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Visiting Inis Oirr
(or Inisheer)

Inis Oirr (Inisheer) is the smallest and greenest of the three Aran Islands. We think it is one of the best places to see in Ireland. Why?

The locals are really friendly, it is easy to get around, it has lovely beaches, has a great playground and is pretty safe for children. In fact some people take the ferry over for the day just to bring their kids to the playground!

Join in on the fun and watch a video of our pony and trap ride across Inisheer here.

Inisheer, County Galway, Ireland- the ship wreck of the Plassy has become a characteristic piece of the landscape here over the last forty odd years.

Getting there

The best way to get to Inis Oirr is to take a boat from Doolin. There are two or three ferry companies who go out from Doolin Pier, O'Brien Line is the biggest. At peak time in the summer, seven or eight boats a day go to Inis Oirr.

You can fly either, with Aer Arann from Inverin in Connemara, if you want to experience the scenery from above, but most visitors take the 30 minute boat journey.

You can get to Inis Oirr from Rossaveal in Connemara with Aran Islands Ferry, but the trip is longer and may involve a stop over at the other islands, it is also more costly.

Getting Around

You can get around the island in a variety of ways. For starters, you could walk. The island is very small, and you could realistically access all places of interest on foot.

For other options, you will find mini buses, and a bicycle hire place at the pier.

On our last visit we thought that by far the coolest way to get around the island was on a pony and trap. You will see them right at the pier and they give you a tour of the island which is a handy thing for a day trip. The kids loved it! The memory of that trip will stay with them forever.

The Tour

We had a friendly guide called Ronan who told us all about the history of the place. Ronan is from Inis Oirr. He talked about how lovely it was to grow in a place as remote as Inis Oirr, having the freedom to go anywhere, anytime. Ronan and his peers spent a lot of time fishing and doing other outdoor activities, and they were constantly in and out of each others’ houses. The island is so small that there was no need for lifts by parents. What a lovely way to grow up indeed.

Inisheer, County Galway, Ireland- pony and trap is a great way to get around on the smallest of the Aran Islands.

Inis Oirr has a castle, O’ Brien’s Castle, the original residence of the rulers of the Aran Islands, the O’Briens of County Clare. The castle is a 15th century build, a defended towerhouse, and is located near the highest point of the island. On the same hill you will find the pre-historic stone fort, Dún Formna.

Inisheer landscape, County Galway, Ireland with the ruin of the medieval O'Flaherty castle on top of the hill.

One stop on the island tour was the ship wreck of the Plassy, which got stranded here in 1960 in a bad storm when the ship steered too close to the rocks. All twelve crew members were rescued eventually (although there were no proper rescue services in those days) and all survived. But there was no way to move the ship, so it remained in place. Today it is a tourist attraction that is starting to blend into the landscape.

Inisheer, Aran Islands, County Galway, Ireland. O'Flaherty medieval castle ruin on top of the hill.

Why are there so many walls on Inis Oirr, we asked.

It really is striking, tiny green fields surrounded by walls six or eight feet tall. One reason, we heard, was that people only owned very small amounts of land out here. Traditionally, people did not own the land, but were paying rent to absentee landlords. Then, in 1922, they received land, but a lot of it has been split up again and again through passing it on through the generations.

Another reason is the sheer amount of rock out here. Where to put it all when you try to create some pasture? If you don’t have access for machinery to remove it, the only way there is is to stack it and to build walls. The taller the better.

Inisheer lighthouse, Aran Islands, County Galway, Ireland.

The Southern tip of the island has a lighthouse which makes for a great destination for a walk. On a fine day, you can enjoy amazing views of the Cliffs of Moher across the Bay from here.

Inisheer seascape, Aran Islands, County Galway, Ireland.

Holy Wells

When visiting the island, look out for Holy Wells, such as Saint Enda’s Well in the West of the island. Holy Wells are said to have healing powers, so you might take a bottle of water home with you... Send us an email and keep us posted as to if and how it helped.

Certainly it is the islands wells that have enabled humans to settle here in the first place. The brackish water in Lough Mór is no good as drinking water. These days, by the way, the islands produce drinking water by means of desalination plants. Otherwise they could not cater for the needs of an expanding tourist industry here.

Aran Islands, Inisheer, landscape with old cottage.

Staying On Inis Oirr

The island is a lovely place to stay for a couple of nights or even longer, a place to chill and get away from it all.

There are some great walks taking in the sites. There is accommodation for every taste:

The island has a campsite, B&B’s (for example the lovely ‘Radharc an Chláir’ 099-75019), the good quality ‘Bru’ hostel (099-75024), and even a hotel. There are a couple of good quality restaurants all within walking distance, and there is Irish Music most nights of the week in at least one of the two pubs or at the Arts Centre (Áras Éanna).

More On The Aran Islands

Related Articles On Ireland

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