5 Inis Mór Hidden gems that give you complete isolation
Inis Mor attracts a certain sort of person. The type who enjoys nature in all its forms, rugged countryside, sweeping views, and tranquility. Here’s 5 hidden gems waiting to be discovered during your time there.
Welcome to Inis Mor
The largest of the Aran Islands, Inis Mor is often considered to be a hidden gem in itself! Many people are unaware of this stunning island sitting right in the middle of the Wild Atlantic Way, just outside Galway Bay. The majority of those that venture there, do so on a day trip to see the ‘main highlights’, and are then on their way once more. Truth be told though, it’s those hidden gems that make Inis Mór so special.
The island is relatively small and compact, and the best way to get around is by bicycle or on foot. In fact, there is a hiking trail around the island covering some 30 miles which will allow you to see many of the hidden gems of Inis Mor listed below. Cycling is perhaps the best way though, especially if staying on the island for several days. You can rent bikes for 10 euros a day, and reach virtually any point on the island within a few hours.
If you are planning to stay for a longer length of time, be sure to ask a local about these less visited sites. In particular, you might want to ask directions for the Puffing Holes. Don’t forget to ask if there is anything else to see or if any events are happening on the island whilst you are there. You never know what you might discover!
The Puffing Holes
There are currently three mapped Puffing Holes on Inis Mor, with the two, large circular ones being the most well known. They get their name from where water crashes into caves beneath the cliffs, and then ‘puffs up’ through the hole. The site can be very spectacular if the waves are particularly powerful when you visit!
Getting there: Some degree of navigation, or very VERY good instructions will be needed to guide you in the right direction, although the hike there is not hard in itself. The holes can be found at the east end of the island, beyond the village of Cill Einne. NOTE – Please use extreme caution when visiting! The holes are not marked, and can appear out of nowhere. Also, make sure to stand clear when the holes are puffing!
St Benan’s Church
St. Benan’s Church is positioned on a hill near Cill Einne on the eastern side of the island. It is said to be the smallest church in Ireland, and legend has it was used by a hermit who may have been associated with a nearby monastery. Unlike many religious buildings it does not have an east-west orientation, but a north-south one, perhaps because of the prevailing windy weather conditions. One can only imagine what life must have been like here, living all alone!
Bun Gabhla is the small village/area at the western end of the island. There’s a sense of remoteness there, and seals bob in the waters by the old pier. If the waves allow, you might get the chance to see people launching the traditional boats or curraghs into the waters. If you are planning on cycling around the island, this is a great area to add into your plans, and certainly worth the pedal!
The ancient fort of Dun Aonghasa is a major attraction of the island, and hardly a hidden gem. There are more forts waiting to be discovered on Inis Mor though! The next biggest is the Black Fort. Although at one point it was thought to be actually larger than Dun Aonghasa, it is nowadays smaller in scale. The Black fort is a much quieter place to visit than its more famous counterpart, and perhaps a little more intriguing. Cliffs surround it on three sides, and there is some question as to whether it was defensive in nature or ceremonial. There’s a strong possibility that when you visit, you will be the only ones there!
There are two more little-known stone forts on Inis Mor as well. These are Dún Eochla and Dún Eoghanachta. The first is at the highest point on the island, and consists of two walls which are almost perfectly round. Getting there involves a hike through some fields. The last fort is Dún Eoghanachta, which is found just off the main road near Sruthán.
The biggest hidden gem on the island of Inis Mor has to be the people though. Proudly keeping the Irish language alive, as well as their heritage, they are friendly and welcoming. There are also a large number of artists for an island with such a small population. Painters, sculptors and even mosaic designer number amongst the inhabitants, and their homemade goods, designs, and artworks can be found on sale in the main town.
Take some time to meet the people, and learn about their lives on the island. How growing up there has given them a different perspective on life. Have a drink or two with them in a local pub, and listen to some live music playing in the background. You’ll soon find that it’s the people you will remember as much or if not more than the places you have seen!
And a bonus hidden gem…
Is a festival a hidden gem? It is if you are a fan of the TV series Father Ted! This yearly event takes place on Craggy Island (Inis Mor) every year, and is great for shenanigans and fun! It does sell out quickly though, so if you want to attend during the month of February with other Ted fanatics, you need to book early. ‘That’s mad Ted’!