One of the great attractions of Inishmore (Inis Mór, “Big Island”, but often referred to simply as Árainn) is its topography, stark, simple and easily appreciated. Sheer cliffs run the fourteen-kilometre length of its south coast, lashed at their base by the relentless Atlantic, while their tops offer an ethereal panorama, the echoing wall of the Cliffs of Moher to the southeast, and to the north across Galway Bay, the Connemara Mountains, tinged with green, purple and gold. The land declines northwards in a geometric pattern of grey stone, the parallel grooves of its limestone pavement overlaid by ten thousand kilometres of dry-stone walls, which parcel up man-made fields, painstakingly nurtured out of sand, seaweed and what handfuls of soil there are. There’s more greenery and a smattering of villages towards the sheltered north coast, which is lined with rock pools and several sandy beaches.

This landscape is strewn with a wealth of spectacular dry-stone ring forts, notably Dun Aengus, and fascinating early churches. Consequently, and with frequent bus and boat links to Galway city, Inishmore receives crowds of day-trippers in the summer and is the most tourist-oriented of the Arans, now even boasting a branch of Supermac’s, Ireland’s very own burger chain. However, you really need two full days to visit the historic sites, which will also allow you time to soak up the scenery, enjoy the relative quiet of the evenings here and even have a swim at beautiful Kilmurvey beach.

Signposted to the south of Kilmurvey, Dun Aengus is by far the Aran Islands’ most compelling ancient site, a semicircular fort of three concentric enclosures, hard up against the edge of sheer, ninety-metre sea cliffs. From here, you can see Kerry Head, northwest of Tralee, on a clear day and occasionally Mount Brandon on the Dingle Peninsula – and if you’re truly blessed the island of Hy Brasil to the west. The fort is named after Aengus of the Fir Bolg, a legendary ancient race, who were said to have been of Greek origin and to have ruled Ireland for 37 years, before being conquered by the equally mythical Tuatha Dé Danann.

From Dun Aengus, you might be lucky enough to see the famous mirage known as Hy Brasil (after which the South American country was supposedly named), which appears in the sea to the west as a mountainous island. Local folklore represents this mythical land variously as the island of the blessed, the Garden of Eden, Tír na nÓg (the land of eternal youth), the Isle of Truth, of Joy, of Fair Women and of Apples. In the early twentieth century, islanders believed it appeared once every seven years, but up until the mid-nineteenth century it was actually shown on some sea charts of the Atlantic. On the unforgiving, sea-battered Arans, it’s easy to understand how this fantasy of a prosperous paradise grew up.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Ireland features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Exploring Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way

Exploring Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way

The Wild Atlantic Way does what it says on the tin. Think dramatic sea cliffs, crashing waves and windswept beaches, all joined up by road over a whopping 2500k…

16 Jul 2018 • Helen Ochyra insert_drive_file Article
6 of the best road trips in the UK

6 of the best road trips in the UK

There is something about a road trip that creates an endless state of heightened excitement. It comes with a heart-in-mouth, funfair-like thrill. And no matter …

21 May 2018 • Mike MacEacheran insert_drive_file Article
8 great alternative UK city breaks

8 great alternative UK city breaks

London, Edinburgh, Cardiff… These are the usual suspects when visitors are thinking about UK city breaks. But there are actually 66 other cities to be explore…

23 Apr 2018 • Greg Dickinson insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Privacy Preference Center

Necessary

Mandatory - can not be deselected. Necessary cookies help make a website usable by enabling basic functions like page navigation and access to secure areas of the website. The website cannot function properly without these cookies.

PHPSESSID,aelia_cs_selected_currency,cookie_notice_accepted,RS,bp-message,bp-message-type,id,UIDR,w3tc_logged_out,__cfduid
__cfduid

Statistics

Statistic cookies help website owners to understand how visitors interact with websites by collecting and reporting information anonymously.

__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid,__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xt
__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid
__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xtc

Marketing

Marketing cookies are used to track visitors across websites. The intention is to display ads that are relevant and engaging for the individual user and thereby more valuable for publishers and third party advertisers.

__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID,__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll,c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs
__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID
__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll
c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs