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Aran Islands vs. Kylemore Abbey & Connemara National Park

I will be on a group tour to Ireland in a few weeks, and we'll have two days in County Galway, the first being the arrival day.
Wondering if I have to choose (and it looks like I will) between the Aran Islands and the day trip to Kylemore Abbey & Connemara National Park, which you would most recommend?

I understand that it will take about 40 minutes from Galway to get to the Aran Islands... if I went to Inishmore would six hours be sufficient to see most of it?

I will greatly appreciate any and all input on these options.
Thank you!
Faith

Posted by
3511 posts

I loved the Aran Islands and spent 2 full days there. I do think you could have an excellent experience as a day tripper. I especially enjoyed renting an E bike and exploring the island that way. Others took mini buses or horse carriages.

One thing that surprised us was that my sister found taking the passenger ferry (and it is quite large) stressful. There was some wave action and she felt slightly ill and slightly scared. It didn’t bother me, but we wouldn’t have expected it to bother my sister either who has a lot of boat experiences.

Posted by
1970 posts

I tend to favor the Aran Islands too, although you really can't go wrong either way.
If a potentially rough ferry crossing is a concern consider flying, which many here recommend as a quick and pleasant way to go.
https://aerarannislands.ie/

Posted by
980 posts

All I can give you is that we took the short ferry ride from Doolin to Inis Oírr and then stayed on the island for about 3 hours before returning. We had a great time - especially at Tigh Ned with some of the locals!

Posted by
374 posts

Below are links for ferry service to the Aran Islands. The first runs from Rossaveel (west of Galway town), and the other two from Doolin in County Clare. The former is a much larger ferry with indoor seating; the latter two are small, open air boats. Service can also be weather-dependent.

https://www.aranislandferries.com/

https://www.doolinferries.com/

https://www.doolin2aranferries.com/

Both the islands and Connemara are well worth exploring, the latter requiring a full two to four days and a car or bicycle to travel around the loop. Galway town, Clifden and Leenane also merit a night or two each.

But with only one day, I'd suggest seeing Inishmore, the largest of the Arans. You can rent a bike or hire a taxi or jaunting car (a horse-drawn carriage) to take you to the pre-historic Dun Aengus ring fort, five miles from Kilronan. You'll also get the gift of hearing Irish spoken by the locals, which is not quite as common in Connemara.

Kylemore Abbey is worth only a brief stop-by visit to photograph it unless you're interested in its architecture or history. It's also become quite commercialized.

Posted by
29 posts

This information is so helpful. Thank you all so much!

Posted by
1970 posts

There is a possible 3rd option, but one that will require a car: the island of Inishbofin is a short ferry ride from the village of Cleggan, which itself is not far from the very pretty market town of Clifden.

Clifden is handy for the scenic drive around the Connemara Loop, to include a stop along the way at Connemara National Park for a short and scenic hike, Kylemore, and the village of Cong. It's also close to the very scenic Sky Road west of the town, which is rated as one of Ireland's great scenic drives.
Given the cost of rental cars at the moment however you're probably better advised to stick with Plan A.

Posted by
89 posts

My daughter and I did a day trip to Inishmore from Galway taking Aran Island Ferries, and really enjoyed it. As I recall, our ferry tickets included being bussed to and from Rossaveel. As mentioned by others, the ferry had some indoor seating and the ride was smooth. I thought Dun Aengus was very cool, and well worth seeing. Six hours should be enough time to get a flavor of the island, especially if you rented bikes or other transport. (We like to hike, and walked everywhere, so had to watch the clock to make sure we didn't miss the last ferry.)

Posted by
821 posts

Hello from Wisconsin,
Kylemore Abbey. It is a great photo op from the far side of the lake. The beautiful old castle converted into an abbey. Wait, wait, how can this be? It was built between 1863 and 1868 or 1867-71? It was built to look old and majestic. It was a private home of a wealthy English invader from Manchester. Oops.

But the Islands...pretty darned real. Pretty darned old. Forts from 1000BCE An Abbey from 490 CE. Expect wind.

But Kylemore does offer a great shot from across the lake and crushed strawberries in the tea room.

wayne iNWI

Posted by
29 posts

I'm planning to go to the Aran Islands, but it's a darn shame I can't do both! I guess I'll just have to make a return trip. :)
Thank you all so much for sharing your experiences and your recommendations! Much appreciated.
Faith