Inis Meáin (Inishmaan) for Beginners

Inis Mór, the largest of the Aran Islands, often takes the spotlight when travellers plan a trip to the infamous islands out west. The main island is well known as a popular destination for sightseers along the Wild Atlantic Way, and as the island with the most significant population; it also harbours the most pubs, cafes and hotels. But did you know Aran Islands Ferry Company also offers daily sailings to the lesser-known Aran Islands such as Inis Meáin (Inishmaan)?

Each island is home to a unique community and holds its own special part in the social and cultural history of the collective archipelago. A visit to either of the smaller islands is a must-do if you enjoy nature, scenery, and the type of personal travel adventures you’ll only experience off-the-beaten-track!

Interested in learning more about Inishmaan before your visit? Read on!

Inis Meáin (Inishmaan): The Facts

Inishmaan is the middle Aran Island. With just 185 inhabitants, it is the least populated island, but in no way the least interesting!

Transport on Inis Meáin

Gregory’s Sound, the water passage separating Inis Mór from Inis Meáin, is less than 10km wide. The island is middle in terms of size, too. At a mere 9km squared, Inis Méain is bigger than Inis Oírr and smaller than Inis Mór.

The best way to get around on Inishmaan is by bicycle or to enjoy a minibus tour of the island. The windy country lanes and stone walled fields make for a pleasant cycle and all of the sites are easily accessible. Just like the other two islands, you can rent a bike. The relatively flat landscape also lends itself well to walkers and ramblers alike. There is a way marked walk known as the Lúb Dún Fearbhaí, a 13km route around the highest points of the island, which will grant you the best views and access to all the important sites.

If you would prefer to relax, sit back and enjoy the beautiful island views, you can take a mini-bus tour of Inis Meáin with Brídín– 087 02482637 (Brídín Tours)

Language on Inis Meáin

Inis Meáin is part of the Gaeltacht area and is particularly known as a stronghold for the Irish language. Although native islanders know and understand English, it is rarely spoken daily within the community, according to the 2023 census. Inis Meáin is an ideal location to brush up on your cúpla focal!

Culture on Inis Meáin

Award-winning Irish playwright Martin McDonagh wrote The Cripple of Inishmaan based on the real-life Aran Islands events. The 1937 filming of The Man of Aran, a groundbreaking fictional documentary set on the islands by the so-called Father of Documentary, American filmmaker Robert Flaherty, was the backdrop for McDonagh's play, which enjoyed critical acclaim.

Sport on Inis Meáin

Did you know Inishmaan has its own sport? Known as Gaeilge as ‘Cead’ (the Irish word for ‘permission’), the game is played just once a year on St. Patrick's Day. In fact, it is forbidden to play on any other day, and forbidden to practice too! Players carve one thick stick which is used to keep another, smaller stick airborne and flung a distance during play. Cead is known to be a version of the ancient game ‘Gillidanda,’ which originated in India more than 2,500 years ago. The winning Cead team is then presented with the ‘World Cup’ in Teach Ósta, the islands only pub, and celebrations are known to last for days!

Wildlife on Inis Meáin

Inis Meáin, just like the other islands, is an extension of the Burren, and the landscape is just as stark and beautiful as the mainland. The grey karst paths underfoot are full of ravines and fissures which provide shelter for a multitude of alpine plants and flowers. The neatly stacked stone walls are iconic, weaved together like lace. This building style allows for the fierce Atlantic wind to pass through the walls without causing destruction. Visitors are often curious about the abundance of walls and why such small fields and pastures are marked out like this. In the past, when the lands were cleared for grazing and building, building these walls was simply the best way to store the stone.

What to See on Inis Meáin

There are eight designated national monuments on Inis Meáin. Three of these are churches: Kilcoonagh Church, Templesaghtmacree, and Labbannakerriga. Dúnbeg and Dún Fearbhai are two smaller ring forts to explore, while Carrownlisheen, an ancient Neolithic wedge tomb has lain for millennia in an area rich in folklore. Also known as Diarmuid and Grainnes Bed, legend has it a young couple eloped and hopped from tomb to tomb across Ireland, only to spend their last night together here before their untimely demise at the hands of the Fianna.

Perhaps the most impressive historical site on Inishmaan is Dún Crochúir / Conor's Fort, an expansive oval-shaped Iron-age fort, the biggest monument on the Aran Islands. Conor’s Fort remains mysterious; who built the intricate and detailed enclosure remains unknown. Was the structure used for defence, ceremony, or residence? Walk amongst the ancient stone steps and walls and decide for yourself!

The islands pub is a hive of activity, and an essential hub for the small community. Serving hot food and drinks, and catering to parties large and small, the pub plays host to musicians and bands regularly. Expect ‘sean nós’, a traditional form of singing performed in the Irish language, and traditional music sessions long into the night.

No visit to Inishmaan is complete without a stop-off in Teach Synge. John Millington Synge, one of Ireland's leading playwrights, spent his summers here from 1898 to 1902. He found inspiration from the island's history, culture, and landscape, penning The Playboy of the Western World and other notable titles here. Teach Synge was meticulously restored by the community and opened to the public in 1999. Nearby, you’ll find ‘Cathaoir Synge’ or Synge’s Chair, a resting spot favoured by the author for the view of Inishmór and the wild Atlantic waters. Inspiring!

And so...

As you can see, there are plenty of things to do on visit to Inis Meáin. From history, archaeology and culture to the relaxing pace of life on this iconic island, the friendly locals, abundant wildlife and fascinating sites will ensure your trip to Inis Meáin will be an unforgettable one. Aran Island Ferries offer daily sailings from Rossaveel Ferry Terminal, beautifully situated in Connemara, Galway. Check out the sailing times for Inis Meáin or book your ferry to Inis Meáin from Rossaveel.