12 Best Things to Do on the Aran Islands: Top Attractions to Visit

by Jem
12 Best Things to Do on the Aran Islands
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Are you thinking about visiting the Aran Islands this year? Here are some of the most fun and unique things to do on the Aran Islands. These unspoiled sights, activities, and attractions are sure to make for an unforgettable vacation experience.

Welcome to the Aran Islands—a trio of rugged, windswept gems on Ireland’s western coast that beckon with the promise of adventure and soul-stirring beauty. Picture yourself cycling along craggy cliffs, the salty sea breeze tousling your hair, as you pass by ancient stone forts and charming cottages. It’s a place where time seems to stand still, and the modern world feels miles away. If you’re seeking more, there’s a plethora of things to do in the Aran Islands.

Here, you’ll find a unique blend of Irish culture, history, and natural splendor that’s unlike anything you’ve experienced before. Inis Mór, Inis Meáin, and Inis Oírr each offer their own distinct charm and attractions, from awe-inspiring landscapes to age-old traditions that have been passed down through generations.

So, why should the Aran Islands be on your travel bucket list? Well, if the idea of exploring secluded beaches, delving into ancient ruins, and savoring a pint of Guinness while listening to traditional Irish music sounds like your kind of getaway, then you’re in for a treat. This is your ultimate guide to the best things to do on the Aran Islands, tailored to ignite that wanderlust and help you plan an unforgettable journey. Here’s everything you need to know about these fun things to do on the Aran Islands.

The top places to visit on the Aran Islands right now
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Best Places to Visit on the Aran Islands

Ready to jump into all the coolest things to do on the Aran Islands and experience the authentic Ireland charm? As noted above, there’s something for everyone at this hidden gem in Ireland. So keep reading to discover all these unique Aran Islands places to visit.

Are you looking to engage in hiking, cycling, kayaking and exploring the breathtaking landscapes? Or would you prefer experiencing traditional Irish music, local crafts, and the unique island way of life? Whatever you’re planning, these must-sees on the Aran Islands can accommodate your needs. Here’s all the best attractions on the Aran Islands that you should know about.

1. Inis Mór

Imagine pedaling your way through Inis Mór, the largest of the Aran Islands, where every turn reveals a new breathtaking view. You’ll be captivated by the island’s dramatic cliffs and serene beaches. Cycling is not just a mode of transportation here; it’s a way to intimately connect with the land and its timeless beauty.

The island offers several well-marked cycling routes that guide you through its most scenic spots. From the ancient fort of Dún Aonghasa perched on a cliff edge to the secluded Kilmurvey Beach, each destination is a chapter in the island’s rich narrative.

Thinking of the best things to do on the Aran Islands, you ask? Well, cycling in Inis Mór should be at the top of your list. It’s an eco-friendly way to explore, and you’ll find plenty of spots to pause, take photos, and just soak in the views. Local bike rentals are available, making it easy for you to embark on this two-wheeled adventure.

Inis Mór is one of the best things to do on the Aran Islands.
Explore Inis Mór’s breathtaking landscapes by bike for an intimate connection with timeless beauty.

2. Dún Duchathair

Ah, the allure of ancient ruins! Dún Duchathair, also known as the Black Fort, is a must-see on the Aran Islands. Perched on a limestone plateau and surrounded by sheer cliffs, this Iron Age fort is a testament to the ingenuity of its builders. The fort’s walls, made of stacked stones, have stood the test of time, and the panoramic views from here are nothing short of spectacular.

Looking for the best places on the Aran Islands? This fort ranks high, especially for history enthusiasts and those seeking a bit of solitude. A visit here is like stepping into a time capsule. The fort’s remote location means fewer tourists and a more intimate experience.

The path leading to Dún Duchathair is a bit rugged, so sturdy footwear is advised. But the trek is worth every step. Once you reach the fort, you’ll find it’s a perfect spot for contemplation or perhaps a bit of amateur photography.

So, if you’re compiling a list of Aran Islands attractions, make sure Dún Duchathair is on it. The fort, the views, and the solitude make it a truly an exceptional destination. Is this among the top things to do in the Aran Islands? Absolutely!

Visit Dún Duchathair, the Black Fort on the Aran Islands, perched on limestone cliffs, an Iron Age marvel with enduring walls and spectacular views.
Visit Dún Duchathair, the Black Fort on the Aran Islands, perched on limestone cliffs, an Iron Age marvel with enduring walls and spectacular views.

3. Kilmurvey Beach

Curious about where to go on the Aran Islands if you want to see golden sands, turquoise waters, and the sound of waves gently lapping at the shore? Welcome to Kilmurvey Beach, a slice of paradise that should be on top of your Aran Islands places to visit. This isn’t just a beach; it’s an experience that captures the essence of island life.

For a laid-back day on the Aran Islands, Kilmurvey Beach is your dream come true. It’s the perfect spot to unwind with a book, build sandcastles with the kids, or take a refreshing dip in the ocean. The beach is well-maintained and offers amenities like restrooms and a nearby café, making it convenient for a full-day outing.

For the more adventurous, the beach is also a starting point for some scenic coastal walks. Follow the trails and you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of cliffs and the expansive ocean. It’s a photographer’s dream and a nature lover’s paradise.

Kilmurvey Beach is a locale that offers both relaxation and adventure. If you’re looking for unique things to do on the Aran Islands, make sure this beach is on your itinerary.

Kilmurvey Beach on the Aran Islands captures island life with golden sands and turquoise waters—a must-visit paradise.
Kilmurvey Beach on the Aran Islands captures island life with golden sands and turquoise waters—a must-visit paradise.

4. The Seven Churches

Ah, The Seven Churches—a historical marvel that you simply can’t miss. This ancient monastic site on Inis Mór is a testament to the rich history of the Aran Islands. Now, you might be thinking, “Seven Churches? That sounds like a lot.” But here’s the twist: it’s actually just two churches and several domestic buildings. The name is a bit of an enigma, adding to the site’s allure.

If you’re a history enthusiast, this is your playground. Walk among the ruins and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time. The gravestones date back centuries, and the sense of peace here is palpable. It’s one of those Aran Islands destinations that offers an exceptional blend of history and spirituality.

Do you love to capture the essence of a place through a lens? The Seven Churches offers endless opportunities for photography. The intricate stone carvings, the sprawling green fields, and the occasional grazing sheep create a picturesque setting.

What are the unique places on the Aran Islands for a journey through time? The Seven Churches should be at the top of your list. It’s not just a visit; it’s an experience that connects you with the past in a profound way.

The Seven Churches on Inis Mór, Aran Islands, is a historical marvel with a twist—it's two churches and several buildings, its name an enigmatic allure.
The Seven Churches on Inis Mór, Aran Islands, is a historical marvel with a twist—it’s two churches and several buildings, its name an enigmatic allure.

5. Aran Islands Observatory

You’ve seen the ancient ruins and felt the ocean spray, but have you looked up? The night sky over the Aran Islands is a spectacle you won’t want to miss. The Aran Islands Observatory is your ticket to the cosmos, offering a stargazing experience that’s out of this world—literally.

The observatory is equipped with state-of-the-art telescopes that let you gaze at distant galaxies, sparkling stars, and even the occasional meteor shower. It’s a perfect spot on the Aran Islands for anyone who’s ever dreamed of touching the sky but prefers to keep their feet on solid ground.

What makes this one of the coolest things to do on the Aran Islands? It’s the blend of science and natural beauty. As you peer through the telescope, you’ll be struck by how small yet connected we all are in this vast universe.

If you’ve always been fascinated by the night sky, this is a dream come true. And if you’re new to astronomy, the friendly guides are more than happy to share their knowledge. So, pack a light jacket and prepare for an evening that promises to be both educational and magical.

6. Teampall Bheanáin

Ready for a journey to one of the best places to go on the Aran Islands? Then you can’t miss Teampall Bheanáin, an ancient church that’s as mysterious as it is beautiful. This petite stone structure, often overlooked by tourists, holds a wealth of history and spirituality.

The church dates back to the 11th century and is named after St. Bheanáin, an Irish saint. It’s a place where time seems to stand still, offering a peaceful respite from the hustle and bustle of modern life. The panoramic views from the hilltop location are simply breathtaking, providing an ideal backdrop for some introspection or even a picnic.

Thinking of what to do on the Aran Islands, you ask? Well, Teampall Bheanáin offers more than just a history lesson. It’s a spot that invites you to connect with Ireland’s rich past while contemplating your own place in the world.

Don’t forget to bring your camera; the sunsets here are legendary. As the sky turns shades of orange and pink, you’ll realize why this is one of the unique spots on the Aran Islands to end your day.


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Explore Teampall Bheanáin, an ancient, mysterious, and beautiful church on the Aran Islands, rich in history and spirituality.

7. Dún Aonghasa

Ah, Dún Aonghasa, a cliffside fort that’s a jaw-dropping spectacle that’ll make you question how ancient people even built it. Perched on a 300-foot cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, this prehistoric fort is a marvel of engineering and a testament to human ingenuity.

You’ll find it on Inis Mór, the largest of the Aran Islands. The fort consists of three concentric stone walls and a “chevaux-de-frise,” a unique defensive system made of upright stones. It’s like stepping into a history book, but with the added thrill of real, salty ocean air whipping through your hair.

Now, if you’re wondering about the Aran Islands activities, let me tell you, the hike up to Dún Aonghasa is an experience in itself. The path winds through rugged landscapes, offering glimpses of wildflowers and the ever-present ocean. Once you reach the top, the views are nothing short of spectacular. It’s the kind of place that makes you want to shout, “I’m king of the world!” — or at least, king of the Aran Islands for a day.

So, grab your sturdy shoes and a sense of adventure; Dún Aonghasa awaits to awe you with its ancient grandeur and panoramic vistas.

Dún Aonghasa: a jaw-dropping cliffside fort, a prehistoric marvel of human ingenuity perched on a 300-foot cliff by the Atlantic Ocean.
Dún Aonghasa: a jaw-dropping cliffside fort, a prehistoric marvel of human ingenuity perched on a 300-foot cliff by the Atlantic Ocean.

8. Áras Éanna Arts Centre

Have you ever wondered where to visit on the Aran Islands if you’re keen on diving into local culture? Áras Éanna Arts Centre on Inis Oírr is the place to be. Housed in a converted cottage, this vibrant hub showcases the island’s rich folklore and artistic traditions. It’s not just another gallery; it’s a cultural treasure trove.

As you step inside, you’re greeted by contemporary art installations, traditional crafts, and theatrical performances. The exhibitions are ever-changing, ensuring there’s always something new to discover. But what sets Áras Éanna apart is its dedication to Gaelic heritage. From workshops on traditional Irish music to storytelling sessions, the centre is a celebration of the island’s distinct identity.

Looking for the best things to do on the Aran Islands?

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Carve out some time for Áras Éanna. It’s more than an arts centre; it’s a window into the soul of the Aran Islands. You’ll leave not just entertained but enriched.

Explore local culture at Áras Éanna Arts Centre on Inis Oírr, a vibrant hub in a converted cottage.
Explore local culture at Áras Éanna Arts Centre on Inis Oírr, a vibrant hub in a converted cottage. | Source: https://aras-eanna.ie/

9. Joe Watty’s Bar

You haven’t truly experienced the Aran Islands until you’ve tasted the local cuisine. And where better to do that than Joe Watty’s Bar, a beloved institution on Inis Mór? This isn’t just a place to grab a pint; it’s a culinary adventure that showcases the finest of Irish fare.

As you walk into the bar, the warm, rustic atmosphere immediately envelops you. The walls are adorned with vintage memorabilia, and the chatter of locals fills the air. But let’s talk about the food, shall we? From freshly caught seafood to hearty stews, the menu is a love letter to traditional Irish cooking.

What sets Joe Watty’s apart is its commitment to local produce. The fish is sourced from the surrounding waters, and the vegetables come straight from island gardens. It’s one of those must-visit on the Aran Islands that offers more than just a meal; it’s a feast for all your senses.

And don’t miss out on the live music! On weekends, the bar transforms into a lively venue featuring local musicians. So, not only do you get to indulge in delicious food, but you also get a taste of the island’s vibrant culture.

Experience local cuisine at Joe Watty's Bar on Inis Mór, a beloved institution offering a culinary adventure with the finest Irish fare.
Experience local cuisine at Joe Watty’s Bar on Inis Mór, a beloved institution offering a culinary adventure with the finest Irish fare.

10. Hidden Caves of Inis Meáin

Ah, the thrill of exploration! If you’re someone who loves to uncover hidden gems, then navigating the caves of Inis Meáin is a must-add to your list of coolest activities on the Aran Islands. Forget the typical tourist spots; this is an adventure that takes you into the heart of the island’s rugged landscape.

See yourself in a small boat, bobbing gently on the water’s surface. Ahead of you, the mouth of a cave beckons. As you venture inside, the walls close in, and the light from the entrance starts to fade. But don’t worry, you’re in the hands of experienced guides who know these caves like the back of their hands.

Inside, it’s a different world. Stalactites hang from the ceiling like nature’s own chandeliers, and the walls are adorned with ancient carvings. The air is crisp, a welcome respite from the sun outside. And the best part? The sense of peace that envelops you as you float through this subterranean wonderland.

This isn’t just a cave tour; it’s a journey into the island’s geological history, a chance to see the Aran Islands from a perspective few have experienced. So, if you’re looking for a thing to do on the Aran Islands that’s out of this world, you can’t afford to miss this one.

Explore the caves of Inis Meáin for a thrilling adventure into the heart of the island's rugged landscape.
Explore the caves of Inis Meáin for a thrilling adventure into the heart of the island’s rugged landscape.

11. Inis Oírr’s Lighthouse

Let’s switch gears and talk about a place that offers a different kind of thrill: the Inis Oírr Lighthouse. This isn’t your typical tourist attraction; it’s a sanctuary of calm and a beacon of light—literally. If you’re compiling a list of Aran Islands things to do, a visit to this spot deserves a mention.

Imagine standing at the edge of the island, the wind gently tousling your hair as you gaze out at the endless expanse of the Atlantic Ocean. The lighthouse stands tall beside you, its light sweeping across the water as if searching for something—perhaps another adventurer like you.

The climb to the top might be a bit of a workout, but the panoramic views are worth every step. From here, you can see the other Aran Islands, the Cliffs of Moher, and even the hills of Connemara on a clear day. It’s a view that not only takes your breath away but also gives you a new perspective on the world.

It’s a place for reflection, a moment to pause and appreciate the beauty of nature. So, if you’re looking for cool destinations on the Aran Islands, make sure to add the Inis Oírr Lighthouse to your itinerary.

Visit the Inis Oírr Lighthouse, a sanctuary of calm and a literal beacon of light.
Visit the Inis Oírr Lighthouse, a sanctuary of calm and a literal beacon of light, a unique addition to your list of things to do on the Aran Islands.

12. Poll na bPéist

If you’re seeking a one-of-a-kind experience, Poll na bPéist is a must-see on the Aran Islands. This rectangular natural pool, carved into limestone by the Atlantic, is a surreal sight. The journey to get there is an adventure itself, taking you through rugged terrains and past ancient ruins.

Once you arrive, the view is breathtaking. While the pool is a popular spot for cliff diving competitions, simply sitting by the edge and watching the waves is mesmerizing. This is one of the fun activities on the Aran Islands, offering a sense of discovery and wonder.

Whether you’re an avid photographer or someone seeking solitude, Poll na bPéist has something for everyone. It’s a hidden gem that encapsulates the untamed spirit of the Aran Islands.

Poll na bPéist is one of the best things to do in the Aran Islands.
Poll na bPéist, a surreal rectangular natural pool on the Aran Islands, reached through an adventurous journey across rugged terrain and ancient ruins.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Best Things to Do on the Aran Islands

Looking for more content on the top things to do on the Aran Islands? Here are some popular questions(and answers) I get that will help you plan your trip to the Aran Islands.

What’s the best time to visit the Aran Islands?

The best time to visit the Aran Islands is during the summer months, from June to August. This period offers pleasant weather, with mild temperatures and longer daylight hours, making it ideal for exploring the islands’ natural beauty and cultural attractions. Avoid the colder, wetter winter months for a more enjoyable experience.

How do I get to the Aran Islands?

To reach the Aran Islands, you can take a ferry from several ports on the west coast of Ireland, including Galway, Doolin, and Rossaveal. Alternatively, there are flights from Connemara Regional Airport to Inishmore, the largest of the islands. Ferries are the more common and scenic option for most visitors.

Are the Aran Islands family-friendly?

Yes, the Aran Islands are family-friendly. They offer a unique and educational experience for families with activities like cycling, exploring ancient forts, and enjoying scenic beaches. The friendly local community and safe environment make it a great destination for families to enjoy together.

What is special about the Aran Islands?

The Aran Islands, located off the west coast of Ireland, are a group of three islands: Inishmore (the largest), Inishmaan, and Inisheer. These islands are special for a variety of reasons:

  1. Cultural Preservation: The Aran Islands are one of the last bastions of the Irish language (Gaeilge). The inhabitants of the islands are primarily Irish-speaking, and the islands are part of the Gaeltacht, regions in Ireland where Irish is the predominant language.
  2. Unique Landscape: The islands are characterized by their rocky landscapes, dramatic cliffs, and ancient stone walls. The terrain is a testament to the resilience of its inhabitants, who have carved out a living in this rugged environment.
  3. Historical Significance: The islands are home to numerous ancient ruins and historical sites, including the prehistoric fort of Dún Aonghasa on Inishmore, which dates back to the Bronze Age.
  4. Traditional Crafts: The Aran Islands are famous for the Aran sweater, a hand-knitted sweater made from undyed, waterproof wool. The intricate patterns on the sweaters are unique to individual families and have cultural and religious significance.
  5. Biodiversity: Despite their rocky terrain, the islands are home to a variety of flora and fauna, some of which are unique to the region.
  6. Celtic Traditions: The islands have preserved many ancient Celtic traditions, festivals, and customs that have faded elsewhere in Ireland.
  7. Isolation: The remoteness of the Aran Islands has helped preserve its unique culture and traditions. The isolation offers visitors a glimpse into a way of life that has remained relatively unchanged for centuries.
Inishmore dock on the Aran Islands
Inishmore dock on the Aran Islands

What language is spoken on the Aran Islands?

On the Aran Islands, Irish Gaelic (Gaeilge) is spoken alongside English. While English is commonly understood and used for tourism, many residents are fluent in Irish Gaelic. Visitors may hear both languages spoken, and road signs and place names are often in Gaelic, reflecting the islands’ rich cultural heritage.

What are the Aran Islands famous for?

The Aran Islands are renowned for their rugged natural beauty, ancient stone forts, and rich cultural heritage. Known as a stronghold of traditional Irish language and customs, the islands offer a unique blend of history and scenery. They’re also famous for Aran sweaters, intricate knitwear that originated here.

Are the Aran Islands worth seeing?

Absolutely, the Aran Islands are a must-see for anyone interested in Irish culture, history, and breathtaking landscapes. They offer a tranquil escape from the modern world, with their stunning cliffs, ancient ruins, and vibrant local traditions. It’s a journey back in time and a feast for the senses.

Which Aran Island has best beaches?
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All three Aran Islands have beautiful beaches, each with its own unique charm. However, when it comes to the best beaches, Inisheer (Inis Oírr), the smallest of the three islands, is often highlighted for its stunning beaches:

  1. Cregg Beach (An Trá): Located on Inisheer, this is perhaps the most famous beach on the Aran Islands. It’s a beautiful sandy beach with clear turquoise waters, making it perfect for swimming and sunbathing. The beach is easily accessible from the pier and is often the first sight that greets visitors as they approach the island.
  2. Trá Poll na bPéist: Also on Inisheer, this beach is known for its natural rectangular pool, which is often referred to as the “Wormhole” or “Serpent’s Lair.” While not a traditional sandy beach, it’s a popular spot for the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series due to its unique natural formation.

Final Thoughts on Exploring the Aran Islands

So there you have it, folks—a comprehensive guide to the best places to go on the Aran Islands. From the ancient forts that whisper tales of a bygone era to the modern-day pubs where you can sip a pint of Guinness with the locals, the Aran Islands offer a travel experience like no other. It’s a place where time slows down, where each wave crashing against the cliffs feels like a heartbeat, and where the soul finds its much-needed respite.

If you’re still asking yourself, “What to do on the Aran Islands?” then my friend, you need to pack your bags and experience it for yourself. Trust me, you won’t regret it. The islands are not just a destination; they’re a state of mind, a slice of heaven, and a story waiting to be written. So go ahead, write your own chapter in the incredible tale that is the Aran Islands.

The top things to do on the Aran Islands for all types of travelers
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