Year on year, Inis Mór (Inishmore), the largest of the Aran Islands, off Ireland’s West Coast grow in popularity with domestic and international visitors alike. As well as enjoying the amazing scenery and fascinating history it boasts I discovered a few things. Here’s a few tips you need to know before visiting. Here they are! I promise they’ll make you enjoy this wondrous place even more! Have a read of my Complete Guide to Inis Mór too!
1. Find yourself a good B&B
When I was booking my accommodation on Inis Mór, I hadn’t the foggiest clue where to book. I took a chance on the Claí Bán Bed and Breakfast because the reviews were good and the photos of it were lovely. Little did I realise just how lucky I was! The owners, Marion and Bartley were amazing! They were so chatty and friendly! And the breakfasts were both delicious and they were enough to fill me for a whole day of top notch touristing! They really were the perfect hosts! The room I had could sleep three, there was a really comfy double bed and also a single bed. The bathroom was really spacious and the finish on everything was wonderful!
As for location, there is no beating the Claí Bán! It is a 2 minute walk from the best pub/restaurant on the island, Watty’s. It’s approx. 500 m from the main village, Kilronan and easy walking distance to the shop (yes, the only one on the island – apart from the souvenir ones anyway) and most of the amenities. It’s also uphill from Kilronan. This is hugely important when you have to cycle everywhere! It meant that when you set off in the morning, you already had a hill conquered! Bliss!
2. Inis Mór has Hills
This may seem trivial, but believe me (and my burning thighs and calf muscles), this is a biggie! The main mode of transport for visitors to Inis Mór is a bicycle… The main road from one end of the island to the other is essentially one big hill… HOWEVER. There is a second road, only slightly longer, that brings you via St. Ciarán’s Church and the Seal Colony Viewpoint to Kilmurvey. Unless you want serious “gainz” or want to visit places along the main road, such as Dún Eochla or the Abandoned Lighthouse, use the easier road and thank me later!
As I’ve already eluded to, the main mode of transport around Inis Mór is a bicycle that you can rent for the duration of your stay from Aran Islands Bike Hire in Kilronan. My B&B advised me to lock it when leaving it in the busier locations. This isn’t necessarily to prevent theft (sure where could they go with it), it’s more to ensure that you use the same bike and that you/someone else doesn’t accidentally take the wrong one.
The only cars on the island are belonging to Islanders (people who are luck enough to call this place home). There are shuttle bus services and pony and trap style tours that are mainly aimed at people day-tripping to the island. Still, if you’d rather not cycle, they might be the answer to your prayers!
4. The Weather is Better than you Think!
Contrary to popular belief, the weather on Inis Mór is often better than you’d expect! They tend to enjoy better weather than the nearby Connemara and Clare Coasts on the mainland! So apply plenty of sun block when heading out for the day, between the sun (even on a duller day) and the wind, you can get sunburnt quite easily!
Saying that, this is Ireland we’re talking about, and the West of Ireland at that! The weather can change quite drastically and quite quickly so be prepared! This leads me nicely onto my next point…
5. Bring Waterproof Clothing!
Seeing how Inis Mór is essentially a lump of limestone in the Atlantic Ocean, the weather is unpredictable at best. Pack yourself some waterproof trousers and a good coat. As you’ll be out and about on a bicycle, there’ll be no getting away from the rain when it arrives. And boy, when it arrives, you’ll usually know about it! There’s also pretty much nowhere to shelter from the downpours. The island doesn’t even have many trees! Carry the waterproofs with you when you’re exploring too. Trust me, you’ll be glad of them!
6. Good Shoes/Boots are Key!
Most of the ground you’ll be walking on is uneven. This can be stones on a path, a dirt track or open exposed limestone with large natural fissures and a rather uneven surface. Many of Inis Mór’s attractions are quite secluded and involve both cycling and hiking to get to them. If you want to see these beautiful landscapes or ancient forts, you will not be able to do it without good footwear!
I wore my trusty Tropicfeel Canyon shoes and they most definitely do what they say on the website, they are an amazing all purpose shoe! Fantastic grip on rough surfaces! The grip was even brilliant on wet rocks! I couldn’t have seen all I saw on Inis Mór without them!
7. Embrace Your Inner Adventurer!
Many of Inis Mór’s attractions are off the beaten track. They are usually well signposted from the roads and lanes on the island, but there is a lot more exploring involved too!
When visiting the likes of Dún Eoghanacta, Teampall Bheanáin or Teampall an Cheathrair Álainn, the roads and tracks will only get you so far. You will need to hike to each of them! In many cases, you will have old, simple wooden arrows to point you in the right direction or a bit of paint on a rock. If you’ve to hike across fields, as you do for these sights, you may have narrow paths worn into the fields by generations of visitors. Sometimes though, you’ve to hike across bare limestone. This is the case for both Dún Dúchathair and Poll na bPéist. For these, pick a few distinctive rocks to help guide you back to your bicycle!
8. Wildlife Woes?
OK, so they’re not really woes to be fair, more things to be aware of. Because you’re likely to be going off the beaten track a good bit, this involves hiking through fields and often long grass. If you’re prone to horsefly or general insect bites, you’ll find that you’ll leave with loads of them! Be aware of more serious tick bites too. The main characteristic for these is a mark/inflammation that looks like a target. In this case (or if in any doubt) consult a medical professional as soon as is reasonably possible.
As you will need to hike through fields that are in active use for agriculture and livestock, you’ll encounter plenty of cow pats and horse manure. So… Watch your step! There also may be large animals in the fields too. Behave responsibly around them to avoid harming or startling them and causing injury, to them or to you.
9. DO NOT MOVE ANY STONES!!!
I cannot emphasise this strongly enough, do not move any stones, especially those on the ancient dry stone forts and on the vast amount of dry stone walls. They have been there for hundreds, if not thousands of years and have survived all that time. Don’t be the person that aids in their destruction. Most importantly of all, don’t built the stone stacks that are beginning to plague all popular destinations. Here, they not only scar the beauty of your surroundings, they also assist in the destruction of historical structures.
10. THE Shop
Yes, you read it right. THE Shop is an all purpose Spar. There’s only one (except for souvenir shops). It contains the only ATM on Inis Mór. As many of the businesses on the island don’t have the facility for card payment, you’ll often need to have some cash on you. The most important thing to note about it is that it closes every evening at 6pm.
11. Getting to and from Inis Mór
There are a few options here! Aran Island Ferries operate year round services to and from all three of the Aran Islands from Rossaveel in West Galway. You can also get a bus (as part of a single package) from Galway city in time to meet the ferry. There are two companies that offer seasonal ferry trips to each of the islands from Doolin in Co. Clare. They are the Doolin Ferry Company (who I travelled to Inis Oírr with) and Doolin2Aran Ferries.
For Inis Mór, I travelled with Aer Arann Islands from their airport in Inverin, Co. Galway. The flight time was just under 10 minutes and a return flight cost €49. When you arrive on Inis Mór, there is a shuttle bus that will bring you to where you’re staying and back to the airport for €5 return. Make sure to confirm your pick up time well before your scheduled collection time by calling Inis Mór Airport on 099-61109.
The planes are typically eight seaters and you and your luggage will all be weighed so as to best position you in the plane for the flight. On my outbound flight there was only two other passengers with me and on my return to the mainland, I was the only passenger! I essentially had a private plane!!!