With Ireland under the grip of a summer heatwave, temperatures were reaching a balmy 30 degrees. We had decided to go on a daytrip to Inis Mor, the largest of the Aran islands. We had our tickets in hand for the new Aran island and Cliffs of Moher day tour ( Home (aranislandferries.com) which would leave Galway city at 9:30am.
We left Sligo early in the morning and after a quick 2 hour drive we rolled into the Galway harbour car park at 8am. As we had arrived early, we decided to walk along the harbour and admire the many boats. One of these boats is the Celtic Explorer, a multi-purpose research vessel used in Ocean mapping, fisheries acoustic research,....
After a short stroll, we decided to head back to the ticket office where we queued to receive our tickets for the ferry. We were excited to embark on one of the larger vessels of Aran island ferries which introduced the Galway to Inis Mór route earlier this year.
The route would bring us to Kilronan on Inis Mór where we would get approx. 4.5 hours to discover the island. Afterwards, the ferry would make its return journey to Galway with a detour which would see us cruise along the iconic Cliffs of Moher.
We had boarded the first ferry and by 9:00am, we set sail towards Inis Mor under a beaming sun with temperatures already hitting 22 degrees. Leaving the docklands behind us, we made a right turn around Mutton Island lighthouse.
Galway Cathedral stood tall above the roofs of the colourful houses along the Long Walk, the river Corrib flowing gently passed the houses to meet Galway bay.
The boat moved effortless through the calm waters of Galway bay on this particular morning only to be disturbed by birds flying above and the odd dolphin enjoying its morning exercise regime.
Gliding past the Galway coastline, we enjoyed the views towards Connemara with its landmark Twelve Bens, we watched fishermen pull in their nets hoping for a decent catch, we admired the many birds diving into the calm Atlantic looking for their breakfast.
By 10:30AM, we reached Kilronan harbour where passengers were already disembarking from the many ferries which had already arrived.
Once we disembarked, we knew exactly what our plan of action was. We would rent bikes for ourselves and the kids and take a spin around the island. And cycling is only one of the many transport options available on Inis Mor .... From the pier, there are mini bus tours available which cover all the main tourist attractions or you can opt for pony and trap for a more authentic experience.
Where we had tried to book bikes in advance as we were afraid all would be booked out during high season, we shouldn't have worried at all. With more than 1000 bikes available, there is one for everybody in the audience.
The bikes come in at €15 each for adult bikes and €10 for children bikes, so great value overall. It is very quick to obtain them as well, you queue , you pay and you pick your own bike and helmet.
And off we went, cycling through Kilronan avoiding the many tourists who wandered around the small streets. Soon enough, we headed uphill towards Upper Kilronan where we passed Joe Watty's pub and seafood bar where we turned right following the coastal road towards the seal colony.
Admiring the views towards the mainland in the distance, we passed Aran Islands Goat cheese where the goats were grazing the fields between the many stone walls. These stone walls are a trademark of the Aran islands. Where the islands are basically big chunks of rock, the islanders have created grazing land by clearing these stones and creating dry-stone walls from them. After a short enough spin, we reached the seal colony where we spotted seals sunbathing in the blistering heat.
After waving goodbye to the seals, we reached soon enough Kilmurvey beach which with its white sand stood in stark contrast with the dark blue water of the Atlantic. The Blue flag beach is safe to swim as there are no strong currents, and given the day that was in it, it would have been rude not to take a dip in the crystal clear waters which surround the Aran islands.
After a refreshing swim, it was time for a picnic before we would cycle further towards Dun Aonghasa, a hill fort which lies perched on the edge of 100 meter high cliffs.
After a short spin and having parked up the bikes, we started our trek up towards Dun Aonghasa along a rocky path. Pre-covid, there was an entrance fee to be paid to the office of public works (Dún Aonghasa | Heritage Ireland) , but this has been waved due to covid restrictions. Dun Aonghasa is a bronze age fort which is considered to be one of the finest prehistoric fortresses in Western Europe. Perched on a cliff edge, it consists of three dry-stone ramparts which at one point would have been 6.5 meters in height.
Outside the second rampart is a 30 foot band of upright stones forming a defensive band or chevaux de frise.
Heading back towards the visitor centre (currently closed due to covid restrictions), we continued our cycle with our next stop the Serpent's lair or worm hole as it is known.
This spectacular place has catapulted upwards in popularity due to the red bull cliff divers who bravely plunged from serious height into the Serpent's Lair.
So at this point, you are probably curious what the Serpent's Lair actually is. Its official name is Poll na bPeist, a naturally formed rock formation in the shape of a perfect rectangular "swimming pool" which is connected with the Atlantic by underground channels. On a calm day, it is the best swimming pool in the world, on a rough day it is a dangerous spot which has previously seen some incidents where tourists got swept into the ocean.
On the day we visited, it was as calm as it could be, many swimmers diving into the cool refreshing water of the Atlantic.
After our visit to the Serpent's Lair, it was time to head back to the harbour in Kilronan and take the ferry back to the mainland with the planned detour to the Cliffs of Moher. Cycling past the stone walled fields, we admired the tatched cottages along the road. After a pleasant day, we embarked our ferry which left the Island soon afterwards.
The ferry took us passed the smaller Aran islands Inishmaan and Inishsheer. Passing Inisheer, we spotted the Plassey shipwreck which used to be a cargo vessel in the Irish Merchant Service. In 1960, it was caught in a severe storm in Galway bay and ran onto Finnis rock. A few weeks later, a second storm washed the wreck of the rocks and drove it ashore.
The wreck was made famous through the opening credits for the hit show "Father Ted" and is now a popular tourist attraction.
After waving goodbye to the Aran islands, we set sail towards the Cliffs of Moher (Ireland Cliffs, Famous Cliffs in Ireland | Cliffs of Moher) . Along route, we passed a few pods of dolphins and porpoises which enjoyed the clear blue water of the Atlantic. Nearing the Cliffs of Moher, we got greeted by the thousands of birds breeding on the steep cliff edges. Each year, over 30,000 breeding pairs including seagulls, puffins, kittiwakes,... are welcomed to the 214 meter high cliffs.
The Cliffs of Moher are impressive, and after having cruised around the cliffs for 15 minutes, we set sail towards Galway city. Sailing passed the Burren landscape ( The Burren, County Clare - OUTDOOR FITNESS SLIGO ) , we admired the rocky moon-like landscape . It was a perfect day where we made a lot of new memories, and we know that we will visit the Aran islands again, this time round for a few days so that we can discover all of the islands.