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From Galway to the Aran Islands: 4 Best Ways to Get There

Written by Bryan Dearsley
Updated Jan 31, 2022

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While the Aran Islands might seem a little out of the way, they're actually surprisingly easy to get to from a number of destinations on Ireland's spectacular west coast - especially if you're traveling here from the city of Galway.

A trip to these rugged Atlantic islands, rated as one of the country's top places to visit, is a little like taking a step back in time. Gaelic is the language most commonly spoken by the 12,000 residents who live on the three islands - named Inishmore, Inishmaan, and Inisheer - and traditional Irish customs are very much in evidence.

Traveling from Galway to the Aran Islands certainly adds to the adventure of exploring this beautiful corner of Ireland. It does, however, require a little more planning than most excursions, especially if you're on a tighter schedule. And, of course, the more you want to see, the longer you'll want to visit, making an overnight stay at one of the guesthouses, inns, or bed and breakfasts on the islands an attractive option.

The good news is that there are a number of options to check into for those determined to add the Aran Islands into their Ireland travel itinerary. These include traveling to the ports that service the islands by car or bus to hop aboard a ferry or charter boat; taking a flight; or, for the truly adventurous, even using one of the excellent hiking or biking routes available.

However you choose to get there, you won't be disappointed if you've added a day trip from Galway to the Islands of Aran to your Ireland travel itinerary.

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1. From Galway to the Aran Islands by Tour

The scenic cliffs of Inishmore, Aran Islands
The scenic cliffs of Inishmore, Aran Islands

A good way to ensure a hassle-free day trip from Galway to the Aran Islands is to sign up for an organized tour. A popular option for many is a tour that takes in both the Aran Islands and the Cliffs of Moher by cruise.

This full-day guided tour sets off from downtown Galway, departing from the Kinlay Hostel at 9am and traveling along the spectacular coastline of the Wild Atlantic Way. Along the way, you'll pass through a number of attractive (and extremely photo-worthy) fishing villages. The services of a professional guide are also included, who'll provide live commentary (and answer any questions) pertaining to the many sights you'll see.

It's at Doolin – only 1.5 hours away from Galway – that you'll board the ferry to the Aran Islands. It's a pleasant journey of around 30 minutes, with passengers disembarking at Inisheer, the smallest (and closest) of the three islands.

After spending free time exploring on your own, you'll re-join the ferry for a trip along the iconic Cliffs of Moher. Considered to be one of the most romantic vistas in Ireland, it's the perfect backdrop for a selfie with your significant other. You'll also have the chance to explore the cliffs from above after your return to Doolin.

The sightseeing continues on the return journey to Galway, with stops at Burren National Park and Lisdoonvarna. Included with your tour are the services of local guides and the round-trip ferry. At the end of the day, you'll be dropped off at the original pickup point in downtown Galway.

2. From Galway to the Aran Islands by Ferry

Ferry departing Doolin for the Aran Islands
Ferry departing Doolin for the Aran Islands

For those who prefer to make their own arrangements, there are two ferry routes available for those traveling from Galway to the Islands of Aran. The most popular is the ferry from Doolin. A scenic 1.5-hour drive from Galway, and a little longer if traveling by bus, Doolin is itself a destination that's worth exploring and has the added benefit of being located a short distance from the spectacular Cliffs of Moher.

Operators along this route include Doolin Ferry Co, and Doolin2Aran Ferries, both of which offer daily services from March to October to each of the three islands. In addition to their regular ferry services, both companies offer dedicated cruises, taking in popular sightseeing spots such as the Cliffs of Moher. Journey times take between 15 minutes to 35 minutes, depending on which island you're traveling to.

If traveling by car, there's plenty of safe parking in Doolin in which to leave your vehicle. And if not by car, you can get to Doolin by bus from Galway. While it's a picturesque journey, it is, however, a little slow; expect to spend around two hours on the road each way, with plenty of stops and connections to be made.

Another option is taking a train to Ennis. Irish Rail offers plenty of coverage for this 30-minute journey, with buses available to take you the next leg of the journey to Doolin.

Another ferry departure point is Rossaveal, located 45 minutes' drive west of Galway. Aran Island Ferries operate from this modern facility year-round. For those without a car, a handy shuttle bus service operates from Galway and arrives in plenty of time to catch your ferry (allow around an hour for this trip).

3. From Galway to the Aran Islands by Plane

Aerial view of Inisheer Island, Aran Islands
Aerial view of Inisheer Island, Aran Islands

For those who enjoy flying, it is possible to get to the Aran Islands from Galway by airplane. The route from Connemara Regional Airport in Inverin - a 27-kilometer drive from downtown Galway - is served by Aer Arann, a local business that also offers flights to Dublin, as well as further afield, including London.

All three islands are serviced by Aer Arann, and flights are short (just 10 minutes). During the busier times of year, flights depart hourly. In addition to its speedy travel times, travelers will also be rewarded by incredible views over the islands and the spectacular Galway coast. If you can afford it, consider chartering a flight for an extended trip over the Cliffs of Moher.

4. From Galway to the Aran Islands by Bike or Hike

Two bikes near a sandy beach on Inishmore Island, Aran Islands
Two bikes near a sandy beach on Inishmore Island, Aran Islands

For those not averse to a little exercise, why not bike (or walk) from Galway to Doolin to catch your ferry? The journey along the Wild Atlantic Way is considered one of the world's top cycling routes and takes in plenty of breathtaking scenery along the way.

Bikes can be rented in Galway, and can be taken aboard the ferries. The same route is also very walkable, but will take a long day of hiking to get you there.

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