Inisheer: A Spectacular Gem in the Emerald Isle’s Aran Islands

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Common Inisheer Island scene
 

Inisheer Island, the smallest of the Aran Islands, located off the Ireland’s west coast, is like an entirely different world from what will find on the mainland. While most visitors to these isles head to the largest, Inishmore, Inisheer is far less touristy and offers the ultimate in peace and tranquility. Locals speak Irish Gaelic among themselves, but speak English to visitors. When you step off the ferry and onto the pier, you’ll be greeted with a postcard perfect, white powdery beach that sits at the edge of crystal clear turquoise waters looking as if it was taken from the Caribbean.

The main village can be found adjacent to the beach, enclosed by a small hill with O’Brien’s castle and a fort at the top. The tiny, two-square-mile island can easily covered on foot, but bike rentals are available, and there are also lots of pony and cart drivers willing to show you around their slice of paradise, for a small fee, of course.
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What to See and Do

While Inisheer may be small, it packs a punch when it comes to things to see and do for an island of its size. While you could easily while away the day chatting with locals in Tigh Ned’s pub, be sure to make time to see some of the island’s top sights. Wander around the maze of paths that wind through old stone walls, with holy wells, castle ruins, rare plants and birds spotted along the way.


Inisheer sculpture
 

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Walking the perimeter of Inisheer makes for an ideal eight-mile trek that will allow you to get up close and personal with many of its delights, including the holy well of St. Enda, the patron saint of the Aran Islands. The locals say it has healing powders, and never runs dry. On your way to see it, you’ll pass an impressive sculpture that sits just above the water as a memorial to honor islanders that were lost at sea. It depicts a curragh caught in a wave and is inscribed with words by poet laureate Martin O’Direan:

“Maireann a gcuimhne fós i m’aigne
Is mairfidh cinnte go dté mé i dtalamh.”
“Their memory is in my mind still
And will surely remain till I go into the clay.”
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Inisheer Lighthouse

 

On the eastern shore of the island, you can soak up views of the Cliffs of Moher as well as explore a lighthouse and a shipwreck.

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Eastern shore Inisheer with Cliffs of Moher in the background

The cargo vessel, “Plassy,” was wrecked here in the 1960s. Islanders rescued the entire crew during a vicious storm and were able to save each and every sailor. Over time, the waves have thrown the wreck upon the rocks, well above the high tide mark. If you’re a fan of the1990s Irish TV series, “Father Ted,” you’ll recognize the wreck from the show’s opening credits.
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Plassy shipwreck
 

Other must sights on Inisheer include Teampall Chaomhán, a medieval church ruin half buried in the sand in the island graveyard. Here, legend has it that if you can squeeze through the very narrow, tall window at the front of the church, going from the outside in, stepping onto the stone altar, you’re said to be guaranteed to go to heaven when your time has come.
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O’Brien Castle
 

The imposing three-story 16th-century tower house known as Caislean Ui Bhriain, built by the O’Brien family within a Stone Age fort, is something you’ll see while you’re arriving on the ferry, but you can also walk to the top of the hill to explore the interior.

While relaxing on the beach, keep an eye out on the water for the dolphin, locally known as “Sandy.” Sandy is almost always around when the ferry is coming in or out, playing in its wake.
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Sandy the dolphin
 

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Where to Stay

While you could visit Inisheer on a day trip, to truly experience you’ll really need to stay awhile. There are a number of accommodation options but it would be hard to beat the extraordinary welcome and hospitality you’ll find at South Aran House. Not only do guests enjoy a comfortable stay in a home overlooking the Atlantic, but incredibly delicious meals cooked up by the exceptional hosts, Enda and Maria Conneely. An extensive breakfast is included in room rates, and gourmet dinners, the best you’ll find on the island, are offered as well.
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Tigh Ned’s

 

Afterward, be sure to enjoy a pint or two at Tigh Ned’s, just down the road from South Aran House. During the summer, traditional music sessions are frequently hosted and not-to-be-missed.
 

Before taking off to the Emerald Isle, be sure to visit a Travel Clinics of America doctor that specializes in travel health. These healthcare professionals can help ensure that you remain healthy during your trip by recommending appropriate vaccinations and other necessary treatment, so that you can enjoy the vacation of your dreams.
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