The coastline of Ireland is dotted with many small, very beautiful and interesting off-shore islands, with each boasting their own unique character. Throughout the centuries the islands have been inhabited by prehistoric settlers, early Christian monks, Vikings, pirates, farmers and fishermen, each of whom have left their own mark on the landscape in ancient tombs, monastic sites, villages and stunning old lighthouses. Enjoy a day immersed in tradition, culture and unspoilt landscapes.
Many of our islands are Gaeltacht Islands where Irish (Gaeilge) and English are both spoken fluently; these include the Aran Islands, Galway, Cape Clear (Oilean Chleire), Cork, Achill Island (Acaill), Mayo, Tory Island (Toraigh), Donegal and Arranmore (Arainn Mhor), Dongeal. Taste the culture of a past Ireland and pick up cúpla focal on your journey. Exploring the islands is often best done on foot or bicycle (some of the islands do not have any cars) where you can breath in the fresh air and get up close and personal with nature.
Irish Travel Plans has selected a number of the most popular island visits. If you wish to explore more of our islands please tell us and we can send you more information.
The Islands of Ireland
Achill Island: Oilean Acaill, has a long history of human settlement dating back 5,000 years. This is the largest of our offshore islands and is easily reached by the connecting bridge from the mainland. The island is home to five picture postcard Blue Flag beaches, some of Europe’s highest cliffs and large tracts of blanket bog. The spectacular Atlantic Drive which takes you along a 40km drive includes the best of the Islands scenery. The Great Western Greenway is a new 42km long track for cyclists, walkers and runners which follows the route of the former Achill to Westport railway line.
Aran Islands: in Galway Bay lie three of Ireland’s best well known islands. Each of the three islands, Inishmore (Árainn), Inishmaan (Inis Meáin) and Inisheer (Inis Oírr) has their own distinct atmosphere and character. The islands are reachable by regular ferries running from Doolin, Co. Clare and Ros a ‘Mhil in Connemara about 25 miles west of Galway City. Flights to and from the mainland are also available with Aer Arann Islands, who also offer scenic flights with spectacular views of the islands and the Clare coastline.
Arranmore: Árainn Mhór, lies off the coast of Donegal and has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Today, the island is a wonderfully peaceful place with a marked trail leading from sandy beaches to the island’s rocky summit, providing spectacular views.
Cape Clear: Oileán Chléire, is a Gaeltacht island only 5km long and 2km wide, lying13km off the coast of West Cork. It is our southernmost inhabited island. The island’s rugged scenery, sheltered sparkling harbours, cliffs, bogs and scenic pebble beaches make this place a necessity to visit.
Great Blasket Island: although the island lying off the Dingle Peninsula remains uninhabited today, visitors can travel by ferry to this remote and wildly beautiful place, and spend several hours marvelling at its natural beauty.
Skellig Islands: Skellig Michael and Small Skellig, lie 13km southwest of Valentia Island, Co. Kerry. Skellig Michael is the site of a well preserved monastic outpost of the early Christian period, now designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Small Skellig is home of some 27,000 pairs of gannets, the second largest colony of such sea birds in the world.
Tory Island: Toraigh; lies off the northern tip of Donegal. The remoteness of the island has led to the preservation of the traditions and way of life of the ancient Gaelic culture. Many of Toraigh’s ancient customs still survive, including the appointment of the island king or Rí Thoraí.
Valentia Island lies off the southwest coast of Kerry and is an island of great beauty and contrast. It is joined to the mainland by bridge via the Portmagee Channel. The western part of the island is dominated by the dramatic cliffs of Bray Head which command spectacular views of the Kerry coastline. The world-famous Valentia Slate quarry on the northern part of the island still flourishes today. This slate has been used in many prominent buildings including the British House of Commons.
This is just a taste of some of the places you can visit while on your trip to Ireland. Irish Travel Plans will work with you to compose a customised itinerary to include all the activities and attractions you desire. Make sure to tell us about your Irish dreams!