With desolate windswept beauty, visiting Inishmore of the Irish Aran Islands is a popular day trip from Galway. And for good reason, there is a bit of everything on Inishmore (also known as Inis Mor), from prehistoric clifftop forts, to geological wonders to beautiful beaches.
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If your itinerary permits it, we recommend staying at least one night as the true relaxed charm of the place reveals itself before and after the day-trippers come and go.
We were lucky enough to visit Inishmore through a sponsored family cycling tour with Green Marble Tours. The Family Connemara Adventure is a seven-day self-guided family friendly tour of Connemara which features a two-night stay in Inishmore. We loved having enough time to see all this beautiful island has to offer and staying on the island gave us a chance to get ahead of the crowds.
Read all about our family cycling tour in Connemara, Ireland here.
Inishmore, Aran Islands – Things to Do
Thanks to our overnight stay in Kilronan, we were able to get up early and beat the crowds; we were on our bikes and on the road by 8:45am.
There are three main roads which leave Kilronan; the main one bisects the island, while the other two are on the north & south sides of the island. The roads are pretty narrow on the island, so we took advantage of our early start and started biking west along the main road. The strategy worked as there was little traffic to contend with.
The main road is populated the whole way along; most of the houses are currently lived in, but several have been abandoned and are now covered with moss & ivy. Property on the island is separated by handmade stone walls and it’s simply amazing to look across the landscape and see these fences crisscrossing the fields.
After the day’s sightseeing, we took the northern back road back to our hotel. We shared the road with many other cyclists, but few cars. This road followed the ocean most of the way and the views are excellent.
We passed a few fields with donkeys and many picturesque abandoned houses filled with flowers and plants growing up the walls. There is a seal colony viewing area along this road; we stopped for a bit as there was a large crowd there, but to be honest, we didn’t see any seals.
Around the 4.3 mile / 7km mark, we were stunned to see a beautiful, huge white sand beach. What a great surprise; we had no idea there’d be beaches like this on the island! Another wonderful surprise is how crystal clear the water was; when the sun was out it felt like we were gazing at the Caribbean Sea, not the North Atlantic Ocean.
Kilmurvey Beach was completely empty at this time of day, so we locked up our bikes, took off our shoes and socks and hit the beach.
Kids the world over go nuts when you set them free on a beach and ours are no different. They ran and chased each other for a long while, before they plunked down and started making sandcastles with their bare hands. Our daughter always loves to spend time looking for pretty shells along the shoreline and was happy to find a few new treasures.
Yup – a graveyard! We love visiting the beautiful and historic graveyards of Europe.
Just east on the main road was a small, but interesting graveyard filled with Celtic cross tombstones. We are suckers for an interesting picture, so we parked our bikes and explored for a bit.
We arrived at Dun Aonghasa, the island’s premiere attraction, at 10:40AM. We were happy to see that we arrived ahead of the Aran Islands tour groups; we were virtually alone in this world-class prehistoric fort.
The history of this famous Aran Islands fort dates back over 3,000 years to 1100BC. Dun Aonghasa was a formidable fort featuring triple-walled defenses protecting the approach from land and towering ocean cliffs on the back side.
It’s a 0.6 mile / 1 km walk up a gravel path from the Visitor Centre to the fort. It’s a fun walk up as the trail is hemmed in by two stone fences nearly the whole way up.
As you near the top, you can see the towering cliffs which span the south side of the island and large North Sea waves crashing into the island. You can hear the power of the ocean even at this distance.
We find fully-restored castles boring, but we love ancient ruins such as these. Dun Aonghasa has a wow-factor with an incredible setting for this ancient, semi-circle cliff-top fort. The views were amazing, but the fort and its defensive elements were interesting as well. The cliffs are 330 feet / 100m high with no protective barriers at all, so watch your kids close.
We could have stayed up there watching the waves crash all day long, but there was still much to see on the island, so we begrudgingly left. As we were walking down the path, the first of many tour groups were walking up the trail.
We had a picnic lunch on one of the picnic tables at the bottom and by the time we were done, it was super busy with tourists everywhere. Staying overnight on the island with our own transportation gave us a great advantage over the tour groups.
Wormhole is a very unique geological formation, featuring a large, perfectly rectangular hole in the rocks near the sea. Flanked on one side by towering cliffs, Wormhole has powerful North Atlantic waves crashing onto it and ocean water flowing underneath it. This is an amazing sight and has been the location for Red Bull cliff diving competitions. It is an Aran Islands must-see.
We parked our bikes at the Wormhole trailhead near some cool abandoned, overgrown homes. The trail meanders through a field of rock fences until you come to a dead end. Cross through a little gap in the fence to continue the hike.
This section of the hike is amazing! The terrain is otherworldly and is hard to describe; most of the ground is covered with large flat rocks, with large cracks running north-south towards the ocean.
Kids of all ages will let their imaginations run wild as they walk over these wavy rocks with tons of fossilized corals, crinoids, sea urchins, and ammonites. Our kids had a great time running from rock-to-rock making amazing fossil discoveries.
As you approach the Worm Hole, the trail starts to hug cliffs along the coastline. The ocean views are amazing, but your kids will love all the tide pools. Many of them are an amazing green color and walking along looking ahead at the rocks, the cliffs and the tide pools is a very cool sight.
Worm Hole itself was so amazing. We were there an hour after low tide and we could see most of this rock formation. We found a nice spot below the cliffs and simply sat there soaking in this incredible sight.
The trail to Worm Hole isn’t always obvious. If you’d like to have a map of this hike on your phone, you can see it on the GAIA GPS app. It’s an “Unnamed Trail”, but simply download a copy of the map onto your phone before you go. If you can get to the Worm Hole trailhead, you’ll have the hiking map on your phone.
Aran Islands Ferry
Aran Islands Ferries offers year-round Aran Islands ferry service from the Rossaveel Ferry Terminal. Green Marble Tours had already taken care of our tickets and arranged transport for our bikes. The ferry ride over was quick and easy. The hotel shuttle van was there to greet us on the other side and took our bags to the hotel while we followed with our bikes.
Aran Islands Accommodation
We stayed at the Aran Islands Hotel just outside Kilronan on Inishmore Island. This is an excellent choice for families as they offer Family Rooms (with a double bed and two singles) and Family Chalets (with a King Bed and three singles). We had a chalet and really appreciated the fact it didn’t share walls with other units, allowing our kids to be kids and not have to worry about being too noisy.
The Aran Islands Hotel has an excellent restaurant, with a large continental breakfast or full Irish breakfast on offer.
There are a few other Inishmore hotels which describe themselves as family-friendly. Airbnb’s are also a nice choice for families as they typically offer separate bedrooms, a kitchen and laundry facilities.
Aran Islands Restaurants
We went to “The Bar” for dinner. We each had the lamb stew, which was amazing! Seriously – we couldn’t stop talking about how good it was; it was a perfect hearty and satisfying meal after a somewhat soggy bike ride on our arrival day. The kids had chicken nuggets and penne pasta off the kids menu.
I wish we could give you more suggestions as we stayed in Inishmore two nights, but we went back to “The Bar” both nights as we wanted another go at their lamb stew – it’s that good!