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When it comes to tourism in Ireland, you’re probably familiar with a few of the country’s top tourist attractions – like the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, the Cliffs of Moher, and the Ring of Kerry.
But what do you know about Inis Mór?
Inis Mór (more usually known and pronounced as Inishmore) – is the largest of the Aran Islands located off the west coast of Ireland not far from Galway. (It’s name literally means “big island.”)
Despite having a population of less than 1000 people, the island is another of Ireland’s top tourist attractions due to its unique history and preserved culture.
If you’re planning to spend any amount of time in and around Galway, I highly suggest dedicating at least one full day to exploring Inishmore. You’ll be transported back in time to a place where horse-drawn carriages are a normal form of transport, where most people still speak Irish Gaelic, and where you’ll find miles upon miles of ancient stone walls.
Inis Mór is a magical place, and here’s how to experience the best of it in one day.
How to get to Inis Mór for a day trip
First things first: how do you get to Inishmore?
While you can technically fly to the little island, the usual way of arriving to Inis Mór is via ferry. Ferries to the Aran Islands sail daily from from Ros a’ Mhíl/Rossaveal (near Galway city) all year, and from Doolin (near the Cliffs of Moher) from March to early November.
Travel time is roughly 40 minutes from Rossaveal to Inishmore, or 35 minutes from Doolin. From Rossaveal, a return ferry ticket is 30 Euros for adults, and if you don’t have a car of your own to get to the ferry port, there’s a shuttle bus that leaves from Galway for an additional 9 Euros. Tickets from Doolin are 39 Euros.
You can check out ferry schedules from Aran Island Ferries here, and the schedule for the Doolin Ferry here. There are multiple sailings per day, but you’ll probably want to book a morning ferry there and an early evening ferry back if you’re just taking a day trip.
WARNING: This ferry crossing can be ROUGH. And I don’t mean just a little uncomfortable – I mean rocking and rolling enough to make a lot of people seasick. If you’re prone to motion sickness (or aren’t sure if you are), I highly recommend taking motion sickness tablets before you board. Even on calm, sunny days the seas can be rocking. (Source: I’ve taken this trip 3 different times at 3 different times of year, and it was rough every single time.)
How to get around on Inishmore
The photo of the ferry above is the typical ferry that takes passengers to Inis Mór, and you might note that it’s quite small. If you’re wondering can I take a car to Inis Mór? the answer is no; there are no car ferries that go to the island.
So how do you get around?
You can certainly walk from the ferry port to some shops and pubs in the town of Kilronan, but the island itself is too large to cover just on foot. There are three main ways to get to all the sites on the island:
1. Rent a bike
Biking around Inis Mór is the a popular way to explore the island due to the fact that it’s not that big – 14km at its longest, and 3.2km at its widest. Having a bike also gives you the freedom to spend as long as you’d like at the sights you decide to visit.
The downside, of course, is that the weather on Inishmore is extremely changeable, so there’s a good chance you might run into wind and rain at some point during the day. (Wear layers accordingly!)
You can rent bikes at a few places near the ferry port, and can even rent an ebike (which I would probably personally prefer, as there are some hills on the island).
2. Horse and cart
Another way to get around is by horse and cart. Locals with big draft horses offer tours of the island, and this is a fun way to travel (though, again, you may be subjected to the elements). In some places I would be wary of horse-drawn carriage rides, but every single working horse I’ve ever seen on Inishmore has looked plump and very well cared for.
3. Mini bus tour
On my most recent visit (a windy day with threat of rain), I opted to pay 15 Euros for a spot on a hop-on, hop-off mini bus in order to visit Dún Aengus and the Seven Churches, and think this is a great option for those who don’t feel comfortable on a bike.
(As soon as you arrive at the ferry port in Inis Mór, you’ll likely be met by people selling bus tours and carriage rides – no need to book ahead. If you want to rent a bike, a couple different companies operate nearby.)
5 things to do on Inis Mór
And now finally to the fun part! Here are all the best things to see and do on a day trip to Inishmore.
1. Visit Dún Aonghasa
The most popular spot to visit on Inis Mór is by far Dún Aonghasa or Dún Aengus, a prehistoric hill fort built high up on a cliff. The semicircular stone structures and walls here date back to the Bronze and Iron Ages, with the first constructions dating all the way back to 1100 BC.
To get to the fort, you have to pay a small fee at a visitor center (currently 5 Euros) and then walk about 10-15 minutes uphill to the fort. Once there, you can walk inside the ancient stone walls and see fantastic views in all directions over the island and the Atlantic.
The Cliffs of Moher get all of the cliff love in Ireland, but the cliffs on Inis Mór are amazing, too! From Dún Aonghasa you can get incredible views of the crashing Atlantic.
With the blustery winds, it might be difficult to imagine anyone living up here permanently, but they did for thousands of years!
2. See the Seven Churches of Aran
The name of this site is a bit misleading, as there aren’t seven churches here. Instead, you’ll find a complex of church ruins and old graveyards at Na Seacht dTeampaill. The site is dedicated to Saint Brecan, and was at one time one of the biggest monastic foundations and destinations for pilgrims along the west coast of Ireland.
There are actually only two churches here, with the largest being Teampall Bhreacáin (St. Brecan’s Church).
You’ll find this site near the village of Eoghanacht.
3. Check out the Worm Hole
The Worm Hole is a pretty unique site in Ireland – it’s a natural square-shaped cut-out in the rock at the bottom of a cliff, and has become a popular spot for cliff diving into the ocean. So popular, in fact, that it’s become a venue for the Red Bull Cliff Diving series.
4. Visit a beach
While it might be too cold and blustery to contemplate swimming on Inis Mor, the island nevertheless has some pretty beaches!
Kilmurvey Beach is the most popular beach on Inishmore, and is sandy and safe for swimming (should you dare). It’s close to Dún Aonghasa, and is lovely for a stroll any time of year.
5. Go seal-spotting
Inishmore is home to a seal colony of Grey Seals, and at low tide you can often see them gathered on the beach and rocks on the northern coast of the island. (The “Seal Colony Viewpoint” is marked on Google Maps.)
6. Shop for wool
The Aran Islands are renowned for their wool products, so you’ll want to allow some time to shop on Inishmore. And pay attention to the patterns, too – on the Aran Islands (and throughout Ireland), the unique patterns/stitches you see on sweaters often identifies an Irish family/clan.
There are a handful of wool shops (including the Aran Sweater Market) in Kilronan, as well as a few charming shops with thatched roofs at the visitor center for Dún Aonghasa. You can shop for everything from wool sweaters to scarves to mittens.
7. Cozy up in a pub
What would an Irish destination be without a few good pubs? Inishmore of course has several pubs to choose from, mostly within walking distance to the ferry port in Kilronan. My pick is Joe Watty’s Bar, which has traditional Irish music every day and serves up delicious local seafood.
8. Go for a hike
Have some more time on Inis Mór? Consider going for a hike (or, walk, really, since the island isn’t super hilly). Some marked trails exist, but you can also head off along the coast by yourself.
One popular hike is from Kilronan Village to the Black Fort, which is similar to Dún Aengus, but much less-visited. The hike is only about 30 minutes one-way, so you could easily tack this on to your visit if you have an extra couple of hours (or maybe a second day!).
Can I stay on Inishmore?
Multiple daily ferry sailings to/from Inis Mór mean you can easily visit as a day trip from Galway. But if you’d like the true Aran Islands experience, you absolutely can stay overnight at one of the many B&Bs on Inishmore.
Check out bed and breakfasts on Inishmore here.
Inis Mór tours
Don’t want to sort out a day trip to Inishmore on your own? That’s okay! You can book a day trip from Galway, too. Here are a few options:
- From Galway: Aran Islands & Cliffs of Moher Day Cruise
- Aran Islands Scenic Flight and Galway Rail Tour from Dublin