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Aran Islands: to stay or not to stay

Hi! My mom and I are doing a two week driving tour of Ireland, staying two nights a piece at Bed and Breakfasts around the country. We have considered staying on the Aran Islands for two of those nights, but mom thinks it would put us too far off the beaten path, and prefers that we stay in Galway for that leg of the trip. We would be coming from two nights in Castlegregory, where her family is from originally (no choice but to stay there!) My appeal to stay on the Aran Islands is this beautiful, thatched roof cottage we found, that you must get to by pony and cart! Neither of us have been to Ireland, and I want my mom to get the most out of this trip since it has been her dream to come to Ireland all her life. Would staying on the Islands take away from the little time we have, since it isn't as easy to access the mainland from; or, is it a must that we stay there? We do intend on visiting the Islands, but for a day. THANKS!

Posted by
2127 posts

Hi, Aimee. I stayed on Inishmore and thought it was wonderful. I can't say it's a must, but I highly recommend it. I would not worry about it taking away from your time in Ireland, because it's actually time in Ireland. It's an amazing place and not nearly as modern as the main part of Ireland. We just stayed one night since we only had 11 days, but I would have enjoyed two. If you mother wn't go for two, compromise and stay one night. I can't imagine you will regret it. It's a different experience at night when all the day tourists leave.

Posted by
175 posts

Hi Aimee, two years ago my husband and I spent two nights on the big island. Wonderful scenery, people and experience. Not a must see but you won't regret your time there. Actually, it's a terrific time to slow down and really enjoy Ireland at it's very best.

Posted by
9363 posts

You don't say what time of the year you will be traveling, but in cooler months the weather can be a factor in whether boats can go to and from the islands on a regular basis. I don't know that it's necessary to actually stay on the island, and frankly, there isn't that much to do once you are there. The scenery is beautiful, but I would be bored - there is so much else to do in Ireland! Only you know your own travel style, though.

Posted by
4 posts

Thanks everyone! We will be traveling there the first two weeks of August. My mom is afraid of the same thing, that we will be bored because there isn't much to do there, and she doesn't want to miss out on all we could be doing around Galway if we had stayed inland. Thoughts?

Posted by
4 posts

Hi Aimee we went earlier this year...we stayed in Galway and did the daytrip out to the island. I would recommend staying in or around Galway. There are many many b&bs in town or in the outer area of Salthill. We were able to take the pony cart around the island you grab it right off the ferry and you will not regret it. The nights in Galway are not to be missed lots of live music and folks having good times. Also some good shopping if you are planning on any of that in town and great Aran Sweaters on the island but wait until you get to the shop by the castle the woman inside will be knitting sweaters as you shop and will tell you about each sweater's unique stitching before you purchase.

Posted by
31 posts

I think spending the night is a good idea. We were there a couple of years ago and tried to see stuff on Inishmore on bikes in one day with little success. If you want to be leisurely about your sight seeing, I would recommend spending the night.

Posted by
3580 posts

I stayed overnight at a B&B when I was there. It was a good experience not to have to hurry back to the main island.

Posted by
1804 posts

It's definitely worth staying on the Islands overnight as so few visitors actually do this (and they are missing out). There are a few pubs with great music and if you decide on staying on Inis Mor, several good restaurants.

You do need to be flexible - weather is the deciding factor for sure. If it's 2 days of rain, being on the Island (if you can get to it) is not so grand and in that case I would recommend being in and around Galway.

Even in sunny weather, some of the ferry service to the Islands can be cancelled due to choppy seas (particularly the service out of Doolin which can be very unreliable) which can leave you stranded on either side - not being able to get off the mainland or not being able to get back when you want to.

Posted by
29 posts

Hi Aimee,

We were in that area last August and my vote would be for staying in Galway. While Galway wasn't my favorite city in Ireland, it has a lot of GREAT music/dancing and we really enjoyed our 3 day stay there.

Inishmore was really lovely as well, but a day trip there was just perfect in my opinion. We took an early ferry over and found it to be a wonderful experience, but I CANNOT stress this enough - really quiet. Yes, those quiet times are wonderful, but for your first trip? You would miss out on wandering around the city at night, seeing the people, hearing the music, etc.

I would not, however skip a day trip to Inishmore, it was a unique experience and nothing like the other parts of Ireland we visited on this trip.

Posted by
45 posts

I would agree with Meg.
I stayed overnight on Inishmore last summer, and while I did enjoy it, I was also in Ireland for two months. With only two weeks, I would agree that a day trip and staying in Galway would be better. It is interesting to stay overnight as the tourists all leave by 5 and the island is very, very quiet. However, by the same token, the island is very, very quiet and there was not a lot to do. I loved Galway and thought it had the best music in all of Ireland -at least in terms of diversity.

Posted by
1 posts

I went to Ireland in 2005 and we did a day trip to Inisheer. It was fun to tour the island for a few hours, but I certainly wouldn't recommend staying the night. I have not been to Inishmore so I cannot compare it to Galway. I can tell you that Galway was one of my favorite stops on our trip. We only stayed two nights and I wish it had been more.

Posted by
29 posts

Aimee -

They may seem just like other spits of land offshore, but the Aran Islands are the timeless heart and soul of Ireland. You'll hear Irish spoken more than English and see how the islanders have survived in such an isolated setting for centuries. The quiet bleakness of the landscape is a wonderful break from the everyday routine, and when the day trippers depart, you'll have it mostly to yourselves. Why not spend a night each on Inisheer or Inishman and Inishmore? On the latter, the trek or ride to see the pre-historic ring fort - Dun Aengus - is reason enough. Where else can you stand and stare 300 feet straight down to the sea?! Besides, the ferry trip from Doolin is a treat in itself.

Posted by
4 posts

thank you so much, everyone, for all of your heartfelt responses. i truly appreciate all of them. cheers!

Posted by
588 posts

Aimee- I was there last year and a day trip for more than enough for me. I was there in the middle of September and the wind was unbelievable. I recommend staying in Galway (wonderful city) and taking the day trip. You can still take a pony/cart trip around Inishmore and have that experience. Be sure to visit the lovely shops near the fort---locals who have beautiful knits.