Like to be active and explore ruins? See prehistoric forts, 300ft cliffs, a castle, ancient cemeteries and beaches all within a 2 mile radius? Inishmore in the Aran Islands, just off the coast of the University city, Galway, is inch for inch one of the most historically saturated sites in Ireland, and while it may also be saturated with tourists, if you choose to explore the island on bike, you will get a glimpse of the solitude of Inishmore.
Inishmore is a sea battered island covered in rocks, ruins, patches of wildflowers, with the occasional sandy beach and cemetery. The beaches looked really great, but I was there in the middle of July, with nothing but sunny skies and the most I could do was cool my feet off in the frigid Atlantic waters, so swimming any time of the year might be out of the question.
The easiest and cheapest way to get to Inishmore is to book a tour from one of the agencies in Galway near the town center. The price will include a fifty minute bus ride to Rossaveal Port, where you will hop on a fifty minute ferry to the island of Inishmore. Ferries go to and from all day, but don’t miss the last ferry; otherwise you will be spending the night. You won’t have to sleep on the beach though; there are several Bed and Breakfasts on the island, a hostel and even a small market.
To explore the island, I would highly recommend renting a bike. You can take a van or a carriage, but you have the most freedom on a bike, and the ability to avoid the tourist vans. There are several bike shops right near the port so you can’t miss them. Make sure to inspect the bike before you rent it. The bike I rented was fine when I got it, but after getting lost and frantically climbing rock roads, only to turn around at the dead end and bomb back down, I can guarantee my wheels needed a good truing.
The island seems to have a fairly simple layout when you look at the map, but I got lost several times exploring so pay attention while riding. There are old rock roads cutting across the island that don’t cut all the way across. They cut to no where and will abruptly end. So stick to the paved roads unless you have some spare time and really want to be all alone, then it might not be a bad idea to explore. I would recommend doing a counterclockwise tour of the island. It seemed all the tour vans would go clockwise, flood a site, and then move on, so its best to either stagger your timing, or make the trip counterclockwise.”
I would recommend bringing food, prices were a little steep in the island store, as can be expected. Wherever you buy your food, the best place to eat is on the edge of the sheer 300 ft cliffs next the prehistoric fort of Dún Aonghasa. The entrance fee to the portion of the island housing the two very worthy landmarks is €3, and you will have to leave your bike outside, but if you have a an OPW Heritage Card, you will get in for free.
I spent an entire day exploring the island, and while I saw a lot, I didn’t see everything. I feel one day is sufficient, but if you want to get a 100% completion on the island, you might have to stay the night.
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