Sheer Magic The 3 Aran Islands lay about 4 miles off the West Coast of Ireland. The largest island Inishmore receives the most visitors but Inishmean and Inisheer also have much to offer. This opinion is based on a day and night spent on the smallest of the islands, Inisheer. There are about 300 people living on Inisheer (Irish is the primary language) but in the summer months this figure is dramatically increased by visitors from the mainland. The landscape is barren and rugged and the terrain is quite rocky (hence the innumerable stone walls that divide the island up). For an island covering just short of 1,400 acres there is an abundance of flora and fauna. The island is a noted area for botanists, or so they say anyway! Day-trippers There are several ways to get to Inisheer. We took one of the Doolin Ferries that offer a comprehensive service from their north Clare location. The crossing from Doolin takes about 40 minutes and for those who don’t watch the waves there is a spacious seating area below deck. Doolin Ferries also go to the other 2 islands but only the sailing to Inisheer offers a day trip service. The Campsite There is a huge selection of accommodation on the island. We decided to opt for the Bord Failte approved Ionad Campála campsite. The shower and toilet facilities that are provided are very well maintained and the close proximity to the most gorgeous of beaches means that at £5 per tent it is hard to top this facility. Other Accommodation There are around 10 B & B’s to choose from on the island as well as several Hostels. All seemed well maintained and even the giant stone clad hostel that is visible as you arrive on the island blends in perfectly with its surroundings. There is only one hotel in the island called Ostan Inis Oirr. We spent about an hour in the hotel bar which was wedged with people trying to hear the golden voiced lady on the pi
ano. Everybody was incredibly friendly. The Beach The most remarkable thing about Inisheer is the white sandy beach, which is just a stone’s throw away from the harbour pier. It is spotlessly clean and the clear blue water that surrounds it will have you thinking of those beaches you came across in far flung places. It is without doubt the best beach I have ever seen in Ireland. Worth making the trip for this alone and the fact that it is almost always empty is an added incentive. The Pubs There are 3 pubs on the island (one as mentioned above in the Hotel). McDiarmuda’s is the biggest and probably least likeable. When we walked in there was a football game showing on Sky Sports. Eeek. Normally I’d be glued but out there it seemed a little inappropriate. We decided to eat in the pub and there was quite a good choice of wholesome food all for about £8 each. The pub itself has an old style feel about it but because it is so big it takes a little from the atmosphere. Tigh Ned’s is much better. This pub is about a minute away from McDiarmuda’s right on the beach front. When we arrived there was a ceili (Irish traditional music) session in full flow and a few people had already started dancing. Locals mixed quite freely with the many tourists and the atmosphere was really special. The beer prices were not exactly cheap but at £2.25 a pint they compare favourably with the astronomical prices charged in Dublin. Bikes, Kayaks and Horses and Carts Getting around the island is not difficult. There is a road that runs through most of it. There are no vehicles to speak of on the island so if you don’t want to explore by foot you can rent a bike for £5 a day. There is also a Horse and Cart taxi service for those who want to do it in style. Down beach side you can rent a Kayak to try and spot some Dolphins. One Dolphin swam within 10 feet of our ferry on our way ba
ck! Places Of Interest The main attraction is O’Brien’s Castle. It dates back to the 15th century and is built within a cashel that is made up of circular row of stone walls. The view from the site of the Castle is spectacular. Cnoc Raithni is a Bronze Age mound dating from 2000 B.C. Teampall Chaomhain is a graveyard that contains the remains of the patron saint of Inisheer St. Caomhan. There is also a 10th century church built within the walls of the graveyard. Tobar Einne is the holy well of the patron saint of the Aran Islands, St.Enda. During the summer months there are Archaeological and Historical Walks organised as well as Irish language courses. Father Ted There is a Russian Freighter wreck on the south of the island. It was washed ashore in 1960 and looks a little out of place. It is the wreck that is shown in the opening credits to the Father Ted comedy series that was filmed a few miles away on the mainland. Getting There and Back As well as the aforementioned Doolin Ferries there is also a scheduled ferry service from Galway city. Aer Arann also fly to the island and this is probably the best option if you are short on time. The Inisheer experience is one you will not forget. I only wished we had had more time to discover sone more of its secrets. While there were quite a few tourists on the island it seems that numbers are limited so as not to damage the unique culture that exists in the island. I can’t wait to go back.