- What to do on Inis Mór?
Inis Mór - (meaning big island) as its name suggests is the biggest of the three Aran Islands. Lying in a North - Westerly direction across Galway Bay, Inis Mór is approximately 12km in length and 3km in width. Inis Mór is like an outdoor museum with over 50 different monuments of pre-Christian, Christian and Celtic heritage. There are also several major geological features on Inis Mór including the Poll na bPéist Wormhole, puffing holes and some of the most spectacular cliffs in Europe.
The sailing time to Inis Mór is 40 minutes.
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A. Kilronan Village ( Cill Rónáin ) is the principal port and village of Inis Mór and it is here that most visitors are first introduced to the island. Kilronan has seen a lot of development in the past 10 years and is a lively village with many of today's modern conveniences, comfortably co-existing with traditional practices and culture. The village takes its name from the Monastery of St. Ronan. Most of the island's shops, pubs, hotel, B&Bs, hostels, restaurants and other services, such as bike rental, post office, tourist information office and bank are located in Kilronan.
B. Dún Eochla is a superb stone ringfort located at the highest point on Inis Mór. The inner walls measure approximately 5 metres in height, and over 3 metres in depth. With its fantastic location and remarkable condition, this fort deserves far more attention than it receives. The fort has an almost 360 degree view of the island. It has been estimated that Dún Eochla was built sometime between 550 and 800 A.D.
C. Teampall an Cheathrair Álainn is a simple but beautiful 15th Century church, dedicated to the 'Four Beautiful Saints': Fursey, Brendan, Conal and Berchan, who are said to be buried nearby.
D. Leaba Dhiarmuda agus Gráinne is a megalithic wedge tomb dating back to 2000 B.C. and is a burial place of early farmers. Wedge tombs are the earliest known monuments on Aran.
E. Cill Mhuirbhigh is located at the base of the famous Dún Aonghasa Fort (POINT H). You'll find a beautiful beach and Craft and Coffee shops including the Teach nan Pháidí which is famous for it's baked goods.
F. Na Seacht dTeampaill (The Seven Churches) is the name given to the ruins of two small churches, some holy wells, a graveyard and some domestic buildings on the ancient monastic site founded by St. Breacán. This is the finest example of monastic settlement on Inis Mór.
The island was an extremely significant place of pilgrimage in ancient times, and the presence of parts of three impressive Celtic high crosses dating back to the 12th Century on the island give an indication of its importance. Unfortunately the cross at The Seven Churches was broken by Cromwellian soldiers in the 17th Century and subsequently used to make repairs to a castle they were occupying. The remains of the other two crosses lie in the church at Teaghlach Éinne.
G. Dún Eoghanachta. This fort can be found on the western head of the island in the townland of Eoghanacht, south of the village of Sruthán. It consists of a single circular two-terraced wall of impressive height. The remains of several Clochain (stone houses) lie inside. The fort takes its name from the Eoghanachta tribe of Munster who were associated with the island in medieval times.
H. Dún Aonghasa/Dún Aengus (Fort of Aongus) is a spectacular stone fort sited on the highest point of the cliffs (300ft) on the southern coastline; it offers an unrestricted view down along the west coast of Ireland. Dún Aonghasa is considered one of the most important pre-historic sites in Western Europe; it became a national monument at the end of the 19th Century and is conserved by the Heritage Services. Recent excavation found evidence of human activity dating back over two and a half thousand years. Covering an area of 14 acres, the interior of the hill fort is divided into an outer, middle and inner enclosure by three curved walls terminating at the cliff face. Outside the middle enclosure the fort was fortified with a large broad band of closely set pillars (chevaux de fries).
I. Poll Na bPéist (The Worm Hole) This completely natural rectangular shaped pool is located on the southern coast of the island close to Dún Aonghasa. As the tide ebbs in and out, the water rushes up and down the sides from a cave underneath. Years of this practice have worn rivlets into the sides of the feature, giving the impression of tiny waterfalls. This is best seen as the tide is coming in, or when the sea is rough. You can reach this blowhole by walking along the cliffs from Dún Aonghasa, or from the other side of the worm hole by following the signs from the village of Gort na Gcapall.
J. Dún Dúchathair (The black Fort). Dún Dúchathair lies one and a half miles west off Killeany via the cliffs. Originally it was probably the biggest fort on the island, though now it is smaller than the one at Dún Aonghus. Visitors however, can enjoy the solitude of it in contrast to Dún Aonghus. It’s understood that the name comes from the darker coloured limestone that is characteristic of this area. The fort consists a terraced wall surrounding the remains of some early dwelling houses known as Clocháns.
K. Teampall Bheanáin This tiny church overlooking Killeany Bay and the villages of Kilronan and Killeany is claimed to be the smallest church in the world at 3.7m x 1.8m. The roofless remains of the church are located on the eastern headland of Inis Mór and is a great example of one of the earliest Christian churches. It is oriented on a north-south axis -- instead of the more common east-west axis of most Christian structures -- as it was built on a particularly exposed and windy site. There is a small window on its west side. Nearby are the remains of a cashel wall, a dwelling structure, and a small beehive hut (clochán).
Other Sites on the Island
Teaghlach Einne (House of St Enda) is a little church, half buried in sand in Cill Einne (Killeany) graveyard on the south-east end of the island. The graveyard is at least 1,500 years old and is still in use as the main burial ground of the Island. It contains the grave of St. Enda who died around 535 A.D. and is the patron saint of Inis Mór.
The Round Tower was originally about 35 metres high and dates back to the 9th Century. Unfortunately, it was damaged during Cromwellian times and later again by lightning. Presently only stands at 4 metres.
Clochán na Carraige: A clochán is a stone-roofed bee-hive hut. Though many exist on the island, the one at Struthán, near Kilmurvey, is the best preserved example. Hermit monks, as a form of punishment and self-denial, occupied these huts in isolation from the rest of his order.
Teampall Chiaráin also known as Mainistir Chiaráin is located north-west of Kilronan, just off the Kilmurvey road. The church/monastery was built for St. Ciarán sometime during the 12th century and its ruins are easily visited. The most striking part of the roofless remains are the doorways and narrow windows. The church is built in what is known as the transitional style. There is an ancient sundial and holy well located on the church grounds, as are several stones carved with 12th century cross carvings. Close to the church is a prehistoric chamber tomb.
Arkin Castle The ruins of this tower house stands on the southern bank of Killeany Bay. This castle was probably built by John Rawson, to whom Elizabeth I had granted the islands in 1588. It was fortified by Lord Clanrickard against the Cromwellians who gained control of it in 1652, lost it and recaptured it in 1653.
Geological Features The Island geology is mainly karst limestone, related to the Burren Co. Clare to the east and not the granites of Connemara to the north. The limestone, which dates from the Visean period (Lower Carboniferous), formed as sediments in a tropical sea approximately 350 million years ago and compressed into horizontal strata with fossil corals, crinoids, sea urchins and ammonites. Glaciation following the Namurian phase facilitated greater denudation. The result is that the Aran Islands are one of the finest examples of a Glacio-Karst landscape in the world.
If you're thinking of taking a family break and are wondering what to do on the island, read the 'Top 5 Attractions for families on Inis Mór' for our recommendations.
There are three modes of transport available to visitors whilst on the island.
The Following are all available from Kilronan:
Bike hire is the most popular form of transport on the island. There are over 1,000 bikes available for hire at the pier in Kilronan, allowing visitors to travel the island at their own pace. There is a wide selection of ladies and gents suspension bikes, city bikes, tandems, tag-alongs, trailer bikes and kids bikes available. Helmets and locks are provided free of charge.
There are a number of companies offering mini-bus tours on the island. All tour guides are native to the island and are well informed on the island's history, flora and fauna. The mini-bus tours are approximately 2.5 - 3 hours in length, with a one hour stop at Dún Aonghasa (Dun Aengus). The tours usually cost €15.00pp (group rates available).These mini-buses double as taxis in the evenings.
Pony and Trap
The pony and trap was the traditional means of transport of the Islanders and is still available to visitors on arrival at the pier. The size of the carts vary from 2-8 persons. The pony and traps are operated by native islanders with a wealth of knowledge and entertaining stories of island life.
There is a good range of accommodation available on the island, from hotels, B&Bs, glamping pods and youth hostels, however please note that places are limited so we advise you to book well in advance where possible.
Please see below for a list of accommodation available on the island
- Aran Camping and Glamping, Frenchman's Beach, Kilronan, Inis Mór. Tel: 086 189 5823
- Clai Ban B&B, Kilronan, Inis Mór, Aran Islands. Tel: 099 61111
- Ard Einne Guesthouse, Killeaney, Inis Mór, Aran Islands. Tel: 099 61126
- Pier House Guesthouse, Kilronan Pier, Inis Mór, Aran Islands. Tel 099 61417
- Seacrest B&B, Kilronan Village, Inis Mór, Aran Islands. Tel 099 61292
- Self-Catering Thatch Cottage available to rent
- Bayview Self-Catering Apartments, Kilronan Tel 091 562278
- Aran Islands Hotel Kilronan, Inis Mór, Aran Islands Tel 099 61104
- Dormer House B&B, Kilronan, Inis Mór, Aran Islands Tel 099 61125
- Kilmurvey House, Kilronan, Inis Mór, Aran Islands Tel 099 61218
- Kilronan Hostel and Apartments, Kilronan, Inis Mór, Aran Islands. Tel 099 61255
- An Crugan B&B, Kilronan Inis Mór, Aran Islands. Tel 099 61150
- Tigh Fitz Guest House, Killeany. Tel: 099 61213
- Ard Mhuiris B&B Tel: 099 61208
- Radharc na Ceibhe B&B, Kilronan, Inis Mór, Aran islands Tel: 099 61297
- An Realog B&B, Mainistir, Inis Mór, Aran Islands. Tel: 087 2036051
The Aran Sweater
The now world famous Aran Sweater, seen on the catwalk for fashion houses such as Mulberry and Michael Kors, originates right here on the Aran Islands. The sweaters were knitted by the Island women for the island's fishermen and farmers to protect them from the harsh Atlantic weather. The sweaters, made from wool, were water-repellent, highly breathable and provided great insulation for the wearer.
There are a variety of stitches used in the Aran Sweater, each carrying its own meaning and often reflective of Celtic Art found at Neolithic sites such as Newgrange, Co. Meath. The combinations of stitches seen on the sweaters are not identical and are linked to families, their history and identities. They can impart vast amounts of information to those who know how to interpret them. These sweaters were often used to help identify bodies of fishermen washed up on the beach following tragedies at sea. An official register of these historic patterns has been compiled, and can be seen in the Aran Sweater Market on Inis Mór
The close proximity of the Gulf Stream makes for a mild and pleasant climate and also encourages a unique mixture of all year round Alpine and Mediterranean flora. In spring and early summer countless tiny stone-walled barren fields are awash with colour and the wonderful aroma of wild flowers. The usual native Irish flora of harebells, scabious, red clover, oxeye dasies and saxifrage are common, as well as a variety of Arctic ‘dryas octopetala’ and Alpine ‘gentiana verna’ and ‘minuartia verna’.
Gaeilge (Irish) is the first language of the island's population; but all are bi-lingual. Inis Mór is one of the last strongholds for the Irish language, and each year hundreds of students (Gaelgóirí) travel to the Irish schools on the island to help improve their standard of Irish. During the Cromwellian occupation in the 17th Century Irish was forbidden as English was the official language. Despite the threat of persecution, Islanders continued to speak Irish in private and the language survived. The islanders are very proud of their language and it is spoken just as much among the younger population.
Fishing has always been an important activity to the islanders. The barren limestone landscape could not produce vast quantities of food; but the sea could always be relied upon as a rich source of fish.
Most fishing on Aran these days is rock fishing but some still fish using the old Currach (rowing boats), and these can always be seen dotted around the coast of the island. There is a wide range of fish caught here including Cod, Whiting, Mackerel, Monkfish, John Dory, Pollock and seasonally Lobster and Prawns.
There are many festivals and events held throughout the year on Inis Mór, many of which are unique to the islands, like the Patrún Festival.
Patrún is the annual festival held on Aran to celebrate the patron saints of each of the islands. The day is action-packed and includes many fun, old school and wholesome activities for all age groups, such as boat racing (both Hooker and Currach), swimming, children’s competitions on the beach, Tug o' War, donkey racing, music and dancing on the old pier. Held on the last weekend in June, this festival celebrates the culture and traditions of Aran through the years.
See our events page for a calendar of events for each of the islands.
Patrún is the annual festival held on Aran to celebrate the Patron Saints of each of the Islands. The day is action packed and includes activities for all age groups, including boat racing (both Hooker and Currach), swimming, children's competitions on the beach, Tug o' war, donkey racing, music and dancing on the pier. Held the last week-end in June, this festival celebrates the culture and traditions of Aran through the years.
Traditional music is still popular on the island and visitors are often likely to walk in on impromptu music sessions in the local pubs.
Despite all the hardships they have endured over the years, the Aran Islands have stubbornly retained their strong, unique culture and way of life. This culture and the way of life has been a major source of inspiration for world famous writers, film-makers, and artists throughout the years, these include John Millington Synge, Robert Faherty and local man Máirtin Ó Direáin to name but a few.
The Heritage Centre (Ionad árann) chronicles the difficult existence of the island population as they etched out a living on small farms of barren limestone, or in the dangerous waters of the Atlantic and you can also find extensive evidence of this on the many stone plaques visible around the island, erected in memory of those who lost their lives at sea. There are samples of the Hooker Boats that Aran and Galway are famous for and the Currach (row boats) that were used for all the islanders needs.
The Man of Aran by Robert Faherty, is a 1930s film recorded over a two year period that captures the essence of Aran and the everyday struggles of Islanders to etch out a living in a harsh environment battling with the elements.
Inis Mór has some fabulous, safe, clean beaches. One of the finest of the Aran Island’s beaches is the Blue Flag awarded Kilmurvey beach, just to the north-east of Dún Aonghasa. The unspoilt beach is located in a sheltered bay, and the clean blue water is perfect for a dip. The beach and village of Kilmurvey are famous for being the location of the world renowned Irish film/documentary Man of Aran, filmed in 1934 on Inis Mór and directed by Robert J. Flaherty. A set of thatched cottages built for the film, appropriately named The man of Aran Cottages, are located to the west of the beach and now serve as a restaurant and B&B.