Dropped in the briny Atlantic off the west coast of Ireland are the bleakly beautiful Aran Islands: Inishmaan, Inisheer, and Inishmore. Wildly seductive, they share a stark limestone landscape marked by a crosshatch of stone walls, ancient ruins, and windswept coastlines. On clear days the flinty terrain is painted in remarkable light. Other times, the elements throw tantrums, and storms rage across weather-beaten headlands.
Places of note: On Inishmaan, the award-winning Inis MeĂĄin Restaurant & SuitesÂ is the islandâs best base, pairing innovative, locally focused cuisine with five sleekly designed suites, while theÂ Inis MeĂĄin Knitting CompanyÂ also offers travelersÂ a look at the factoryâs handsome knitwear. On Inisheer, aÂ five-minute walk from the pier, takes you toÂ South Aran House,Â whichÂ has four rooms and a whitewashed cottage built in the 1800s, as well as an excellent restaurant and cooking school. Other Inisheer attractions include the Ăras Ăanna Arts Centre, Mairead Sharryâs delightful crafts shop Teas; seaweed-infused body treatments at Aran Seaweed Baths and Spa; and, once every other spring, the Drop Everything biennale. If you find yourself on Inishmore, stock up on local cheeses at CĂĄis Gabhair ĂrannÂ outside Kilronan before checking into the stone manor that now houses Kilmurvey House. The prehistoric ruins of DĂșn Aonghasa are just a short trek away.
When to visit: April to October is best time to visit the islands.
How to get there:Â From Galway City on Irelandâs west coastÂ itâs an hourâs drive to Ros aâ MhĂl, where Aran Island FerriesÂ provides a year-round passenger service to all three islands, though not between them. For inter-island transport, your only option is Doolin Ferries, a family-run business that only operates between March and November. Flying is also an option: Aer Arann Islandsâ fleet of light aircraft services the islands from its base at Inverin.