Welcome to Arranmore Island (Árainn Mhór) – 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
Although a visit to Arranmore Island is pretty straightforward, there are some need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that much more enjoyable.
You’ll find Arranmore Island (Árainn Mhór) off the west coast of Donegal, not far from the Gaeltacht fishing village of Burtonport and just down the road from Donegal Airport.
2. Getting to it
You’ll need to take the Arranmore Island Ferry which takes just 15 to 20 minutes and leaves from Burtonport.
3. 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).
4. 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
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.
1. Arranmore Ferry providers
There are two different ferry providers taking passangers to the island. Both providers leave from the village of Burtonport:
2. How long it 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.
3. How much it costs
The prices for the Arranmore Ferry vary. For a passenger on foot, it’s €15. If you want to bring a car, it’s €30 (€45 if you have an additional passenger). There’s also different deals for families, which you can see when you visit either of the providers websites.
Things to do on Arranmore Island
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
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. 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.
3. Try your hand at diving
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.
4. 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 €30 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.
5. 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.
6. Rent a bike and take a spin out to Arranmore Lighthouse
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.
8. Explore the island on foot
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 Arranmore Island Loop 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
There are several different accommodation options on the island, depending on what you fancy and how much you have to spend.
1. Arranmore Glamping
This is one of the more unique places to go glamping in Donegal. The pod has a patio, garden views and a well-equipped kitchenette along with a bathroom and a shower. If you’re looking for unique places to stay on Arranmore, this is a great option (check prices here).
2. Arranmore 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
If you fancy a pint, there are plenty of pubs on Arranmore (some of which do food). 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:
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 things to do on Arranmore Island.
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 Árainn Mhór
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?
How do you get to Arranmore?
Keith O’Hara has lived in Ireland for 34 years and has spent most of the last 10 years creating what is now The Irish Road Trip guide. Over the years, the website has published thousands of meticulously researched Ireland travel guides, welcoming 30 million+ visitors along the way. In 2022, the Irish Road Trip team published the world’s largest collection of Irish Road Trip itineraries. Keith lives in Dublin with his dog Toby and finds writing in the 3rd person minus craic altogether.