/ The Dublin Guide
Dublin — By Jessica Colley on June 8, 2010 at 11:46 am
Filed under: biking, cliff, outdoor

Out of Town Special: Ireland’s Aran Islands

While I’m a devoted fan of the Irish capital city, Dublin, a trip to the Emerald Isle wouldn’t be complete without exploring as well. If you’re planning a short trip, that might mean climbing the Sugar Loaf Mountain or hopping on the DART train to the nearby coastal village of Dun Laoghaire. But if you’re planning a longer trip to Ireland, there is something in every corner of the island that will leave you wishing you had even more time.

The good news for travelers heading west from Dublin is that a new road is now completed and open – bringing the drive time between Dublin and Galway down from 3+ hours to just over 2. I’ll write about Galway in another post, but recently, I ventured off the Galway Coast to the mysterious Aran Islands for a day tour. The largest island, Inis Mor, is the most popular of the three Aran Islands, and it is easy to navigate with a rented bicycle.

Our day started in Rossaveal, a small port located 40 minutes drive from Galway City. A round-trip ferry ticket cost 25 euros and the frequency of sailings depends on the season, but in June, was approximately every 1 – 2 hours. A short 40-minute ferry ride later we were pulling into the harbor of Inis Mor. At the end of the pier is a hut where you can rent bicycles. For a 10 euro rental fee, we had our own bikes for the day to explore the island. Simple map in hand, we set out for the coastal route.

The Aran Islands are known for their wildlife, dramatic coastline, and historic sites. As we sped along the coast we saw swans with their young, seals sunbathing offshore, and lots of lazy cows grazing. Having started the day in bustling Galway City, it was bizarre to be surrounded by such beautiful wildlife. A 30-minute cycle from the harbor is the main attraction on the island, the 4,000 year old fort of Dun Aengus. For a 3-euro entry fee we were climbing up to the historic fort along one edge of the island.

Bring good walking shoes and some extra energy to the Aran Islands – your whole day will be full of exploring on foot or bicycle. After a short hike, the views at the top were incredibly rewarding. While the fort is interesting to see, the plunging cliffs really steal the show. Visiting early in the season, I was lucky to find Dun Aengus relatively abandoned in the afternoon and I had the opportunity to enjoy the views in silence.

Returning to my bicycle (which I didn’t lock up, apparently there is no need!) we continued our cycle and whizzed past sheep, old stone houses, and horse & buggy tours. Once we reached the harbor again, there was just enough time to take a look in the famous Aran Island sweater shop and drink a refreshing pint of Guinness. 

Even if you’re taking a short trip to Ireland, I can’t stress enough the enriching experiences you are destined to have outside of the capital city. Rent a car, risk driving on the left, and make your trip to Ireland an adventure!

Photo Credit: Jessica Colley

Tags: biking, cliff, outdoor

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