Breath-taking scenery, great walks, historical sites, and a singular pub - Inis Meáin is literally at the heart of the Aran Islands off Galway and remains a relatively quiet gem.
Inis Meáin is both spiritually and geographically the middle island of the Aran Islands, and it is well known the larger Inis Mór and smaller Inis Oírr – which sit each side – receive far more visitors each year than the middle island of Inis Meáin.
Definitely the quietest and a personal favorite for those in the know, due to the great walks, minor trails and historical sites sprinkled around the island. Many locals will also tell you that it's the somewhat distant location of the pier and airport that compounds the island's dearth of visitors – is this such a bad thing?
It is a trek back to the center of the island and perhaps takes about 10 minutes to the main hub of activity, which is, in essence, the local church, the singular pub, and the local food store. But if staying overnight, the respective accommodation hosts will dispatch someone to collect you at the pier or airport. An overnight stay is really the only way to capture the true essence of this scenic island.
Such solitude is no bad thing for those of you looking for that ideal getaway. Inis Meáin is host to a maze of threadlike winding roads, sheltered paths and trails that haphazardly criss-cross the island, from the rocky hillsides of the south including the visual feast on display at Synge's Chair (Cathaoir Synge). Not to be confused with Teach Synge, the restored island cottage of writer John Millington Synge for whom the island was a favorite retreat during the late 1800s into the early 1900s.
Cathaoir Synge was his own personal lookout at the edge of a sheer limestone cliff on the western edge of the island. The cliff ledge is often sheltered from the wind making the chair a perfect spot for a comfortable seat to sit down and absorb such unique scenic beauty.
Further back on the north shore, there is a wonderful sense of tranquillity, sedateness and certainly a place where time loses its importance. Inis Meáin is littered with some great historical sites and contains one of the best-preserved 10th-century early Christian oratories - Cill Cheannannach.
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This small unassuming small church is situated near the rear of the island. The stone forts, Dún Fearbhaí (Ferboy’s Fort) and Dún Crocbhur (Conor’s Fort) are a true marvel and a joy to explore and the elevated views of the island from both these forts is striking. Both forts were so well constructed over 1500 years ago and continue to stand defiantly on the main rise of the island. If only those walls could talk!
Aran Island Ferries from Ros a'Mhíl is perhaps the best departure point in comparison to Doolin. It's a shorter crossing over and not as topsy-turvy as that of the longer Doolin route. But if looking for a great one-off experience? Try the short flight over via Aer Arann Islands from the small airport at Indreabhán in Connemara.
* Originally published in 2018, updated in June 2023.
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