The Aran Islands

Aran Islands, Co. Galway

The name Aran Islands is Oileain Arann- the islands of Aran- in Irish. Arainn is also the correct name for Inis Mor, the largest of the Aran Islands. The word has the same root as the Gaelic word Aras, meaning a dwelling. Arainn means the inhabited island.
Certainly the island has been inhabited for at least 5,500 years. The 3,500 year old fort at Dun Aonghasa alone testifies to the presence of powerful kingdoms ruling from here over centuries and even millennia. Megalithic tombs can be dated back to the Stone Age while other structures may have been built by a people who had migrated up the Atlantic Coast from Iberia, or even from North Africa.

In Christian times, Inis Mor was known as Aran na Naomh, Aran of the Saints. The Celtic monk, Enda, brought Christianity to Aran around 485 AD. He and his fellow monks founded monasteries throughout the island. The landscape is dotted with ancient churches, beehive huts, Celtic crosses, standing stones and the burial sites of saints.

In more recent times Aran has become less a mecca for wandering monks of the Celtic church and more of a tourist haven for the modern-day pilgrim with annual tourist numbers going from below 10,000 in the 1980s to its current figure of somewhere in the region of 250,000 people proving that even in its current revival Aran has something to offer those in search of a unique experience. We certainly hope that this guide will assist you in that journey.

Our Take

One of my personal favourite daytrips to take. I love the ferry ride over - it's less tha an hour and it feels great on a calm day. I love to bike the island but be careful of the mini tour buses!! Very busy during the summer so expect to see a crowd.

The Seven Churches

The Seven Churches, or Na Seacht d'Teampaill, is the most important monastic site of the islands and is situated nearby the village of Eoghanacht. Despite the name there are only 2 churches as the other buildings are simple rooms of the monks.

Heritage Centre/ Ionad Arann

Ionad Arann, Aran's Heritage Centre, is located on the largest of the Aran Islands, Inishmore, and is a good starting point to get a grasp on the island's history and traditions.

Inis Oirr

The island is only about a total of 10 square kilometres and has 2 main roads, one running from south to north and the second extending from East Village to the pier. There is a castle and a number of interesting churches on the island

Inis Meain

Inis Meain, which means middle island, is the most barren, and the least populated despite being slightly larger than Inis Oirr. The island is separated from Inis Mor by Gregory’s Sound and is the least visited of the islands and one which most retains the traditional lifestyle.

Inis Mor

Inis Mor is the ‘capital’ of the Aran Islands and its sheltered harbour at Cill Ronain (Kilronan) has long been the main entry point for visitors to Aran. The island’s 900 inhabitants occupy an area that measures an area of 14 kilometres by 3 kilometres at its extremities, occupying a total area of little more than 31 kilometres.

Aran in Recent Times

From about 1740 the Digby family of Kildare became the islands landlords but were in the main absent and only took rent. Many islanders were unable to pay their rent and were evicted.

Medieval Aran

In medieval times, the islands were under the sway of the O Briens of Munster, who built a fortified tower house within the old walls of a Celtic cashel in Inis Oirr, until they were in turn ousted by the O’ Flahertys who were regarded by the merchants of Galway as pirates and smugglers

Aran of the Saints

Aran may have little soil, but what it has is holy. Towards the end of the 5th century the pioneers of the great monastic movement sought out a retreat from the world here, and the fame of their sanctity and learning brought flocks of disciples.

Aran Geology

21st century travellers to Aran will more than likely begin their journey to Aran from some point in the county of Galway, whether they choose to go by air or sea. However, it is necessary to travel back in time to the pre-Ice Age era, 325-350 million years ago to discover the origins of Aran and its remarkable landscape.

Connemara Smokehouse

The Connemara Smokehouse specialises in producing wild and organic salmon. As Connemara's longest established Smokehouse, this is a fascinating location to visit, take a tour and purchase a great array of traditionally hand-prepared seafood products. Tour of the Connemara Smokehouse takes about 1 hour.

Cnoc Suain

Cnoc Suain, The Enchanted Hill, is also known as the Connemara Centre for Creative Arts & Natural History. Cnoc Suain- an enchanting delicately restored pre-famine village, dating back to 1691, of thatched and slated stone cottages. Combine a cultural and educational experience with a stay in the most delightful and isolated surroundings.


Spiddal, on the coast road from Galway, is a lovely village in the Irish-speaking Gaeltacht, and the location for the Spiddal Craft Village where many local artisans showcase their handmade produce and gifts.

The Sky Road

The Sky Road leading out of Clifden, is the name given to a scenic stretch of narrow road that takes you to the edge of the jutting peninsula and offers jaw-dropping views of the outlying islands and Streamstown Bay. Sunset on Sky Road has a certain appeal to it, don't you think?


Roundstone village is a truly picture perfect fishing village in Connemara. Roundstone village was built in the 1820’s and is one of the oldest fishing villages on the west coast. Today, its harbour is still busy with local fisherman returning with the day’s catch of lobster, crayfish, crab and mackerel.


Renvyle or the Renvyle Peninsula, home to funnily enough Renvyle House is a serene peninsula located at the far western edge of Ireland and is a place in which to enjoy the fresh sea air, peace, beauty and closeness of nature.


The Irish name for the village is Srath Salach meaning the Riverside Meadow of Willow. Although a hinterland as opposed to a town, the main strip that includes Joyce’s shop could be said to be the epicenter.

Connemara National Park

Connemara National Park is like a microcosm of the surrounding countryside. Located just outside of Letterfrack and covering only an area of 8 square kilometres, the National Park offers the visitor an audio-visual and indoor introduction to the flora & fauna of Connemara and offers some easy to moderate walks within its boundaries.

Maam Cross

Maam Cross is the name of the crossroads that dissect Connemara in 4 distinct directions. Choices, choices. Continuing straight from Galway will bring you to Clifden Town, but right and left turns bring you to South and North Connemara- which is it to be?


Leenane or Leenaun (Gaelic) is a a small sheltered hamlet located at the south-east corner of Killary Harbour. Home to the Sheep & Wool Museum and the location for the screen adaption of Irish writer John B. Keane's "The Field" , its pubs offer a welcome respite to the weary traveller in need of sustenance.

Galway-Clifden Railway

Although no longer in operation the Galway-Clifden Railway which ceased operation in 1935 is still strongly etched into the memory of the people of Connemara, some nostalgic for the good old days, others bitter having been adversely effected by short-sighted economic policy.