Choosing the day—try to check the weather a lot before you arrive and every day while you are in Ireland because this will kind of help to tell you what you want to do each day.
For your Aran Islands trip check Inishmore for the weather there. Obviously you want to try to go on a warmer, sunnier day. The day we went it rained a bit during our bike ride and it was pretty windy, but overall it was still worth the trip to the island and didn’t ruin the day at all.
To get to the island you have to take a ferry to get there and to get to the ferry you’ll have to take a bus there. If you’re staying in Galway I can tell you how to get there. The buses leave from in town near Eyre Square. The bus will take you to the port at Rossaveal where you can catch the ferries to any of the three Aran Islands. We went to Inishmore, which is the largest of the three.
Once you get to Rossaveal if you don’t already have your tickets you’ll go inside to purchase them before you board the ferry. Bring Dramamine for the ferry ride is you are prone to motion sickness at all. The day we made our trip the water was VERY choppy and our stomachs were in our throats as the boat skipped along the waves. I was giggling the whole time and Natalie was groaning, but even for me it was a little much and there were people getting sick on the boat. Try not to sit next to them.
When we arrived on Inishmore right accross the street from the dock is where you can hire bikes, go on a bus tour, or a horse-drawn carriage for your trip to Dun Aonghasa. We hired bikes and checked Google maps for the route to Dun Aonghasa. The maps they give you aren’t very clear as to where you’re supposed to go, so if you can at least get to the road you’re supposed to be on, which is super close to the bike shop, you’ll be great.
Before you start the trail, and I’m not sure if they always offer this, but at the Spar on Inishmore right around the corner from the bike shop you can get a coffee and pastry for $3 if you hire a bike from any one of the local shops and bring your receipt. After a danish and some coffee we were ready to head out!
The map begins behind the Spar store actually. You’ll go straight through the Spar parking lot past the store’s entrance and on that small road you’ll make a right, I believe, which takes you onto the path that you’ll bike on all the way to Dun Aonghasa.
Google maps will tell you the bike ride will take about 30 minutes or less, but they must be giving directions to people who are in shape and don’t get distracted by farm animals on the side of the road because it took us a bit longer than that. Also if you want to stop and take any photos of the countryside you’ll have to account for that.
Don't think that you need to be in super great shape for this adventure. The bikes were a lot easier on our legs than I thought they would be. Don't miss out!!
It’s ridiculously gorgeous on this island, so I would definitely recommend planning for a bit of extra time for the bike ride to get to Dun Aonghasa. Plus in the middle there is a Seal colony lookout. There was not a colony at the end of May when we went, but we did actually see one seal just chillin’. It’s still a beautiful lookout to sit and relax if you’re winded from the bikes or you just want to take in your surroundings. There is also a snack shack located here.
Back to the farm animals I mentioned. There are a few beautiful cows and horses we saw on the bike ride there that actually came up to us and let us pet them. Leave it to me and Natalie to find the horses and fall in love with them and then not want to go on or do anything else.
We actually brought two apples with us for our lunch we packed to have at the end of our bike ride, but we sacrificed both of them to our favorite horse. He got one on our way there, and since he was waiting for us when we came back the same way, he got the second one as well. I wish we had known and brought a whole bag of carrots for all of them.
We got caught in the rain on our way there, and at parts of the ride it got pretty windy as well. It wasn’t an unbearably cold day, but once you add the wind and the rain it’s another story. I’m glad the sun came out to dry us off eventually.
Side note: Natalie actually did end up with a little cold, and we think it was because of this day. So please make sure if you plan to do this wear layers, a waterproof jacket, bring waterpoof gloves, a scarf, and a baseball cap under your hood might be a good idea to keep the water off your face. Also maybe bring an extra pair of socks in case yours get wet.
When you reach the other side of the loop where the beach is you’re almost there. You just have to get the top of a small hill with your bike where there is the Aran sweater shop, and that’s where you can park your bike at the base of Dun Aonghasa before the walk up to the cliffs.
It’s about a 15-20 min walk to the top where the fort is. To your left you’ll start to see the mist from the ocean spraying over the edge as you walk up the path. When you reach the stone entrance you’ve made it to the top where you can see that you’re standing on cliffs that stretch into the distance with crystal blue waves crashing up against the bottom of them.
It was very windy atop the cliffs the day we went, so we tried to stay next to the walls, and I even sat down at one point to take my photos.
If you have long hair I recommend tightly braiding it before you go because that helped me not have to brush out a ridiculous mess at the end of the day. Along with braiding my hair I ended up buying one of the headbands/ear warmers for the way back to the ferry to keep my baby hairs out of my face. Definitely bring one of these for your trip in general cause it can get pretty windy in these coastal places during your stay.
After taking some gorgeous pics we headed back down to the base of Dun Aonghasa where there are a few yarn sweater shops like what you’ll find all over especially in Galway. There is also an ice cream shop and cafe if you wanted to plan time to stay and eat. If you wanted to bring your own lunch there is an outdoor eating area with picnic tables for you to park your bikes and sit at. We ate our sandwiches and snacks that we brought for lunch enjoying the sun while it was out for a few minutes.
We hopped back on our bikes, and we took the coastal side of the trail again back to the ferry. There is another trail that takes you more inland, but we really couldn’t get enough of the coast, so we went back the way we came.
Once we got back it was time to return our bikes and hop back on the ferry to return.
If you’re staying anywhere near the Aran Islands I 100% recommend this adventure! It was probably my favorite day because it takes up most of your day and keeps you occupied and you get to be active, and the payoff at the top is so worth it! I hope you go and enjoy it as much as I did!
Don’t forget to bring Steve a carrot for me!!