According to Wikipedia, Ireland is the third largest island in Europe, but did you know that this island has about 33 smaller islands! Ireland’s islands are special havens of wild beauty, rugged cliffs, craggy inlets, stone built walls and sandy shores. Some are no longer inhabited and some are home to people who still practise the Irish language. If you really want to get off the beaten track, then why not explore one of Ireland’s islands for yourself and experience the strong sense of community, culture and tradition that prevails there. Lets take a closer look at some of the most popular islands off our coast…
Aran Islands - County Galway
These are probably the most well-known of all Ireland’s islands. Located in Galway Bay these three Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking) islands are called Inishmore, Inishmann and Inisheer.
Inishmore is the largest of the islands and the most developed with lots of accommodation (B&Bs, guesthouses, self-catering), restaurants, pubs and craft shops. Inishmore is also home to one of the most famous stone forts in Europe – Dun Aengus. The island has lots of medieval churches, high crosses, early Christian remains and is a popular destination for diving, horse-riding, walking, cycling and learning Irish.
There are daily, year round sailings to this island from Rossaveal in County Galway and from Doolin in County Clare. You can also take a daily flight with Aer Arann from Indreabhán 27km west of Galway city to any one of the three islands.
Head for Inishmann or Inisheer if you want to truly escape the rigors of daily life and witness time standing still. These are least popular with visitors, which make them ideal for a relaxing break away from it all.
The Blasket Islands - County Kerry
You’ll find ‘The Blaskets’ off the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry on the southwest coast of Ireland. An Blascód Mór is the largest of the islands and the most visited. This island was inhabited until 1953, when the last 20 people who lived on the island were finally moved to the mainland. Today visitors can explore the pre-historic ruins and the remains of a village. This is the most westerly tip of Europe, so make sure to explore the island by foot and enjoy fishing, bathing and bird-watching, as this island is home to a diverse variety of birdlife.
From April to September, there are daily sailings to this island from Dún Chaoin and Dingle Marina.
The Skellig Islands – County Kerry
For about 600 years this remote island was a place of solitude and refuge for Christian monks who set up a monastic settlement and lived in beehive huts – the remains of which can still be seen today. Visitors can also explore the island’s oratory, cemeteries, churches, holy wells and stone crosses.
This island is also a paradise for birdwatchers as it’s a nature reserve with lots of different birds like puffins, gannets and other seabirds.
Daily sailings during the Summer months from Portmagee.
Garnish Island - County Cork
Garnish Island is located in Bantry Bay in County Cork. This island is a must for horticulturists or those who have a love of gardening. Garnish Island could be considered a “garden island”, as is has some of the most beautiful exotic displays of plants, shrubs and flowers. These sub-tropical gardens really are a sight to behold and makes for a great day out.
There are daily sailings from Glengarriff between the months of March and October.
Inishbofin Island - County Galway
Inishbofin Island has a long and colourful history as it has been inhabited for over 6,000 years. It is about 8km off the coast of Connemara and has a population of over 200 people.
The island has many historical sites for you to uncover like forts and monastic remains. With golden sandy beaches and clear blue water, the island is a mecca for those who enjoy diving, snorkelling and swimming.
This island has some rare flora and fauna, like for example, it’s a breeding ground for a rare type of corncrake and there are also two seal colonies on the island.
Achill Island - County Mayo
This is Ireland’s largest island and is situated of the coast of County Mayo on the north west coast. It’s a popular choice of island to visit and is very accessible as it’s connected by a 226m bridge with the mainland.
The island, which is 20km long and 19km wide is home to about 3,000 people. It has stunning scenery, lots of sandy beaches, cliffs and bogs and some interesting historic attractions like megalithic tombs, tower houses, a castle and a promontory fort.
Visitors to this island can avail of swimming, surfing, windsurfing, rock climbing, angling, diving, golf, bird watching and lots more.
To get to the island just cross the bridge near Mulranney in County Mayo.
We hope you enjoy your visit to one of Ireland’s islands. Before you set off there are a few things to bear in mind. Always double check sailings times as all the sailings are weather dependent. Wear comfortable clothes and due to the nature of many of the islands terrain it’s important to wear flat shoes. Also check to see if the island that you choose to visit has services and facilities, if not, you’ll have to bring your own food and supplies.
If you’ve any queries or questions on this article please do not hestitate to leave a comment in the box below and we’ll get back to you!