The pretty Aran island of Inismore off the coast of Ireland

If you travel to Ireland, make sure you make a plan to catch a ferry across to the Aran Islands. The main island is called Inismore and is full of friendly people (the same as the whole of Ireland), ecclesiastical ruins from early Christian times, medieval castles, prehistoric stone forts (including the famous Dún Aonghasa (Dun Aengus) ring fort, cliffs, a bay full of seals (it’s true!), crystal clear waters, horse and carriages, pretty walks and much more.

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We caught the ferry from the little seaside town of Ros a’ Mhíl, a 40 minute drive west of Galway. Make sure you arrive at least 30 minutes before your ferry leaves!!!

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The ferry journey takes roughly an hour and was very smooth (I suffer VERY badly with sea sickness so was very grateful for this). It only has seats with no standing room and there is generally no walking around during the journey other than to go to the toilet. There are seats both upstairs and downstairs and a few outside (these are taken up the quickest).

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When you arrive in Inismore, you are confronted with LOTS of people selling their bicycle tours, their horse and carriage tours, etc, so be prepared for this. It’s all done in a friendly way but can be a little overwhelming. We had booked a horse and carriage ride online and after asking around, found our man – Toby and his horse, Jimmy.

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Toby was an absolute star. He told us all about the countryside and how the reason the potatoes taste so good is because seaweed is used as fertiliser (if you could have smelled the seaweed, you would have understood) and he waited while we photographed pictures of some seals in Seal Bay (although I didn’t get too close as the rocks and beach were quite slippery because of the fertiliser, I mean, the seaweed, and it was quite tricky to stay upright.)

After the seals and a half hour of clippety-clop from Jimmy’s shoes, we turned into a quiet little cul-de-sac where a few horse and carriages waited patiently for their passengers.

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This was the fort, Dun Aengus. Reputedly built a seriously long time ago (BC), it sits on the edge of the cliffs looking out across the Atlantic. After paying our entrance fee, we walked and walked and headed up and eventually reached the fort.

It’s basically made of layers and layers of stones and rocks found in the surrounding area, all a slate grey in colour. Personally, I wasn’t that impressed with the fort itself and much preferred the stunning view from the cliffs edge.

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The locals like to believe that these cliffs are better than the Cliffs of Moher. They are certainly more sheer as you peer over and it is a direct drop to the sea below – no ledges or anything. The weather was a little hazy but it was still beautiful to look out across the Atlantic. The ‘open’ feeling (there are no railings) is quite exhilarating. As usual there were silly people pretending to jump over or hang over the edge for photos. Oh well…

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After our 2 hour experience of the fort and the walk there and back, we returned to find Toby waiting patiently for us in his carriage. With a smile and a helping hand, he helped us back into our seats and off we went.

The countryside on Inismore is dotted with little ruins and churches which can easily be explored. Toby offered to stop in loads of places and was more than willing to wait for us when we did spot something to photograph. The seats were comfy and there were even blankets in the back in case we got cold. We slowly made our way around, listened to Toby’s stories or just relaxed and admired the view.

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Eventually, we made it back to the start and after a quick recommendation of which place to get the best coffee and ice cream, we paid our guide, stroked Jimmy and left them to their day. In the summer, Toby and Jimmy offer two tours a day so I guess they appreciate the times when they only have to work half a day.

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With a few hours to spare and some tips from Toby, we walked around the bay and around the corner discovered another small bay with the most amazing coloured water. I took loads of photos because I couldn’t believe the colour of the water. Can you believe it? It’s tropical island stuff, isn’t it?

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Eventually our time on the island came to an end, but just before we left, we were treated to some pretty afternoon light over the small harbour – a truly fitting end to a lovely, lovely day.

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TIPS:
* Parking at the ferry terminal is 5€ for the day and is collected on exit at the end of the day by a friendly old man in a little wooden hut.
* We used Aran Island Ferries, tickets 22.50€ per person http://www.aranislandferries.com/
* Fort entry fee 3€ per person
* Horse and Carriage ride 25€ per person – there are loads so just check online and book whichever one you like the look of. All tours last roughly 3-4 hours.
* All attractions get busy in summer so book your time here on either side of summer when the weather is still nice but everywhere isn’t packed to capacity.
* Pack a light jersey though, it can get a little fresh.
*** Enjoy!!!! ***

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