Insider's Guide to Galway

Major attractions, tips and our top things to see and do.

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Renowned for their stark beauty and enduring Irish traditions, the enigmatic Aran Islands have long drawn fascination from their mainland neighbors, inspiring generations of Irish artists and writers with their idealistic way of life. A visit to the Aran Islands - three small, sparsely populated isles, overlooked by the immense Cliffs of Moher - is like stepping back in time. Here, Gaelic-speaking communities populate traditional farmhouses, local ladies make a living knitting traditional Aran sweaters, sold throughout Ireland, and cars are overlooked in favor of rickety pony traps and trusty bicycles.

Reachable by ferry or plane from Rosaveel, Galway or Doolin, and easily navigated on foot or bike, the islands harbor a number of attractions, including the remains of one of the world’s smallest churches and a 16th-century castle once used by Oliver Cromwell’s troops. Inis Mór is the largest and most developed of the three, at a mere 12km long, and home to the well-preserved Dún Aenghus fortress, perched on the cliff edge and affording expansive views over to the mainland. The less-visited Inis Meain and the smallest island, Inis Óirr, also boast impressive ruins – the former in the form of a 4th-century A.D fort, and the latter, an impressive 3-story 16th-century castle.

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