One of the highlights in Ireland is Inis Mor, meaning big island. It is the biggest of the Aran Islands. It has cliffs that equal the Cliffs of Mohr as well as epic ancient sites, such as Dun Aonghasa. Because of Dun Aonghasa, Inis Mor is one of the most popular sight seeing places in Ireland. It does take extra planning to visit Inis Mor, it’s definitely not a last minute trip. You will want to plan for an entire day. Inis Mor is also one place where the population’s first language is Irish. It was fun to hear our Pony and Trap driver speaking to others in the native tongue.
Getting to Inis Mor: you have to take a ferry, which costs about 25 Euro. There are only two places of departure, Doolin (near the cliffs of Mohr) and Ros a Mhil. Both take some travel, so you will need to plan that trip as part of the day. You do not want to be late for the ferry! They only sail to Inis Mor at 10:30am, 1:00pm and 6:00pm. Ferrys depart the island several times during the day though they are quite a few hours apart. Times vary according to the date too. The ferry takes 40 minutes. Luckily you can go online to check out times and prices for the dates you want to travel. (http://www.aranislandferries.com/times_mor.php)
Inis Mor has hotels and Bed & Breakfast places on the island, but again, not a last minute thing; you need to make reservations in advance. We didn’t stay the night there, but we spoke with someone who did. They said it was very quiet once the last ferry left, but fun to have the island to themselves.
There are several ways to get around the island. I wish we had understood this before we arrived! As soon as you get off the ferry, as in that very second, several people approach you – how do you want to travel? Bike rentals this way, mini tour buses that way – do you want to buy a ticket? How about a pony and trap? It’s the way people got around in Ireland and the best way to experience the real Inis Mor. See how comfortable it is? Meet my horse…there were so many people clamoring around, we weren’t sure what to do. Most of the younger and/or more fit tourist chose to rent bikes. It’s only about 10 Euro for the day. That gives you the freedom to go where you want when you want. A map of the island is included.
The bus tour seemed alluring because it was warm and out of the wind. The cost is around 10 Euro per person. (Plus a tip.) The bus stops at all the sites and a knowledgeable driver will fill you in on the area and its history. You can also check out different bus tours online as most owners have a site with pictures and other useful information. No need to book before you go, but you can.
We decided to try the pony and trap. Meet Mike and Molly, his horse. Mike’s father drove the trap before Mike and his son sometimes takes it out these days. Most pony and trap business are multi generational. The cost is about 10-15 Euro per person. Ours only held the two of us, others were larger. You do want to tip also. An advantage of the pony and trap is that it is a unique way to travel, one you probably won’t do much in your lifetime. Your driver will fill you in on all the history and sites. You can ask all the questions you want and have a personal experience. They will stop for you every time you want to take a picture. A disadvantage is that they don’t cover all of the sites available; maybe it’s due to the time? You don’t need to book online, but if you do, your driver will be looking for you and you can avoid all the momentary chaos at the dock. You can go online and take a look at several pony and trap business and if you want, you can book from there.
In an interesting side note – we saw the ruins of a church and asked Mike what it was. He harrumphed and said it was an old protestant church and after ‘we’ ran them off the island the church just sat there. “Not worth looking at.”
The island itself is barren, windswept and a bit chilly. There are locals who sell homemade knitted items, as well as a huge shop selling Aran knits of all sorts (The Aran Sweater Market). There are other little shops, a grocery store and pubs available as well. I bought some lovely gloves from a Faherty (clan name) while she was knitting a scarf. Everything in her shop was made by her. Ron found an informative book on Dun Aonghasa in a book store. There were several tempting items in the Aran knit store as well as information on Aran sweaters.
I would suggest you take the day to go to Inis Mor. The sites are breathtaking, the people friendly, and the experience is one you won’t have any place else.