the knowledge that we definitely wouldn’t have made it back out!
Back onto the main road then and we took the hill down into Kilmurvey and took a left in the village towards the visitor center for Dun Aonghasa. There is a little square here of shops, toilets, a cafe and even a car park for bikes. Entry into Dun Aonghasa is €5 but the lovely people in Kilronan Hostel had sorted us out with free tickets! There is a 10 minute walk then from the visitor centre up to the fort. (This walk was quite welcome for me because my poor bum was already in so much pain from the seat of the bike!) We took lots of photos when we reached the fort and did the compulsory looking over the edge. If you look right and left here the scenery is just out of this world! Archeologists believe that this fort could date back to 1100 BC. Dun Aonghasa translates to Fort of Aongus and is said to be named after the mythical king- Aonghus Mac Úmhór.
We stopped in the cafe on the way back to the pain machine, or the bikes as they are more commonly known, to grab a compulsory tea and a bun and then we were on our way again. Our next stop- the seven Churches. Here, at the end of a hill very close to the sea is a monastic settlement with two large churches and the rest of the buildings were domestic buildings (So only 2 churches really).Saint Breacan founded the monastery in the 8th century. Most of the site is in disrepair now but there is history everywhere! This was the most westerly point of the Island that we travelled to. We headed back down the road towards Kilmurvey and after a short stop at the beach- where the water is crystal blue by the way- we took the coast road back towards Kilronan. My arse was well and truly worn out at this stage so I ended up walking a lot of the way back.
I was very happy pottering along checking out the scenery over across Galway Bay and the mountains of Connemara. On the coast road there is also a lay by to stop at where you can see the Island seals. It was very warm on this particular day so they weren’t making much movement to entertain us. We arrived back at Joe Watty’s Pub and there was never a time when a pint of cider was more deserved! It was around 5pm at this stage so we headed back to the hostel to clean ourselves up and head out for dinner in “The Bar”. The food hit the spot and the few drinkies we had afterwards in Joe Wattys made sure we had a good nights sleep too.
The following day we hopped on the ferry back to Rossaveal after a lovely walk up to the Aran Islands Hotel and a stop in the gift shops to buy some souvenirs. Inis Mór and the Aran Islands are a must visit destination for all Irish people. A place where life slows down so all you can do is relax. A place where you feel a bit closer to the past and a place where Father Ted memorabilia is around every corner! We are definietly thinking of returning for Ted Fest next year. Kilronan Hostel would be my top recommendation for accommodation. We paid €60 each for the two nights and that included our continental breakfast also. I have attached a few helpful links below and as always- Happy Galavanting!! xxx