A trip to Inis Mór is like doing the whole of the Wild Atlantic Way on one island. There are the coastal drives, the stunning seascapes, the cliffs, the empty beaches, the seafood, history, archaeology, and the very friendly people. That is how it felt when I spent a short time there recently – every experience of the WAW in a micocosm.
The new seasonal ferry Saoirse na Farraige from Galway city takes 90 minutes to Kilronan the main town of the biggest of the three Aran Islands, Inis Mór. Year round services operate from Rossaveal, near Galway city and Doolin in Co. Clare.
The most popular way to explore the 31km sq island is to take a tour, either by bicycle, minibus or pony and trap. Our tour around the island was in the only off-road vehicle, recently arrived for Aran Off Road Experiences and operated by islander brothers Pádraig and Aonghus Hernon.
We took the high road out of Kilronan up to a point where we could see much of the island and get a sense of the geography. Onwards we stopped to see a traditional cottage that had been built of fibreglass for the scenes in the recently filmed Banshee of Inisherin.
Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson are starring in it and they made the odd appearance around the island’s hostelries. Sad to say the cottage will be removed when the film is wrapped up. It looks very authentic, but the first Atlantic winter storm would probably blow it down.
Onwards to the small parish of Kilmurvey for the starting point of our walk up to Dun Aonghus, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is quite a steep climb and takes about 20 minutes. It is worth every minute when you get to the top and see the concentric rings of grey stone. You try to imagine what on earth possessed these people from 1,100BC to build a fort on top of a cliff.
There are no rails holding you back from the sheer drop. The safest way we found to approach the edge was lying down and inching forward. It is not for those with a fear of heights.
Our next stop came after a shortcut through the Hernon’s farmland to get to one of nature’s most amazing sights, Poill an Peist, or The Wormhole. This rectangular pool is cut out of rock by nature, with sheer sides and is a drop of at least 20m below. The water rushes in and out swirling this deep blue pool. The fearless Red Bull cliffdivers have made this island secret well known around the world.
The next day was a tour with Gabriel Faherty who took us to see the seven churches at Kilmurvey, and the seal colony. There is a group of seals that have made the island home. Like many islanders he has more than one string to his bow and he brought us to see his goat farm. Gabriel has been farming goats for the past nine years, formerly a fisherman, this is his newer career.
On his farm he has around 50 Nubian goats, and they are gorgeous, all silky haired and nosey. It seemed they loved visitors and certainly played up to us as an audience. Gabriel makes a range of goats cheese with difference flavourings, such as dillisk, a type of seaweed. There is also a Mediterranean flavoured cheese and a cranberry one too. See his website here.
The farm also produces a type of feta cheese, and he is experimenting with hard cheeses. There also a range of jams and marmalades under the Gran Grans brand. I bought the carrot cake marmalade and its delicious.
Where to Eat
Tí Joe Watty’s
This is a lovely friendly bar in Kilronan with great food and music. We had lunch here and it was delicious fresh crab, sweet and succulent. For mains, Grace suggested the local hake cooked in a light batter, and it was a great choice. The fish was steamed in the batter and very tasty.
Later that night we paid a visit to Tí Joe Wattys for a nightcap and got a lovely surprise. A group of local young people visiting home were playing. They had an accordion, fiddle, bodhran and tin whistle and it was a perfect end to the night listening to traditional Irish music.
Teach Nan Paidí – Kilmurvey
This popular little thatch cottage is a great place for a home cooked lunch. You know it will be good as the wall outside is covered with Georgina Campbell awards. The selection of cakes and pastries is mouth-watering and worth waiting for if it is busy. You can also have a glass or wine or a beer here too.
Madigans at Aran Islands Hotel
This traditional restaurant is a great place to try the excellent Inis Mór beef. Steak is served on a bed of onions and mushrooms and all the trimmings. Seafood is also a speciality here. The hotel bar is a good place for casual dining all day.
Where to Stay
The Aran Islands Hotel has been a the only hotel on the island for many years. The stone clad 22-room hotel has recently tripled in size with the addition of a range of luxury chalets on the elevated site behind. We stayed in one and it was very comfortable. Each chalet has a bedroom with seating area and a spacious bathroom. One of the nicest things about the chalets is the outdoor deck with seating. A lovely place to sit and watch the sunset in the evening.