Galway City’s location along the Wild Atlantic Way puts it in prime position for some amazing day trips, such as the fascinating Aran Islands in Galway Bay. You can see the sights and get back to Galway’s Quay Street in time for dinner, a pint of local craft beer and a live trad session.
Advance bookings are advised by the ferry company, Aran Island Ferries, always check the day’s forecast with the ferry company as sailings can be affected by the weather. The ferry port is 23 miles (37km) from Galway City, allow at least an hour for the drive and arrive half an hour prior to departure. Aer Arann also flies if you’re prone to sea-sickness!
Drive west around Galway Bay, passing through Salthill and Spiddal; this will bring you into the Gaeltacht (Irish speaking) area of Galway. Rossaveal is a Gaeltacht village with a strong fishing heritage. Its Irish name “Ros an Mhíl” roughly translates as peninsula of the whale/sea monster.
It’s also the main ferry port to access the Aran Islands. Slightly north of the village is a Martello Tower. Built in the 19th century to watch out for potential French invaders, from here you can see the passage you need to take to get to the islands by sea.
Inis Mór is the largest (‘mór’ meaning ‘big’ in Irish) with a population of around 800. Considering it’s 12km (7.4 miles) in length and 3km (1.8 miles) wide, there are plenty of historical sites such as Dún Aonghasa(Dun Aengus), Na Seacht dTeampaíll (The Seven Churches), and a round tower.
Inis Meáin translates as “the middle one” and prides itself on remaining quite traditional even in modern times. It’s here that the world famous Aran jumpers are still made along with contemporary knitwear designs at the Inis Meain Knitting Company. Folklore has it that the origin of the sweater came around when a fisherman and his family would add a unique pattern into the stitch. This was done so that if he drowned and was found, maybe weeks later, his body could be identified by the stitching. Writer JM Synge said of this island: “This is the last outpost of ancient Europe; I am privileged to see it before it disappears forever.”
Inis Oírr is the smallest and most eastern island. It’s less than 3km (1.8 miles) squared so completely walkable and the full walking trail is four hours long. Inis Oírr also has a similar landscape to the Burren in County Clare and therefore the flora is under conservation. Its current population stands at around 250 people.
Stop off in Spiddal where hundreds of students gather every summer to improve their Irish language skills. Ceardlann, the craft and design village, is a great spot for authentic Irish-made gifts and the café’s cakes are simply mouthwatering.
Then it’s back to the bright city lights.