Inis Oirr is the smallest and closest of the Aran Islands, and after a discussion with a “ticket tout” we (me and the better half) decided to book, combined with a trip around the Cliffs of Moher on the way back to Doolin.
The night before our trip to Inis Oirr the weather took a turn for the worse and there was wind, rain, thunder and lightning. The morning of our trip we awoke to a dull, overcast and misty morning. It was obvious visibility was going to be poor and the chances of seeing some sun was very slim to none. Had we not pre-booked and paid for the trip I would have stayed on the campsite, but you can’t let the weather rule your life, can you?
The journey from Doolin to Inis Oirr took 30 minutes, but this was on the express ferry. We weren’t aware of tis when we booked to go to Inis Oirr but a quicker ferry/shorter trip suited me just fine. I don’t know how long the slower ferries took to get to Inis Oirr but I doubt they took too much longer.
Once berthed and off the ferry the first thing we were confronted with was offers of tours of the island on horse and trap, and bike hire. Thanks to the Lonely Planet guide to Ireland we knew this would happen before we even boarded the ferry to Inis Oirr, and since we had pre-agreed to walk around the island we declined.
The Lonely Planet priced the horse and trap rides at 5 – 20 euros per person per hour, which didn’t really make any sense. We didn’t bother entertaining the horse and trap owners so never found out how much a horse and trap tour of the island would cost us as a couple (I am not one for sharing such intimate experiences with strangers – we did this on a Gondola ride in Venice and the whole experience was ruined for me).
Bike hire is 10 euros per day, which didn’t seem too bad until we saw the state of the bikes and also heard some of the bikes that came past us. The bikes seemed in pretty poor condition and there was one particular bloke we kept coming across during the day who couldn’t put too much pressure on the pedals and when he did the chain came off – this was not ideal for cycling up the hills on the island.
Walking the island definitely seemed the best option, and whilst it wasn’t the quickest way of reaching all the “must see” points of interest it was the easiest. Besides, I find traveling at a slower pace means I see more, take in more and soak everything up. Walking was also the cheapest option, leaving more money to spend on any little trinkets (tourist tat as my better half likes to call it) I could find.
Inis Oirr has to be one of the strangest places I have ever been. The first thing that struck me was how green it was (pretty much like the mainland) but there was no trees or high hedges for shade. Fortunately, it was dull and grey so the lack of shade wasn’t such a problem. Another thing that struck me was the amount of stone walls. Rather than dividing the land in to a small number of large plots the land is divided in to a very large number of very small plots. From the high vantage point of the castle you can easily see loads (and I mean loads) of stone walls and plots.
The tourists pretty get the run of the island and the only places that are a no-go are private homes and plots of land that are gated. Any roads, lanes, paths between plots etc. that appear open are all fair game. Personally, I think this is an invasion of privacy but this is how the island seems to run, and the local residents seem cool with the arrangement.
There are cars on Inis Oirr, but not that many, and walking along the narrow roads is very safe. The most dangerous things on the road on Inis Oirr are the pony and traps (the drivers barge their way through and carry on regardless – and don’t expect a thanks when you actually climb in to the hedge or a thorn bush so they can pass either!) and the tourists on bikes. In my experience the most dangerous thing are the tourists on bikes and I guarantee you will have several close encounters. People who don’t normally cycle on roads don’t seem to have a clue about how to ride on the public roads, and as such they are a danger to themselves and other road users too.
There are 16 points of interest to see on Inis Oirr. I don’t know how long it would take (or cost) to get around them taking a horse and trap. If you hire a bike you could do a whistle stop tour and get them all done in a few hours and a half day trip to the island is all you need. Visiting all points of interest on foot takes several hours and if you want to fit it all in you are going to need a full day on the island.
Even though Inis Oirr is full of tourists the locals don’t exploit it that much. Sure, there are locals trying to get money out of the tourists offering horse and trap rides, and bike hire but that’s more or less it. There are loads of opportunities to rip off the bus (i.e. ferry) loads of tourists that visit the island but the locals don’t do anything about it. I have been to many other countries where tourists are targeted and ripped everywhere they go and all the time, but this does not happen at Inis Oirr.
Despite taking quite a bit of spending money with me, and actually wanting to spend the money I left Inis Oirr having bought lunch and two bottles of drink. Other than a craft centre, which didn’t have anything I fancied buying, I couldn’t find any other outlets to take my money. Oh well………..
After several hours walking around the island it was time for a bite to eat. We read in some blurb somewhere there are loads of pubs, bars and restaurants to eat at but we only found two close to the pier. There must be others, but I couldn’t be bothered to go out searching for them. I have made the mistake of hunting around for hours for alternative places to eat many times before and it always ends up the same way – a total waste of time and often no time to eat before the boat/bus or whatever leaves. Consequently we went to the first hotel we found, the name of which I forget. Food/drinks is prime “ripping off the tourist” fodder but the locals on Inis Oirr don’t seem to do this. The food and drink wasn’t cheap, and there was obviously a premium on it but it wasn’t extortionate prices like many other tourist traps. I paid 14.5 euros for ham sandwich, a cheese and ham toasted sandwich, a large basket of chips and two soft drinks which I didn’t think was that bad at all.
I have to say I didn’t see anything “special” on the menu and it was the typical salads, fish and chips, chicken goujons and chips, stew, pie and vegetables etc. the average price was around 13 Euros, which once again isn’t cheap but isn’t that expensive either.
When we arrived at Inis Oirr I didn’t appreciate the beach at all, and I can only put this down to the dull, grey and misty conditions. The beach looked okay, but I wouldn’t go any further than that. What did interest me was the sign about “interacting with wild dolphins” and the “do’s and don’ts”. Apparently, there is a resident dolphin (a wild one) that lives around Inis Oirr that frequently comes close to the beach and interacts with the swimmers. The sign said that whilst the dolphin (Sandy is just one name given to her) is friendly she has been known to show aggressive behaviour towards some people, and this has ended up various injuries from bruising, cracked ribs and broken bones. At least one swimmer has even ended up in intensive care. I have always fancied swimming with dolphins although I would never go to one of those organised experiences where the animals are in captivity and doped to the eyeballs because I don’t agree with it. Swimming with a wild dolphin (or having wild dolphins swimming close by) would be cool, but the signs did make me think twice. If the dolphin took a dislike to me the consequences could be severe.
With time to kill waiting for the ferry we spent an hour or so on the beach, and during that time I realized what a great beach this was. The sand was golden, the sea was turquoise and the surrounding scenery was stunning. Add in to the mix there is a chance to see a wild dolphin and this becomes one special beach. It’s a shame it was dull and overcast (although it was brighter than when we arrived at Inis Oirr) but you can’t book the weather can you? If I were the sort of person that like spending all day on the beach the beach on Inis Oirr would be one I would head for.
Sitting on the ferry waiting for the late comers to arrive so we could sail back to Doolin Sandy (the resident dolphin) made a brief appearance right beside the boat. She wasn’t there for long but she did treat us to a couple of jumps and dives. Seeing a dolphin in the wild is on my bucket list and it is a sight I have wanted to witness for many years, so to see it made the trip to Inis Oirr very special and one that I will never forget.
I am glad I did the trip to Inis Oirr and I did enjoy experiencing the culture and what the island has to offer. Reading the Lonely Planet guide before going to Inis Oirr was very useful, and it all made much more sense as we were walking around the island.
If I were to do the trip again I would hire a bike to get around and only go for half day rather than a full day, and if someone were to ask what I would recommend this would be it. I would definitely recommend reading the Lonely Planet guide before visiting Inis Oirr as doing this made everything fall in to place.
To get a taste of what Inis Oirr is like check out the footage below:-
About the author
A total motor home newbie with a six year camping background in a folding camper. A keen blogger sharing my experience of researching, choosing, buying and owning a motor home. and every thing that goes with it.
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