The Aran Islands surrounded with mystique, watching over the mouth of Galway Bay, they lay quietly to themselves in the turbulent seas of the North Atlantic. Full of ancient heritage, geological wonders and a beauty unique to here, it’s no wonder people want to discover the wonder of these islands. A day trip to Inismor is an absolute perfect way to not only get away from the city, but the mainland completely. The peacefulness you find here may even draw you away longer.
The largest, most visited and easiest to spend the day on is Inismor. There are, however three islands total. Inis Meain and Inis Oirr can also be visited, but may require to be overnighted on. Buses will take you to and from the port for a mere 9 euros and the return ferry for 25 euros. Now to the good part.
As the island gets closer, you’ll notice the quaint seaside town of the island where the ferry will make port. There is multiple ways to explore the island for the day from a van tour, horse carriage and my recommendation, pedal power. That’s right, work those legs that have become too used to hanging from the bar stool. For 10 euros, you can rent one for the day. To make the most of the limited time on the ancient island, eat a large breakfast and skip lunch (not something you’ll hear me say often, but time is money, so to speak).
Head off out of town to the opposite side of the island. There is a general loop that most day trippers do and then there is the ‘scenic’ route as I like to say, because I don’t want to say the ‘wrong’ way that I took. I led us up the walking path. Beyond bumpy and much more strenuous than the expected leisurely ride, there were no other bikes in sight. This was very clearly not the correct route, but this brought us to unique views, that few other day trippers get to see. Peering out over the island, your eyes feast on views of the age old fields sewn together by the imperfect grid of waist high, rough rock walls that cover the islands hills. I can’t help but imagine the lives that once tended these.
*More importantly though, once you finally reach the climax point it is downhill winding through the farmland into the village where the ‘path’ to the wormhole lay somewhat hidden. (More on that later).
Before too long you’ll come across a small beach and just a little further the parking area for Dun Aonghasa Fort. A small fee and a bit of an arduous uneven climb you will enter the ancient walls of the fort. Explore the remains and watch the wild Atlantic batter some of the 300 foot sea cliffs. Just be weary. The winds can be strong and there is no barrier to prevent plummeting to the rough waters and sharp rocks below.
An artisan ice cream shop awaits you as you exit (I got a whiskey and honey flavour) and you can head over to the seven churches or make your attempt at finding the ‘wormhole’. I recommend the latter. I asked a couple locals how to find this wormhole as I missed it on the way here. No real signs, technical trespassing, even though advertised, it’s not exactly accessible. I headed back to the town that I passed on my ‘wrong’ path, where I thought it may have been and came across a dead end. I left my bike and began looking around. I noticed a small gap in the wall with a red arrow spray painted. Follow the arrow I guessed.
It was a bread crumb trail to the wormhole. Another red arrow. I stopped, looked around until I spotted the next in the distance. 15 minutes of pouncing through the rocky field, I wound around to the coast and followed it as the tide slowly rose. It wasn’t long as the wormhole appeared before me, water surging up from below. I looked down at the churning geological oddity of nature. I stared, amazed that a near perfect rectangle had eroded out of the limestone and dropped into the sea. At high tide, the ocean rose pouring in over the sides and into this seemingly never ending hole in the earth. Unfortunately, the tide was rising, but not fast enough as I had to make my hasty retreat so as not to miss the return boat.
On the way back to the port following the coast, I couldn’t help but stop at the Aran Island seal colony. The chance at wildlife photography always stops me in my tracks as I lose sight of time aiming for the perfect unachievable shot. I’m unsure of the ideal season for sightings, as I only saw one basking in the afternoon sun. Later as I zoomed in on the photograph I realized the camera actually captured two.
Pedaling now like my life depended on it, I made it in time for the boat. If you are looking for some souvenirs on the island, you needn’t look far though. I left myself no time to browse, but there are plenty of shops in town. If you’re looking for quality wool products, check out The Aran Island Sweater Company. While there are stores on the mainland and deceivingly, they are apparently actual made primarily on the mainland, it sounds good that it came from the islands.
The boat leaves at 5pm with or without you. The solitude of the islands drift into the haze as the mainland creeps closer. If I had the chance to do anything different, it would have been to spend the night for two reasons. I would have watched the tide rise and pour into the abyss of the wormhole and would have made my way over to the seven churches which I missed to search out the wormhole. There is always the next time, but for now I was back to town in time for dinner. Sliding right back into routine, I caught some live music and pints. Happy Days!