The Aran Islands are a group of three islands situated on the western coast of Ireland. The biggest island is Inis Mór (Inishmore) followed by Inis Meain (Inishmaan), and the smallest of the trio, Inir Oirr (Inisheer) . Whether you are taking a day trip or a long weekend, the Aran Islands are little paradises, perfect to enjoy long walks, bike rides and listen to the sound of the ocean. This is the second part of my "1O days in Ireland" series.
The island of Inis Mór (Inishmore) is the biggest island of the Aran Islands and the most popular tourist destination in Ireland. No wonder as the island offers splendid views over the ocean, memorable lime-stone landscapes and green fields. Inishmore has a surface of 31km2 and counts a population of nearly nine hundred people. Meaning "the big island" in Irish, the island is famous for its strong Irish culture, loyalty to the Irish language, and a wealth of Pre-Christian and Christian ancient sites including Dún Aengus. Moreover, Inishmore offers a variety of tourists attractions - like horse rides, bike rentals and surfing - and has a good selection of restaurants, cafés and guesthouses.
During my stay in Ireland I spent a day biking through the green lands of Inis Mór, and a day and night on the smallest island of them all, Inir Oirr.
The port of departure to Inis Mór is from Galway - a small beach town easily accessible from Dublin - or from Doolin - a small village next to the Cliffs of Moher. The ferry ride from Galway to Inis Mór takes about 45 minutes and is absolutely beautiful. The ferry times leave at 10am or 1pm, then return at 12pm or 5pm. I recommend arriving at least 30 minutes before departure and to buy your ticket in advance as it can sometimes be full. Be on time for the last ferry back... otherwise you will have to sleep over on the island (which wouldn't be too bad, right?).
I took the ferry from Galway to Inishmore. As soon as my feet touched the ground, I immediately felt home. A kind Irish man escorted me from the ferry to the bike shop, and in less than ten minutes I was cycling away on my two wheels. No need for a map or any digital device to get around, the island is "round" and whatever you do, you will eventually end back at your starting point. A tour of the island by bike takes about 1 or 2 hours without stop. With landscapes straight out of J.R.R Tolkien or Miyazaki's Ghibli movies, I took an entire day.
The limestone landscapes of Inishmore
The limestone landscapes of Inishmore were probably the most anticipated part of my 10 days travel to Ireland. A ground as dry as the sand, and as wise as its wrinkles... as soon as I saw those landscapes in my travel guide, I knew I was gonna have a wonderful time exploring the Irish countryside.
Turquoise waters and white sand beaches
With more than one surprise up its sleeve, Inishmore also has beautiful beaches of white sand and turquoise waters. I spent my lunch break laying in the sand and counting the clouds in the blue sky. The sun was up, it was warm, it didn't feel like Ireland. With a little effort and imagination, I found myself dreaming away about New Zealand and remote Islands in the Pacific Ocean. If J.R.R Tolkien's Middle Earth was an island, it would be Ireland.
The cliffs of Inishmore
The most spectacular view of the Aran Islands are the Cliffs of Inishmore. Beautiful and mesmerising, they offer a spectacular point of view on Ireland's nature and heritage. Located right behind (and beyond) the magnificent barbaric monument of Dún Aengus, the Cliffs of Inishmore reminds us of the Cliffs of Moher. A place to reflect, contemplate and meditate.
Endless green fields and countryside
As the day approached its end, I looked at my watch while taking my last photographs. It was 4.50pm. The last ferry would leave in ten minutes and I was nowhere near the big blue sea. I jumped back on my bike and cycled as fast as I could, up and down hill, from flat roads to bumpy tracks. I made it just on time. Sweaty but relieved, I embraced the sky while we sailed back to Galway under a violet sun-set stretching all the colors to the sea.
Read more of my 10 days in Ireland series on Itinari: Bike Rides, Unmarked Hiking Trails and Sleepovers on Remote Islands.
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