This small island of Inis Mor, also known as Inishmore, doesn’t seem to top the list of most first-time visitors to Ireland. It’s off the beaten path and requires a ferry ride to reach it. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t!
Despite being quite small, it is packed with ancient sites, stone houses, sounds, and experiences that can only enrich your time in Ireland.
That said, it’s absolutely worth visiting Inishmore.
Our visit to the Aran Islands was part of a longer Ireland trip with Globus Journeys, on their new Green with Envy: Ireland by Design itinerary. A trip that showcases a nice balance of the best places and lesser-known sides of the country.
The trip included a day trip excursion to the Aran Islands from Galway city, which provided a thorough immersion of all that Inis Mor has to offer.
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Are you planning to spend more time in Ireland? Take a look at our comprehensive Ireland Travel Guide!
An Overview of Inis More (Inishmore), Ireland
Some Interesting Facts & History about Inishmore
The Aran Islands are made up of the three islands of Inis Mor, Inis Meain, and Inis Oirr. They are the last lands in the west of Ireland before you reach America.
Inishmore is the largest island of the three, but that’s not saying much. The island itself is only 8 miles long and 2 miles wide, with a population of about 800 people.
The island used to be called Árainn Mhór (meaning “kidney-shaped”), until it was changed to ‘Inishmore’ after the anglicized version of the name (Aran More) was starting to be confused with Arranmore, County Donegal.
Despite its remote location, rocky terrain, and small size the island is home to more than a dozen towns and villages. Rock climbing and cliff diving are popular sports among the locals. Red Bull’s Cliff Diving Series Event is also held on the island which started in 2012 and has grown in popularity ever since.
The island also holds a strong position in Irish culture and history, having many ancient and medieval sites, such as Dún Aonghasa, which has been described as “the most magnificent barbaric monument in Europe”.
Where is Inis Mor Located in Ireland?
HOW TO USE THIS MAP: Above you’ll find a map of our highlights in Inishmore, Ireland. Click on the top left of the map to find separate layers marking the route and points of interest. You can hide and show different layers, or click icons on the map to see the names of places we mention in this travel guide. “Star” the map to save it to your own Google Maps, or open the map in a new window for a larger version.
The Aran Islands are located outside the mouth of Galway Bay between the Atlantic Ocean and the west coast of Ireland.
If you’re looking for a remote and rugged adventure when visiting Ireland, look no further than the historic island of Inis Mór. Tucked into the western side of Ireland, this tiny group of islands is so remote that even visitors to Galway sometimes miss it.
This small island lies in stark contrast to the rest of Ireland’s green landscape. Yet, it is still abundantly beautiful and home to exotic marine life coupled with rich history, and unique culture.
How To Get There?
The best and most practical option is to take one of the Aran Island ferries from mainland Ireland to Inishmore. Regardless of where you leave from, all ferries will arrive at the ferry port in the main village of Kilronan. Ferries run from Doolin in County Clare, or Rossaveal, a small Gaeltacht village near Galway.
The Doolin ferry crossing from Doolin pier to Inishmore takes about 35 minutes and a little less from Rossaveal, which is closer to Inishmore.
If you’ve got your own car, there are parking spots at the pier, and the rates are quite reasonable and flexible. About €5 for 24 hours or €20 for a week (at the time of writing this guide).
You can get your ferry ticket from the pier as well, or even pre-book it online.
What To Expect from Visiting the Aran Islands?
With Inishmore and the Aran Islands, you’re stepping into a place out of time itself. Packed with a fort from the Iron Age and belonging to part of the Gaeltacht, be prepared to meet with locals still speaking traditional Irish Gaelic.
While experiencing a lot of heavy waves and wind, the island still offers turquoise waters and golden beaches quite reminiscent of the Caribbean. The beautiful beaches notwithstanding, the landscape isn’t anywhere near to what you might find in nearby Galway.
What you get instead is a flatter stony landscape with jagged sea cliffs, with many parts of green interspersed in between. This is a stark contrast to the lush abundant green hills and farmland Ireland is so well known for.
How to Get Around on Inis Mor
The most common way of getting around Inishmore is on foot or by bike hire. Since the island is so small (just 8 miles long by 2 miles wide), it’s quite easy to explore without having to use a car or public transport.
If you’re not a fan of bicycles, you could also rent an electric bike, which could be a fun experience in itself. If not, then there are several taxi and tour operators who will sell shuttle bus tours to various sites.
You can also choose to dive right into the local history and culture by booking a pony-trap ride. Take a journey back in time and be driven around by horse and carriage, for a very unique experience.
Tips to Help Make Your Visit to Inis Mor Smoother
If you’re traveling to the island independently, it’s a good idea to make your first stop at the visitor centre after you get off the ferry. They can provide all of the information and maps that you need to explore the island.
Because of the remote location of the island and the small population, Inishmore has a slightly slower pace than the rest of Ireland. Most places like the shops, grocery stores, and vehicle rental operators close early in the evening, around 5 pm.
Make sure you’re dressing in layers and have an umbrella on hand, as the weather can get wet and windy quite fast and sometimes without warning. Also, pack a comfortable and durable pair of shoes that can withstand long walks across multiple terrains.
Many vendors and shops on Inishmore will also not accept cards, so you’ll need to carry a decent amount of cash to pay for necessities and some facilities on the island.
Keep a little extra cash stashed away for emergencies. This cash should always be tucked away in a hidden and hard-to-find location just to be safe.
Learn more about the Best Time to Visit Ireland in our month by month breakdown
Best Things To Do in Inishmore, Ireland
Despite being such an example of contrast, and being so close to a place like Galway, many people still miss Inishmore and the Aran Islands. This is unfortunate as the islands do offer a lot in terms of history and natural beauty.
Marvel in Wonder at Dún Aengus (Dún Aonghasa)
Dun Aengus, or Dún Aonghasa as it’s known in its traditional form, is a stone prehistoric fort and is by far the most popular attraction on the Aran Islands. While there is no confirmed record, experts believe the fort to be almost 3,000 years old.
Some studies place the main structure to have been constructed in the 2nd century BCE, making it quite old. However, the first unearthed construction of the fort is believed to be from 1100 BCE, meaning parts of the structure go as far back as the Iron Age and Bronze Age.
Be careful on the walk up the hill to the fort, as some parts are very rocky. There are some rock stairs in some places, but wheelchair access or those with impaired movement will not be able to access Dun Aengus.
If you’re visiting during the peak season, try visiting as early as possible or during the late afternoon to avoid the tourist rush. There aren’t many signs around that would detail the history, but there is an audio guide and you could study the fort before you visit.
Apart from the fort itself, the views that the fort offer is nothing short of spectacular. Since the fort is on a 330-foot cliff edge, the view looking over the ocean is perfect for a photo op.
Discover The Seven Churches
The Seven Churches, known locally as Na Seacht dTeampaill, is one of the more beautiful stops you can make during your visit to Inishmore.
The site features the ruins of a very large church that was one of the biggest pilgrimage centers along the west coast of Ireland. In the yard is a large cemetery scattered with headstones and plenty of celtic crosses.
If you enjoy photography, this site is a total vibe, especially if you get good light during your visit. It’s possible to wander freely through the entire site, so don’t be shy about finding creative angles.
Don’t Miss Ti Jo Watty’s Pub
A walkable distance from the ferry terminal, Ti Joe Watty’s Pub and Seafood Bar is a great place to have a bite to eat when you arrive in Inishmore.
This pub has a very cozy feel to it with large windows that let so much warmth in if you visit on a sunny day. It’s even known as ‘the coziest pub in Ireland to have a drink by the fire’! They often have live music to enjoy along with their inviting atmosphere.
Shop for Handmade Wool Items at Aran Sweater Market
You simply cannot visit the Aran Islands without buying a famous Aran sweater, or at least browsing the wool items during your visit. The Aran Sweater Market features authentically Aran wool sweaters, hats, scarves, mittens, and blankets all made from Irish natural wool.
The design of the sweaters dates back to the early 1800s and was made by the women of the island villages that were left behind when their fisherman husbands went to sea.
The women would stitch each sweater in a unique way so that if their husbands went missing and were later recovered, they would be easily identified. Morbid, I know, but also a very interesting piece of the Aran Islands’ history.
Have a Pint at The Bar
If you find yourself back in Kilronan with some time to spare before you hop the ferry back to the mainland, you should head to The Bar for a pint of Guinness or Irish coffee. Not to mention that it’s a place steeped in rich history.
The Bar actually started as a small thatched house, that later became a small hotel and eventually transitioned into a bar in the early 1900s. It is easily one of the oldest pubs in Inis Mor.
It gained in popularity when the emigrating ships that were heading to America would make their last stop in Inishmore before crossing the Atlantic. Of course, everyone headed to The Bar for their last drinks in Ireland.
Tour the Island by Horse Carriage
As soon as you get off the ferry, whether you are traveling independently or with a group, you will be asked if you would like to see the island by horse and carriage.
The most popular operation on the island is Thomas Faherty Tours, offering tours to the popular places on the island. We didn’t take one, but we enjoyed seeing the beautiful horses all around the island during our visit.
The horses were in fantastic health, had great feet, and were well cared for. The drivers went as far as to use light wool coolers on their backs when they were waiting for guests at each site.
Check Out Dun Eochla
Dun Eochla is another stone fort that is located on the highest point of Inishmore. Due to its fantastic location and remarkable condition, this fort truly deserves much more attention than it actually gets.
While not as old as Dun Aengus, this fort does still date back to 550 AD, and the site offers many picturesque views of the beautiful surrounding landscape.
See the Worm Hole Inis More – Poll na bPéist
The Poll na bPeist Wormhole, or the Serpent’s Lair, is an almost perfect rectangular hole cut into the rock. Due to a cave and a number of channels connecting to the ocean, when the tide rolls in, water rushes in filling the hole to look like a pristine natural swimming pool.
It’s a unique sight and one that can be reached with a 25-minute brisk walk. The rocks have red markings that point the way, but that doesn’t make finding it too easy and you still need to be careful and keep an eye on where you’re stepping.
The hike is worth it though and it’s made easier if you choose to hire a local guide. On the way you’ll even find small tidal pools with neon green algae and cliff views, making for very good photo ops.
Visit Teampall Bheanáin
Believed to be the smallest church in Ireland, the Teampall Bheanáin dates back almost a thousand years. About the size of a small parking space, this tiny oratory is somehow very well preserved and is worth visiting.
While the hike is steep and the ground is uneven in some places, the trek is not a long or difficult one. Put on some shoes that provide good ankle support and traction and make a beautiful journey up to the church.
The views are amazing throughout the entire hike and almost everywhere around the church makes for good photo ops. The church could also be a great place to watch the sunset.
Spot Wildlife at the Inishmore Seal Colony
Inishmore also serves as a home for a colony of some furry cute individuals. When the tide favors it, the rocky shores provide a spot for a colony of seals to relax and enjoy the sun and water.
You’ll often find about a dozen or so seals just chilling, or hunting for fish such as Salmon and Pollock. These seals are grey in color and weigh upwards of 200 kilograms.
If you’re a wildlife enthusiast or are looking for an enchanting sight, taking a visit to the shore to see the seals in their natural habitat could be a very memorable experience.
See The Church of the Four Beauties
The Church of the Four Beauties, known locally as Teampall An Ceathrar Alainn, is located in the village of Corruch on Inis Mor. It is a small gothic-style church that dates back to the 15th century.
Local lore tells us that the Four Beauties are buried under the stone flags inside the church. They are also believed to have healing powers.
Today you’ll see a ruin that looks out over the beautiful Irish countryside of the largest of the Aran Islands.
A Few Other Things to Do
Along with the major things listed above, you might also want to check out these other things to do in Inis Mor during your visit to the Aran Islands.
- Aran Goat Cheese Tour & Tasting
- Rent an e-bike to explore the island
- Have a picnic at Kilmurvey Beach
- Visit Dun Duchathair – the black fort
- Visit St. Ciaran’s Monastery, also known as Teampall chiarain
Our Green with Envy Ireland itinerary was part of a paid partnership with Globus Journeys. However, all opinions, stories, advice, and insane love for the Emerald Isle are 100% ours, as always.
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