Top 10 Things to do on the Aran Islands

The Aran Islands are a must see for any tourist visiting the west of Ireland. When visiting the islands one will hear the Gaelic language spoken by the locals, see ancient forts built on the edge of cliffs, see some seals, various different sea birds and learn about the rich culture of the Aran Islands. Here are the top 10 things to do on the Aran Islands. 

1. Picnic at Dun Aonghasa

Perched spectacularly on the edge of a 300ft cliff overlooking the Atlantic ocean, this is the largest of the prehistoric stone forts of the Aran Islands. It is enclosed by three massive dry-stone walls and a “chevaux-de-frise” consisting of  tall blocks of limestone set vertically into the ground to deter attackers. Excavations carried out on the fort indicate that people had been living at Dun Aonghasa around 1500 BC.

There are some magnificent view from Dun Aonghasa as it overlooks the village of Kilmurvey and Gort na gCapall. The fort itself is located approximately 900m uphill from the visitor’s center. Dun Aonghasa is a fantastic location to enjoy a picnic as you can gaze out on the magnificent cliffs and Atlantic Ocean on one side or look across to the Connemara mountains and Kilmurvey beach and village on the other. Dun Aonghasa is the main attraction on Inishmore and attracts thousands of visitors each year. 

2. Poll na bPeist (The Wormhole)

The Wormhole on Inishmore

The Wormhole is a rectangular shaped blow hole that was naturally carved by mother nature. It’s dimensions are approximately 25m long, 10m wide and between 10-20m deep. The Wormhole or “Poll na bPeist” in Gaelic is a spectacular natural feature, and has become one of the main attractions on Inishmore since the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series was held here in 2014 & 2017. 

The Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series attracted thousands of people to Inishmore to watch the best divers from around the world dive from a height of 27m into the Wormhole below. The Wormhole is another spectacular attraction on the Aran Islands. It is advised NOT to swim in the Wormhole as it is extremely dangerous. 

3. Cycle an E-Bike on Inishmore

Renting an E-bike is one of the best ways to get around Inis Mor. The most popular route to cycle on Inishmore is to cycle over the main road and return via the coast road. The main road has five hills and the coast road is relatively flat. However, the E-bikes make cycling the hills look easy. The most popular sites to see by bike are Dun Aonghasa, the Wormhole, the Seven Churches, Kilmurvy beach, the seal colony and the shops in Kilronan village. As the E-bikes make cycling Inishmore seem so easy, some people like to cycle to Bungabhla, the most western village on the island to make sure they’ve seen everything Inishmore has to offer.

4. Inishmore Seal Colony

The seal colony is located on the coast road approximately one mile from Kilmurvy beach. It is clearly signposted and has picnic tables on site, so bring a picnic lunch and take use of the available tables and chairs to enjoy it in the beautiful surroundings. The best views of the seals is best at low tide when the seals are sun bathing on the rocks. Conversely, at high tide, the seals are much harder to spot as you can only see their heads in the water. At low tide at the Inishmore seal colony you can spot anywhere from 5 – 20 seals at one time.

5. The Seven Churches

Situated in the west of Inis Mór in the village of Eoghanacht, The Seven Churches or Na Seacht dTeampaill in Gaelic, was one of the biggest monastic foundations and centres of pilgrimage along the west coast of Ireland. Breacan is believed to have come here in the earliest period from Kilbrecan near Quin in County Clare. Tradition on the island has it that his foundation rivalled St Enda’s foundation in the east of the island. Indeed, the two saints are held to have eventually agreed to divide the island between them. Although termed ‘the seven churches’ there are in fact only two churches to be found today.

6. The Black Fort

This fort is situated on the cliffs at Cill Éinne, (Killeany) Inis Mór. Some visitors enjoy the solitude of it in contrast with the busyness of Dún Aonghasa. The fort consists of a terraced wall surrounding the remains of some early dwelling houses known as Clocháns (stone houses). Excavations have not been out carried yet so exact dates cannot be given but it is thought to be possibly contemporary with Dún Aonghasa. It is understood that the name the Black Fort comes from the dark coloured limestone which is characteristic of this particular area on the island.

7. Teampall Bhenain

Teampall Bhenain

Teampall Bheanain or St. Benan’s Church is reputedly the smallest church in Ireland. The church itself measures roughly 15ft by 11ft. It stands atop a hill overlooking Killeaney Bay and is a landmark on the island for fishermen at sea. In contrast with churches elsewhere in Ireland it has a north south orientation as opposed to the more common East-West orientation. It dates from about the 7th century. The views from it are outstanding. Nearby are the remains of a cashel wall and a clochán (stone cell).

There are some fantastic views from Teampall Bheanain as it overlooks Killeaney bay, the airport and Kilronan. It is a beautiful location for a picnic and a great place to watch the sunrise over Galway Bay. The best time to visit is early in the morning for sunrise or in the early afternoon.

8. The Plassey Shipwreck

Plassy Shipwreck

The Plassey shipwreck has become very much a signature attraction of Inis Oirr and adds a wonderfully rustic view to the viewer and is a spectacular sight. It is one of those attractions you always see photo’s of! The Plassy is a rusty red shipwreck. The Plassey is on the south Eastern border tip of the island and is a rusty shipwreck beached in the 1960’s. It forms a particularly spectacular sight and is one of them most photographed attractions on the island.

9. Cathaoir Synge (Synge’s Chair)

Cathaoir Synge

Irish writer J.M. Synge very much made this island famous in modern culture.  He lived on Inis Meáin for considerable time between 1898 and 1902 and drew a lot of inspiration from the island culture. Synge has penned ‘Riders To The Sea’, ‘The Playboy of The Western World’ ; where the main character in this world famous play ‘Playboy of the Western World’ was inspired by a man who was hiding from the authorities and had sought refuge on Inis Meain living in one of the local forts before taking a boat to America. Synge is also credited for his dramatic and accurate account of life on the islands ‘The Aran Islands’.

10. Kilronan Village

Kilronan village is the main village on Inishmore, it is home to the Spar Supermarket. Spar is the only supermarket and off-license on the island, it houses the only ATM on the island. A lot of the tours on the island operate on a Cash only basis, a trip to the Spar Supermarket to get some snacks and a picnic is a good place to start when arriving on Inishmore. 

Aran Sweater Market & Museum is also located in Kilronan. The sweater market is a great place to learn about the different patterns of the Aran Sweaters and what the represent. There are multiple craft shops in Kilronan to find some souvenirs from the island.