This year I’ve made a conscious effort to make the most out of summer, even if it means just taking little day trips here and there. I don’t think you have to go abroad to feel like you are travelling, especially living in such a scenic country like Ireland. In my 7 years living here, I’ve seen a lot of mind-blowingly beautiful places, each county has something to offer.
I’ve been meaning to go to the Aran Islands for ages now, I’ve heard so many fascinating stories about life on the Islands. When Charter Ireland invited me and a few of my friends on an overnight yachting trip to Inishmore to take a few photos, I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a weekend!
Wearing Penneys Dress and Sandals | Vintage Suitcase
The date for the boat trip had been planed for weeks and I was just praying that the fantastic weather we were having at the time would last. Alas, it was not meant to be and for our trip last week, we pretty much got the worst weather possible – downpour, wind and zero visibility! As soon as we got on to the boat it became clear that I was going to have to change out of my pretty dress and put on some sensible clothes. Thankfully we had such a good group of people and a wonderful captain that the elements didn’t stop us from enjoying ourselves. If anything, it became a very fun alternative experience that we’ll all be talking about for years to come!
The Harbour & The Boat
The Aran Islands are a collection of 3 islands (Inishmore, Inishmaan and Inisheer) off the West Coast of Ireland, in Galway Bay. We were headed for the largest one, Inishmore (Inis Mór).
They are just a short boat trip or a plane ride away from Rossaveal (Ros an Mhíl) port. Getting to Rossaveal from Galway City you can take either take a bus, hire a shuttle or drive. The parking is only €5 for for the day, so we chose to drive.
To my surprise, it was a bustling place, with people coming and going every hour. We even met a random lad dressed in full leprechaun gear who asked us if we’ve seen his pot of gold! That was so surreal. In fact, the whole trip to the Aran Islands felt a little bit like I had stepped into a picture book version of Ireland, where every idyllic image one might have about the Emerald Isle had materialized! It’s amazing to think that there is this completely different, self-contained world right at our doorstep!
Seeing our boat, Súil Eile (meaning Different Point of View in Irish) and getting onto the deck was already very exciting. It’s amazing just how space a seemingly small boat can pack below deck! There were three cabins, a toilet, a little kitchen and dining area and we were all amazed just how every little corner was designed so cleverly and economically.
The Journey Over
We met our skipper Jim, who was so nice, fed us copious amounts of sandwiches throughout the day and kept us laughing from the beginning. After a little safety briefing and putting on our life vests we were ready to set sail. There were 6 of us there in total, Kenny, myself, Liam, our friends Tonaí and Lisa and the captain. We all had great craic together!
The journey was about 3 hours and we each took turns steering the wheel, giggling at how inept we all were at it. We saw a good number of planes and ferries headed for the Islands and the lads even saw some seals, while I was getting changed.
It does get quite chilly on the boat and so about halfway through, we knew it was time for tea! There’s something about the fresh air that makes it taste even better. I loved the navy colour scheme that carried through the boat and even on the tea cups.
When it was time to docking up, the guys had to grab hold onto something on the shore and then tie multiple ropes to secure the boat. It can be a little tricky doing it for the first time, but boy does it make you feel proud and competent once you’ve done it successfully!
Once the ship was safely docked and no longer as wobbly, we went below deck for a light lunch (courtesy of the captain/head-chef) and a cheeky pint.
Exploring the Island
When we got onto the land it was actually close to 6PM and so I missed the chance to visit any shops or buy my own authentic Aran jumper. The Aran jumper (you can see Tonaí wearing in some of the photos) is native to the Islands and made out of 100% wool. It’s known for being naturally water resistant, super warm and durable. You can get it anywhere around the country and online, but having one from the point of origin would have been that bit more special.
We were very silly and didn’t bring any proper rain gear, which is an absolute must if you are planning a trip yourself, along with a good pair of hiking boots. As we were walking around Kilronan Harbour and getting wet, we realized we needed to formulate a plan and get out of the rain. The Island is quite sprawled out and for getting around there are two options, you can hire a bike or a mini bus.
Most of the Islanders have Irish as their first language and so Lisa, being a proper Gaeilgeoir took charge and sorted us out with a bus ride with the very friendly and entertaining Noel Mahon. He took us for a spin around the Island and let us stop and take photos where we wanted. The return ride cost us €10 per person and for each spot he had an interesting story to share.
Driving around the Island was like a scene from a movie. There’s thatched houses everywhere, intricate stone walls, rugged limescale landscape and the green seems even greener than on the mainland. The reason for that is the climate, which is unusually temperate and the temperatures here don’t generally go below 6°C.
The roads were free of any traffic and we were told that the cars here aren’t required to have an NCT, so people just drive old cars until they reach their lifespan. At the moment the visitors can’t drive their car onto a ferry and onto the Island which helps to keep it unspoilt and safe.
Inishmore is home to 800 people and has only one shop, one post office, one bank and one school! In a lot of ways the Island life is difficult but also enriching and provides the type of community feel that most of us crave. I can’t imagine a more peaceful place to retire.
The house from the film Man of Aran
The Seven Churches
Teach Nan Phaidi Cafe at Dun Aengus
Gift shops by Dun Aengus
Visiting the Dun Aengus Fort and Cliffs was a very spiritual experience. We were literally the only ones there. Shrouded in mist, it was almost hard to see where the land finished and the sea began. It was so silent everywhere, nothing to be heard other than the sound of the sea, the wind and the odd seagull. It’s in those moments where you feel stripped off your day to day identity, completely present and alive. There’s nothing but you and the land and it’s almost like it’s trying to reach out and speak to you.
We both took a moment to lie down and stare down the cliff-side which is such a huge rush. Gravity suddenly seems to have a lot stronger pull and you become a lot more wary of any gusts of wind. The most mesmerizing sensation was the wind blowing up and the tiny water droplets that rise and land on your face. There is no way any photo can accurately capture the grandeur of this place.
At this point we headed back to Kilronan to get dry and get some food into our system. We didn’t see all of the Island in the time we had, so there are definitely more fascinating places to check out. If this is your first time visiting, I definitely recommend an overnight stay so you have time to explore and chill out.
Here is a tiny map of all the attractions, you can click into it to enlarge it.
Evening & Night on the Island
We took shelter and had food in the only hotel on the Island – The Aran Islands Hotel (Óstán Oileain Arainn). The guys had steaks and I had seafood couscous. That’s one of the many things I love about Ireland – you are guaranteed fresh, locally caught fish!
The night was young and so we decided to do a pub crawl – of all THREE pubs that are on the Island!
The first one was Joe Watty’s. There was live music, great atmosphere and we sat outside by a warm heater where Liam made a new friend. This cute white cat just came up to Liam and decided to sleep in his lap for a good half hour. It was a very magic moment!
The second pub we went to was Ti Joe Mac’s and I think it was my favourite. It was quiet, so full of character and the lads seem to really enjoy their pint of Guinness (I had a Jameson Ginger). We finished in the American Bar which was very busy and then headed back to the boat.
I must say, I wasn’t sure how comfortable the boat would be overnight, but I had a wonderful, undisturbed sleep. The boat was being gently rocked back and forth and you could hear the raindrops falling softly on the window. I wasn’t too hot or too cold either.
The Journey Home
After some delicious breakfast on board, we set sail for the mainland again. This time we didn’t use the engine, but the force of the wind! That was a completely different ballgame altogether. The rain was torrential and the wind gave us the power to go at 6 knots!
Whenever the sails got hit by a gust of wind, it would veer the boat in one direction and you’d have to compensate by steering the wheel just the right amount. I was told it is physically impossible for the boat to topple over so knowing that I was really enjoying taking charge!
I tend to get quite car sick, so I wasn’t sure how I’d react to being on the boat. I was pleasantly surprised. On the way over I had no problems whatsoever. Once you stay above deck and look at the horizon, you’re fine. On the way back we were being rocked about considerably more and I made the mistake of going below deck, so I found that journey a little more difficult, but still manageable. Kenny didn’t feel seasick at all and was walking around like a boss!
I honestly can’t imagine a better team-building exercise than being on board together that day! We all agreed that it was a very memorable weekend and talked about how doing things like this prolongs our lives. You can spend weeks in the office and you don’t even know how much time has gone by. But as soon as you challenge yourself and do something new and experience something exciting, a weekend can feel like years because it was so enriching. It’s then you realize that we don’t nearly break the mould often enough!
It literally only just occurred to me how apt the name of the boat is! Until next time Súil Eile!
If you were enticed by this blog post and would like to book a sailing trip of your own just head over to the Charter Ireland website. They also do trips to Cliffs of Moher and yacht for hire!
The trip to the Aran Islands is an overnight stay, and includes a return journey to Inishmore, light lunch, accommodation on the yacht and breakfast the next day. For rates and more information see here.