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The beautiful and romantic Aran Islands, composed of Inishmore, Inishmaan and Inisheer, sit off the coast of Galway County and are an immensely popular daytrip for visitors. Along with their medieval forts, Celtic churches and dramatic cliffs, the islands offer a glimpse into Ireland's history and culture, as this is a place where locals still speak Irish (and English). There are a variety of activities on the islands, from hiking to cycling to swimming. Probably one of the most famous attractions is the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Dún Aonghasa, set on a dramatic cliff edge on Inishmore. It is the largest of the prehistoric stone forts of the Aran Islands. Originally constructed around 1100 B.C., it was re-fortified around A.D. 700 to 800. Admission is 2 euros (about $2.50) for adults and 5.50 euros ($6.50) for a family.
Visitors call Dún Aonghasa "stunning" and "spectacular," but warn that the rocks are slippery and there's no fence, so it is good idea to wear proper footwear.
Inishmore is the easiest island to reach from Galway and is typically the most popular with visitors. Aran Island Ferries runs daily service to Inishmore and Inishmaan. Boats leave from Rossaveal, which is less than 25 miles west of Galway City. The company runs a connecting shuttle bus (for an additional fee) from Queen's Street in Galway Center to the ferry port. The round-trip crossing costs 25 euros (about $30) for adults and 13 euros (around $15) for children. The shuttle bus costs 9 euros (about $13) for adults and 6 euros (approximately $7) for children, round-trip.
The ferry trip takes about 40 minutes. There are usually three crossings a day, at 10:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. from April to September; and two a day from October to March at 10:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. If you want to island hop, Doolin Ferries offers daily trips between the islands from mid-March through the end of October. One-way tickets cost 10 euros (around $12) for adults and 7.50 euros (about $9) for children. The company also offers a variety of full-day packages from Galway to the Aran Islands and other attractions.
Most visitors disembark from the ferries at Kilronan, Inishmore's main town where there are plenty of taxis waiting for passengers. The Aran Island Tourist Information Office, located near the harbor, is a great place to start a visit and get advice. For visitors who want to stay longer than a day, there are several small inns and bed-and-breakfasts, as well as "glamping" or upscale camping, options. For more planning tips and resources, visit the Aran Islands tourism site.