This post is in collaboration with Paul Norton of Dublin Tour Company based out of Dublin, Ireland.
It is always exciting to spend time in Ireland for many reasons. Most tourists who have visited the Emerald Isle were excited by its special experience. However, they couldn’t find the perfect words to describe their trip to the Aran Islands. To begin, the Aran Islands comprises of three islands located at the mouth of Galway Bay just off Ireland’s west coast. If your travel guide itinerary doesn’t have these islands among its destinations, you should consider changing the entire plan. As you prepare for your trip, check out some interesting facts and what you should consider doing on your trip to this beautiful region.
Begin Your Visit In Galway
Before heading to the Aran Islands, you should consider spending some time in Galway. This will give you a perfect head start of what to expect while in the Islands. The hospitable and welcoming community in the city is probably the first thing that will strike your visit. Make sure that you make stops at exciting places such as the Cliffs of Moher and other lesser-known spots on the Irish coast.
Where Are The Highlands And The Means To Get There?
For some centuries, the Aran Islands were isolated, perhaps due to their remote location in the Galway Bay region. However, this is the reason for its continued defined culture to date. The three Aran Islands are comprised of the Inishmore/Aranmore, which is the largest, the Inishmaan, which is the second largest and the Inisheer, which is the smallest of them all. The three Aran Islands are famous not only for their adherence to traditional Irish culture, but also their lifestyle and language. Early Aran Christian monks found the islands very suitable for their stay thanks to the quiet environment that offered them enough peace for their prayers and worship. Besides English, the Irish Gaelic is the common language.
Getting to the Aran Islands isn’t as daunting as it seems. There are a number of ferry choices depending on your initial location in Ireland. For instance, those in Galway can take the 45-minute ferry ride from Rossaveal. The ferries commute several times daily depending on the number of tourists present. Of the three Aran Islands, the Inishmore, which is the largest island, is the most visited featuring robust infrastructure that accommodates tourists. With a population of approximately 900 people, there are few hotels and B&B’s, which may easily fill up during summer seasons. Note that the ferries carry only passengers and no cars are allowed.
The Dun Aonghasa Heritage Site
Probably the most spectacular man-made site within the Aran Islands, the Dun Aonghasa Heritage Site should be among your prioritized places to visit. It is located within the southern cliff facing the Inis Mor. This impressive bronze age structure stretches out approximately 14 acres. Various evidence gathered about human activities in this site suggest that people existed before 1500 BC, making it one of the oldest human dwellings in the region. The reasons for Dun Aonghasa’s location is still not understood, with famous archaeologist making speculations of it having some spiritual significance. Since this area is a protected site, it is prudent that you organize for a guided tour from one of the various local guides. Guided tours of this area cost roughly €2 per head, with all profits being channelled to the upkeep and ongoing research about this intriguing site.
The Aran Sweater
The Aran Sweater, also called the Aran Jumper, are among the most iconic sights in this region, probably even more famous than the Aran Islands. Their presence came to limelight after being worn by famous world celebrities such as Grace Kelly and Alexa Chung. The sweaters were first worn by Aran fishermen as they went for fish excursions. They were heavily designed to protect the fishermen from harsh weather conditions of the Atlantic Ocean. Their hard-wearing, durable, and waterproof nature made them a perfect choice for any fisherman. The fashion context came as a secondary concern later. That said, make sure that you get a one during your trip.
The Basking Sharks
Of all the Aran wildlife, these majestic creatures don’t live on the islands, but in the waters surrounding them. The basking sharks are one of the largest sea animals in this region. The sharks extend up to 10 metres long, making them the second biggest water animal after the whale shark. Even with their enormous size, basking sharks are gentle giants, posing no danger to humans. This is because they live on plankton and don’t eat meat. During the summer, basking sharks can be seen cruising at the water surface when hungry, probably not perturbed by the boats full of people.
There is a lot more to explore on the stunning Aran Islands. Apart from the mentioned items, make sure to include incredible sites such as the Worm Hole, O’Brien’s Castle, Seal Colony, and Dun Eoghanachta are in your travel itinerary as well.
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