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Pocket Guide: Aran Islands

There may be quite a few people who can claim to have taken a day-trip to the Aran Islands by ferry from Galway Bay, but there are few who have immersed themselves in the dramatic, rugged charms of the islands by booking a hotel there. A few nights spent here in a hotel allows you to really appreciate the isolated tranquillity of the place, and a few days spent exploring the archaeological treasures and sites of Celtic pilgrimage introduces you to a life lived at a much slower pace indeed.

Your Escape

For all their wild beauty there are still just enough hotels, guesthouses and accommodation options on these tiny, picturesque islands to make you feel perfectly at home, but not too many to spoil the sense of isolation and timelessness that makes them so special.

Even the largest of the islands, Inishmór, is home to just 900 people, but many of these now devote themselves to serving the day-trippers and adventurous hotel guests who choose to stay a little longer.

If you choose a hotel in Kilronan, on the southeastern side of the island where the ferries pull in, you will have plenty of options of places to stay, and even the chance for a lively night out in the restaurants and pubs.

Exquisite Isolation

Upon landing, you will not be that far from the crowd. If it is an ultimate escape you’re after, you’ll need to take a taxi or hike a little further from your disembarkation point. Hotels located away from Kilronan allow you to truly experience the mystical isolation of the islands. For many it is the hotels that are set further away from civilisation, and more in the wilds, that define an Aran Island holiday. What you lose in facilities will be more than compensated for by those dramatic clifftop views as the lights of the mainland recede into the night.

The Arts

If it’s artistic inspiration you seek you’ll find plenty of arts and crafts to explore from a hotel or guesthouse on Inishmaan. This island has long attracted visionaries, poets and dreamers, and perhaps a few nights spent in the accommodating hotels of the island will help some of their spirit rub off on you. This is a place to really escape from life as we know it: early Christian monks sought solitude here, as did the author JM Synge. From your hotel you can walk each day past nonchalant cows and secretive sheep, taking in the impressive old forts and tracing the ancient ruined walls as you occasionally overhear the lilting tone of locals conversing in Gaelic.

If it’s robust traditional music in a remote, rugged setting that you seek then one of the hotels on Inisheer should be perfect for you. This tiny island is a renowned centre of Irish music, and you won’t have to search too hard to find a pub, where you can spend the evening enjoying the warm camaraderie of the locals as they play the songs that have warmed the hearts of many generations.

With awe-inspiring views, isolated beaches, ancient archaeological sites and plenty of welcoming hotels to choose from you can really explore the Aran Islands by booking a few nights in a remote hotel. Because when the day-trippers are all gone you’ll have the place to yourself.