Arranmore Island: This Wild Chunk Of Donegal Is Arguably Ireland’s Most Underrated Island

A very hidden gem

Arranmore island ireland

Welcome to Arranmore Island – one of the most frequently missed places to visit in Donegal.

And yes, Arranmore is the island in Ireland that was looking for Americans to come and live on it a couple of years back, but more on that in a second.

Arranmore Island is one of Ireland’s true hidden gems. And I say true because people tend to skip visiting it when they’re exploring Donegal, even though it’s just a stone’s throw from the mainland.

In the guide below, you’ll discover everything from things to do on Arranmore Island and where to grab a pint, to how to get there and much more.

Some quick need-to-knows about Arranmore Island in Donegal

arranmore island
Photo by Patrick Mangan (Shutterstock)

Although a visit to Arranmore Island is pretty straightforward, there are some need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that much more enjoyable.

Below, you’ll find info on location, how to get there, the population of the island and much, much more.

1. Location

You’ll find Arranmore Island off the west coast of Donegal, not far from the Gaeltacht fishing village of Burtonport and just down the road from Donegal Airport.

2. Size and population

Arranmore is the largest inhabited island in Donegal and the second largest of Ireland’s inhabited islands. In 2016, the island had a population of 469 (nearly 3 times the amount of Tory Island).

3. Recent surge of attention

In 2019, the islanders sent an open letter to the people of the US and Australia, asking them to consider moving to and living on Arranmore Island. The publicity stunt received global media attention.

About Arranmore Island

arranmore island views
Photo by ‎Sebastian Sebo

At around seven square miles in size, Arranmore island is the second largest of Ireland’s inhabited islands, and it’s the biggest of Donegal’s islands.

For those looking to explore, the island has many marked trails that’ll take you past an ever-changing tapestry of natural beauty, from sandy beaches to craggy cliffs.

The island, which has been inhabited since prehistoric times, has a rich and vibrant heritage and culture, and many Irish traditions still thrive here.

The Arranmore Island Ferry

Getting to the island is simple – you just need to hop on the Arranmore Island Ferry (there’s 2 to choose from) and let the waves do the rest.

The crossing is short and sweet and reasonably friendly on the pocket. Below, you’ll find info on prices, crossing length and more.

The Arranmore Ferry providers

There are two different ferry providers taking passangers to the island. Both providers leave from the village of Burtonport:

How long the journey takes

The Arranmore Island ferry journey takes between 15 and 20 minutes, which is grand and handy for anyone planning on adding a visit to their Donegal road trip.

How much it costs

I feel like I’ve spent the last 30 minutes trying to figure out ticket prices… from what I can tell, a ticket for an adult passanger on foot starts at €13.50 return, but prices seem to vary, so check in advance.

Things to do on Arranmore Island

arranmore island cliffs
Photo by ‎Sebastian Sebo

From marked trails that offer spectacular views in every direction, to scuba diving and the mighty Arranmore Island steps, there are an endless number of ways that you can fill a day on Arranmore.

Below, you’ll discover some things to do and later in the guide you’ll find accommodation options, pubs and places to eat.

1. The Arranmore Island steps

arrandmore island donegal
Photo by ‎Sebastian Sebo

Getting an eyeful of the old island steps is arguably one of the most unique things to do on Arranmore Island in Donegal.

These old steps are carved into the stone and they run right down to the choppy Atlantic below. Note: the Arranmore Island steps are said to be in bad condition and it’s unsafe to use them.

2. Try your hand at diving 

arranmore island new
Photo by Chis Hill

For those of you in search of more adventurous things to do on Arranmore Island, give diving a bash.

‘Dive Arranmore’ is located on the island and has been running since 2012. According to their site, the waters around the island attract an abundance of marine life. Each dive is accompanied by Jim Muldowney, a highly experienced instructor.

3. Or keep your feet dry on a sea safari

Hit the sea on a 1-hour cruise and get an insight into the cliffs, beaches, sea stacks and marine life that surround Arranmore.

The cruise costs €20 for an adult ticket and those that hop aboard can expect to see everything from islands and dolphins, to seals, basking sharks and much more.

4. Rent a bike and take a spin out to Arranmore Lighthouse

arranmore island
Photo by Patrick Mangan (Shutterstock)

You’ll find Arranmore Lighthouse on the north west tip of the island, where it’s best reached on bike. The first lighthouse was built on the island in 1798.

Interestingly enough, it was the first lighthouse in Donegal at the time. The lighthouse was rebuilt much later, in 1865 and was then automated in 1982. You can see sea caves and sea arches nearby.

5. Discover the story behind the Cave of Slaughter

You’ll find the ‘Cave of Slaughter’ on the south of the island, a stone’s-throw from the church and the fort.

According to legend, a royal prick and Cromwellian captain by the name of Conyngham slaughtered a number of women and children in 1641 who were using the cave for shelter.

6. Give water sports a crack

Cumann na mBád, Árainn Mhór, a watersports club based on the island, aim to promote boating to both locals and tourists alike.

They run several water based courses, including surfing, sailing, kayaking, rowing and more. This is a solid option for those of you looking for things to do on Arranmore Island with a group of friends.

7. Explore the island on foot

arranmore island walks
Photo by ‎Sebastian Sebo

There are several walks on Arranmore that range from grand and handy to long and tough, depending on what you fancy.

If you’d like to explore a good chunk of the island, the walk outlined on this map is worth heading off on – it’s 14km and will take you 4+ hours, so make sure to dress appropriately and bring snacks and water.

Arranmore Island accommodation

Arranmore island ireland

There are several different accommodation options on the island, depending on what you fancy and how much you have to spend.

1. Airbnbs

There are several Airbnbs on Arranmore that have excellent reviews. To check them out, go here and browse by availability.

Note: if you book a stay through the links above or below we’ll make a tiny commission that helps us keep this site going. You won’t pay extra, but we really do appreciate it.

2. The lighthouse

Yes, you can spend a night in a lighthouse on Arranmore Island. If you’re after unique Airbnbs in Donegal, few are as quirky as this place.

The reviews are excellent, the views are outstanding and a night here will make your visit to the island all the more memorable.

3. Arranmore Island hostel

If you’re looking to keep your costs down, Arranmore Hostel is a solid option (it’s also on the beachfront, which helps!)

Located a short stroll from the ferry quay, the hostel has racked up great reviews online (4.8/5 at the time of writing).

Arranmore island pubs and restaurants

cross-eyes Guinness

If you fancy a pint, there are plenty of pubs on Arranmore. Most are full on pubs while one is located inside the Glen Hotel. Here’s some pubs on Arranmore to nip into after a long day of exploring:

  • Early’s Bar
  • Phil Bans Pub
  • Neily’s Bar
  • The Glen Hotel

If you fancy a bite to eat, here’s a few places to get a fine feed along with the review score from Google at the time of writing:

  • Neily’s Bar ( 4.8/5 from 97 Google reviews)
  • Early’s Bar (4.4/5 from 112 Google reviews)
  • Boathouse Beach Bites (4.5/5 from 15 Google reviews)
  • Phil Dan’s Pub (4.7/5 from 89 Google reviews)
  • The Cove (4.6/5 from 35 Google reviews)

Arranmore Island Map

This is a map of the island to give you a general sense of the lay of the land. The pink pointers show places to eat and drink and the yellow ones show to more notable attractions.

If you plan on visiting and exploring, make sure and pick up a map online or locally, especially if you plan on trying one of the walks.

Living on Arranmore

Since publishing this guide a few years ago, we’ve had (literally) hundreds of Americans, Canadians and Australians email us about living on Arranmore Island.

As I briefly mentioned above, there was a campaign to try and get people to move to the island. Did it work? I’m not sure (if you moved there and you’re reading this, comment below).

What it did succeed in doing was drawing global attention to the island. If you’re debating living on Arranmore, you’ll need to check everything from Visas in Ireland to real estate on the island.

FAQs about the island

Since first publishing this guide, we’ve had a fair few emails, comments and DMs asking us about everything from things to do on Arranmore Island to where to stay.

In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.

What are the best things to do on Arranmore?

  • Take a bike over and peddle around the island
  • Explore on foot on the lengthy, 14km island walk
  • Head our for a nosey at the lighthouse
  • Hit the water with the Cumann na mBád, Árainn Mhór

Is it easy to get to the island?

Yes! You’ll need to take the Arranmore ferry from Burtonport, but it only takes 15 to 20 minutes max.

Is there accommodation (and places to eat and drink!) on the island?

Yep. There’s plenty of pubs on Arranmore and there are several great places to eat. Accommodation wise, there’s a hostel, a hotel and plenty of Airbnbs.

Howaya! Thanks for visiting the Irish road trip! This site exists to inspire and guide you on an Irish adventure that’ll give birth to a lifetime of memories (sounds very arsey altogether, I know!) You'll find everything from things to do in Ireland to where to stay in Ireland (unique and unusual places) if you have a nosey around!

7 COMMENTS

  1. Would Love information. I am a lawyer in Chicago Illinois named Brian McManus I am contemplating moving and working remotely, I would love information on the island as well as suggestions on residency

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