I have wanted to visit the Aran Islands for years. Situated off the west coast of Ireland the Aran Islands are a group of three small islands with a desolate beauty and an unspoiled charm that has beckoned over the years. The tricky thing about visiting the islands is that it is a 30 – 40 minute ferry ride from the mainland, weather depending. If the weather is good, the ferry ride is great. If the weather is bad or the seas are rough, the ferry often does not run. Our itinerary did not leave us a contingency plan for bad weather, meaning we had one day to visit one of the Aran Islands and if the ferry was not running, we would be out of luck. Although we had some bad luck on this trip (flat tire, other car problems, delayed flights), we lucked out with the weather as the day for our visit to the Aran Islands was fantastic: sunny, no clouds and 75 degrees. In fact, someone told me it was the best weather Ireland had experienced in 2013.
We decided to go to Inis Oirr (or Inisheer), which is the smallest of the three islands and the closest to Doolin based on a recommendation from Mary, our B&B host, as well as the ferry master. They both said it was the prettiest of the three islands, with little development in the last 50 years. The ferry ride took about 30 minutes and was enjoyable for all except Declan, who lost his “full Irish breakfast” about halfway through the ride (since the seas were hardly rough, it was a bit surprising he got sea sick). Declan quickly recovered once we landed on the island, particularly in light of the fact that we were greeted by several horse drawn carriages offering to give us tours of the island. We passed on the tours, opting instead to explore the island on our own. We hardly made it past the ferry terminal when the boys spotted a small beach and darted over to play in the sand.
We soon decided the best way to explore the island with two small children was to rent bicycles with child seats on the back. A full day rental was only 10 euros per bike and it was well worth the money. Riding all over the island was the highlight for me as it allowed us to cover a lot of ground and get some exercise. We were able to jump on and off the bikes and check things out whenever we wanted. Check out all those stone walls – it was incredible to ponder how long it took to build those walls.
The highlights for the boys included the nautical themed playground, the homemade ice cream at a small cafe, as well as the beach.
Highlights for us included the rich history of the island (it has been occupied since 1500 B.C.), the beauty, and the Irish culture.
We ended our day on Inisheer where it started – at the beach. This time the boys were not content playing in the sand: they wanted to go in the water! The water was freezing, but I have a theory that children under 5 are impervious to cold water. We met a nice local family from Inisheer at the beach and the kids became fast friends. All four children frolicked in the ocean and sand. It was cute to hear the local children speaking the Irish language with their mother.
The downside to the beautiful weather we experienced on Inisheer: sun burn. When we packed for the day we were ready for all kinds of weather and had rain jackets, sweatshirts and even hats. But the one type of weather we were not equipped for was bright sun and we neglected to bring sunscreen. Sunscreen! Who thinks to bring sunscreen to Ireland?! We could quite possibly be the first family to ever get sunburned in Ireland, but it was a small price to pay for a glorious day on a beautiful island.