- Discover Islands
Situated at the mouth of Galway Bay the Aran Islands are made up of three small islands, Inis Mor, Inis Meain, and Inis Oirr. Ireland old and new meet on the aran islands, the Irish language is still spoken on the Islands as the first language and a rich Irish culture still exists here. The best thing about the Islands of Aran are its people, amny of whom still leave a much more simple life than the mainlanders. There is a great atmosphere to be had in the pubs and restaurants of the islands, listening to sessions beside a warm fire.
The islands are alive in the summer with many tourists visiting the islands. There are festivals during the summer including the traditional Irish boat racing, the hookers.
Fly with Aer Arann from Connemara airport in Inverin or get one of the many ferries servicing the islands from Ros A Mhil in Connemara, Doolin in Co. Clare, or from Galway city.
Inis Mor is the largest of the three islands and also the most visited. The ancient site of Dún Aonghasa stands over a 300ft cliff on the western part of the island. Rent a bicycle and climb the hill, it's a hard slog but it's worth it. Near the fort there is a large hole in the ground near the sea called the worm hole. There are many old churches dotted around the island and a lighthouse at the islands highest point.
One thing that you will notice is the many walls that cross the island. Rocks were dug from the ground to make fields for farming and the rocks were then used to make walls.
In more recent times the TedFest takes place on the island, which celebrates the highly successful comedy series, Father Ted, about three priests living on Craggy island. There is some contention about the location of Craggy island. Inis Mór claims that it is although the opening scenes of Father Ted show Nearby Inis Oirr.
Inis Oirr is the smallest of the islands but by no means should it be overlooked. There is a lovely beach on the island, that you will see as you get off the ferry. The sand is white and the water is clean and clear. The bars and shops of the small village are also just metres from the pier.
There is plenty to see on the island, hop on a bicycle and take a spin to the southeastern tip of the island where the shipwrecked plassey sits on the rocks. It's such a remote area with nothing to be heard but the crashing of the waves on the rocks. There are two lighthouses on the island. The old lighthouse is situated on the highest point of the island and is worth a walk up to for the spectacular views that can be enjoyed. The new lighthouse stands on a very isolated part of the island, on the western side facing the Cliffs of Moher in Co. Clare. The remains of O' Briens castle stands at the top of the hill facing the beach. There are great views from here, especially if you climb the castle itself. This can be quite dangerous though and I'm not sure if this is even allowed, it's certainly not recommended. All in all Inis Oirr is a wonderful place for a short break.
Inis Meain is not visited as much as the other two islands but this just means it's an even better place to get away from it all. The diverse marine life and the incredibly clear waters mean Inis Meain is a very popular place for scuba diving. John Millington Synge, the author of the Playboy of the Western World, and a co-founder of the Abbey Theatre, spent six summers here. The place on the island where Synge went to write is now known as Synges chair or Cathaoir Synge. He used to sit on top of the cliffs facing Inis Mór.
Oileain Acla is off the coast of Mayo and is connected to the mainland by a bridge. Achill is a historical and ancient island with plenty to discover for history buffs, but it's the beautiful beaches, the buzzing festivals and the many outdoor activities that draw most people here.
Everything from hill walking and rock climbing to swimming and surfing. Get in the car and take the Achill Drive around the island, taking in the bogs, cliffs and other natural wonders of this beautiful island.
The Skellig Islands lie 16km off the coast of Kerry. Little Skellig and Skellig Michael are the two islands, and are home to thousands of seabirds, including the worlds' largest colony of Northern Gannets. There are also thousands of Puffins and other birds. On Skellig Michael stands a 6th century christian monastery, and the island is a designated UNESCO world heritage site.
The Blasket Islands will remind many an Irish student of the quite depressing story or biography of Peig Sayers, but don't let that put you off visiting a unique place and one that may someday be a world heritage site. In its day the Blaskets were a wild and inhospitable place but today it is simply a stunning place to visit. It's a great place to come for a walk and to explore a bit. Puffins and seals can be seen as well as an abundance of sea life. If you're lucky, whales and dolphins as well as the mighty basking shark can be spotted around the island. The islands inhabitants were moved to the mainland and also Massachussets in America in the 1950s. They were a completely Irish speaking population.
Inishboffin (isle of the white cow) is famous for the ruins of Grace O' Malleys the pirate queen fort, and it was also a penal colony for Cromwell, where he kept catholic priests and bishops interned for high treason. Inishbofin has all the ancient chapels and monastic sites you can handle, including one of the oldest monasteries in the world, St Colemans which was established in the 17th century. The waters off the island are great for diving and snorkelling, and there is a dive centre on the island. There is an abundance of wildlife on the island, including a seal colony and a wide variety of birds, such as the rare corncrake.
There's more to this island than the wonderful beer that's brewed in its own small brewery, although that's enough of a reason to visit for some. Check out the looped walk which takes in the mountains and sea cliffs of the island. Irish is the main language on the island and a rich gaelic culture still thrives here. Take the ferry from Burtonport.
Home to another of the Pirate Queens Forts, but also to her burial place. Clare island is a great place to go hill walking or swimming on the blue flag beaches. The island sits in the entrance to Clew Bay in Mayo. The ferry takes around 20 minutes from the mainland.