A Guide To Inis Oírr Island (Inisheer): Things To Do, The Ferry, Accommodation + More

things to do on inis oirr island
Photo left: Wirestock Creators. Photo right: Lisandro Luis Trarbach (Shutterstock)

If you’re debating a visit to Inis Oírr Island (Inisheer), you’ve landed in the right place.

One of three stunning Aran islands off the coast of Galway, Inis Oírr is a popular tourist destination thanks to its unique culture, landscape and range of historic attractions.

Though many choose to stay in Doolin and visit on a day-trip, Inisheer island is worth more than a fleeting visit.

In the guide below, you’ll discover everything from things to do on Inis Oírr and how to get there, to where to stay and where to grab a fine pint!

Inis Oírr Island / Inisheer: Some quick need-to-knows

inis oirr island
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

So, a visit to Inis Oírr Island (Inisheer) is pretty straightforward, however, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your trip that bit more enjoyable.

1. Location

Inis Oírr is the smallest of the magnificent Aran Islands – a clutch of islands located just off the west coast of Ireland near Galway Bay. Also known as Inisheer, the island is part of the province of Connaught. You can explore all three islands on this Aran Islands tour.

2. Community

Still predominantly a fishing community, on Inis Oírr / Inisheer you’ll discover a strong sense of community, with some still adhering to a traditional way of life. 

3. Island size and population

3km by 3km in size, the island of Inis Oírr is home to some 260 permanent residents. This makes the island more populous than Inishmaan but less so than Inishmore.

4. Language

Today, Irish remains the daily language of the 260 permanent residents of Inis Oírr. What’s more, school pupils from the mainland frequently come to the island in order to learn the language in an active environment.

5. Part of the Burren

Inis Oírr and the other Aran Islands form part of the Burren, a region of environmental interest dominated by glaciated karst. The unique landscape of Inis Oírr and much of the wider Burren has been drawing geologists for decades.

How to get to Inis Oírr Island

inis oirr island
Photo by Lisandro Luis Trarbach/shutterstock.com

For an island flung out in the mouth of Galway Bay, getting to Inis Oírr Island (Inisheer) is easier (and faster!) than you may think.

You can choose to grab a ferry (they leave from Doolin in Clare and Rossaveal in Galway) or you can fly… yes, fly!

The Inis Oírr Ferry

Arguably the most popular way for getting to Inis Oírr Island (Inisheer) is to take one of the Inis Oírr Island Ferries. Several companies offer return trips to the island.

Where it leaves from

Inis Oírr Island is reached by ferry from Rossaveal in Connemara (via this provider) and from Doolin in County Clare (via the Doolin Ferry Co. and Doolin2Aran Ferries).

You can also get to Inis Oírr Island from the other two Aran Isalnds – Inis Mor and Inis Meain (make sure to book in advance).

How long it takes

The ferry from Rossaveal to Inis Oírr takes around 55 minutes. The ferry from Doolin to Inis Oírr now takes 15 minutes as both providers now offer an express service.

Flying to the island

There is a regional airport on each of the Aran Islands which is served from Connemara Regional Airport by AerArann. The flight to Inis Oírr takes just eight minutes!

The flight is operated using The Islander, which is the best-selling commercial aircraft in Western Europe. Adaptable, versatile and durable, it has a top safety record and can take-off and land from short airstrips.

The comfortable interior offers great viewing for scenic flights, providing a bird’s-eye look at the Connemara coast.

The Islander is a rapid, efficient aircraft, which means your flight to The Islands takes just a few minutes. With such beautiful landscapes, many wish the flight took a while longer!

Things to do on Inis Oírr

pub on inis oirr
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

There’s heaps of brilliant things to do on Inis Oírr, from forts and long walks to beaches, fine pubs, great places to eat and more.

Below, you’ll find a mix of things to do on Inis Oírr – just keep in mind that not all of them will be possible if you visit when the weather has taken a turn for the worst!

1. Explore By Bike

inis mor bike hire
Photo by MNStudio/shutterstock.com

If you’re in search of active things to do on Inis Oírr, this should tickle your fancy! Perhaps the very best way to view the stunning scenery of Inis Oírr is via bicycle.

It is possible for visitors to hire a bike just as they land on the island right near the harbour, with a variety of shops offering a wide range of bikes.

The fairly flat terrain coupled with high-quality roads make bicycles a great option for exploring Inis Oírr.

2. Or on a horse and cart

horse and cart inis oirr
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

For those less inclined to working up a sweat, and for those of you looking for unique things to do on Inis Oírr, a traditional horse and cart can be an ideal way to see the island.

With your very own driver, this horse will clip clop its way around the main attractions of Inis Oírr, offering a view of this stunning island from the comfort and relaxation of a cart.

3. Have a paddle on An Tra

inis oirr beach
Photo by Andrea Sirri/shutterstock.com

Known for its stunning beaches, Inis Oírr is particularly busy in summer months when the water is at its clearest and the sand at its whitest.

An Tra might just be the most popular of these; super clean, calm and perfectly located, visitors love a paddle on An Tra (it really is one of the best beaches in Galway).

4. Step back in time at Cnoc Raithní (not pictured below)

inis oirr things to do
Photo by Alasabyss/shutterstock.com

This ancient burial mound dates back to as early as 2000 BC, offering visitors the chance to get up close and personal with a real historical artefact.

Located at the northern edge of the island overlooking the harbour, it is easy to find this popular local monument.

5. Soak up more history at Teampall Caomhán

St Caomhán's church
Photo by Andrea Sirri/shutterstock.com

The patron saint of the Aran Islands, Saint Caomhán has his own church located at the site of his burial on Inis Oírr. Dating back to the 10th century, this stunning ruin offers visitors to the isle a chance to truly delve into its folklore and religious history.

6. Visit O’Brien’s Castle (and grab a fine view in the process)

where to go in ireland road trip
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

An early 15th century tower house, O’Brien’s Castle is a historical site of interest on Inis Oírr that provides some of the best views of the island and beyond.

The castle is one of the less-celebrated castles in Galway, but it boasts a fine bit of history (it was captured and slighted by Cromwell’s army in the 17th century).

7. Walk or cycle out to the MV Plassey Shipwreck

Plassy Shipwreck
Photo by Andrea Sirri/shutterstock.com

In 1960, this cargo vessel in the Irish Merchant Service hit a rock off Inis Oírr and was washed onto the island’s shores. The entire crew was rescued by local fishermen and today the wreckage is a popular tourist spot on the island. A fun fact, this is the shipwreck shown in the opening credits of legendary sitcom Father Ted!

8. And then Inis Oírr Lighthouse

inis oirr lighthouse
Photo by Alasabyss/shutterstock.com

This active lighthouse dates back to the 19th century and is a beautiful example of a lighthouse that is worth seeing during a visit to Inis Oírr.

Offering stunning views of the rugged Inis Oírr coastline, this is a popular spot with visitors looking for the perfect photograph.

Inis Oírr hotels and accommodation

inis oirr island
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

If you hop into our Inis Oirr accommodation guide, you’ll find a tonne of different places to stay on the island.

It is possible to squeeze all the top sights and attractions on Inis Oírr into a half day trip, but to really take it all in, it’s best to stay a day or two. 

Hotels

The Inis Oírr hotel has a monopoly on the island’s hotel scene, as the only functioning spot available for those seeking the full hotel experience.

Owned and run by the Flaherty family for 30 years, this hotel is located close to a beach and pier.

With 14 bedrooms including 2 large family rooms, all bedrooms are en-suite with central heating, electric blankets and hairdryers.

Facilities include a Restaurant, bar and Lounge. The excellent dining room is overlooking a castle and fresh local seafood is offered along with full wine and bar facilities.

Hostels

The popular seaview hostel is run by the lovely Sharry family with a choice of self-catering or Bed & Breakfast accommodation.

The hostel is located on the water’s edge overlooking the bay and neighbouring islands yet located at the heart of the island with all amenities just a short stroll away.

With a choice of dormitory or private room accommodation, dorms are kept to a smaller size of 4-6 beds to avoid crowds. Private twin, triple and double en-suite rooms are on offer, whilst bed linen and towels are on offer too.

Inis Oírr pubs

pub on inis oirr
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

Inis Oírr Island is, in our opinion, home to several of the best pubs in Galway (we’ve a sweet spot for Tigh Ned, in particular!).

Here’s an overview of the pubs on Inis Oírr that you can nip into for a pint (or a coffee!) after you’ve explored the island.

1. Tigh Ned

This much-loved pub in Inis Oírr consistently ranks as the finest on the island. Offering simple yet delicious food with an emphasis on local seafood such as fish, crab and scallops, the fayre here attracts plenty of visitors.

Many say that Tigh Ned serves the best Guinness on Inis Oírr, whilst the decor helps to create a convivial and special ambience that is entirely unique to this place.

2. Tigh Ruairí

With simple yet tasty food, good quality beer, wine and spirits and a friendly welcome, Tigh Ruairí is a popular spot for relaxing on Inis Oírr.

Come at the right time and you might just catch one of the impromptu sing-alongs that go on here regularly. Failing that, you can enjoy the view that this pub on the hill provides for each and every one of its patrons.

3. Óstan Inis Oírr (Hotel Bar)

The large bar area at Inis Oírr Hotel is a calm, classy place that allows visitors to get away from the hustle and bustle and truly unwind.

Known as Flaherty’s Bar, the beer here is cold, the wine varied and the food warm! A convivial atmosphere reigns here, as with most pubs and bars on Inis Oírr.

Inis Oírr Restaurants and Cafes

donegal town cafe
Photo by Jaromir Chalabala/shutterstock

Good food can be found in several restaurants and cafes on Inis Oírr. As the island is small, there isn’t a huge amount of choice.

However, what is there packs a mighty punch, to say the very least. Below, you’ll find our favourite places to eat on Inis Oírr.

1. Teach an Tae (Aran Cafe Tea Rooms)

Ideal for dropping in after a day of sightseeing, this cute little spot is known to serve the finest cakes on Inis Oírr.

Homebaking is the name of the game, with freshly baked bread, cakes and scones featuring heavily on the menu at Teach an Tae.

Settle down inside or, if weather permits, take a seat on the outdoor sun terrace and tuck into a freshly made pot of tea alongside a slice of one of the many delicious creations on offer here.

2. Café an Chaisleán

This little spot inside a local b&b is renowned for their simple but delicious dishes that frequently incorporate local seafood including the much-loved crab claws. With tea, coffee and a range of sweet treats on offer too, this cafe is a solid choice for lunch.

3. The Seaweed Cafe

Specialising in homemade pizza in addition to other standard offerings like salads and sandwiches, the Seaweed Cafe is a great spot for lunch on Inis Oírr.

One of the true highlights of this place is the decent wine menu, which is even better when sipped with loved ones on the sun terrace of Seaweed during one of the island’s warm summer afternoons. Bliss!

4. South Aran House Restaurant

Offering one of the island’s more refined menus, South Aran House Restaurant looks to satisfy a range of tastes for its guests.

Highlights here include the mackerel escabeche, lemon sole and Aran apple cake with cream. Simple; yes. Delicious; absolutely!

Some FAQs about visiting Inis Oírr

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from things to do on Inis Oírr to how to get there.

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’s the best way to get to Inis Oírr Island?

It depends. The Inis Oírr Ferry is nice and handy but, if you’re stuck for time, you can always fly from Galway. Info on both above.

Are there many things to do on Inisheer?

Yes! There’s plenty of things to do on Inis Oírr. You can rent a bike and head for a cycle around the island. You can head on a number of walks, you can visit the MV Plassey shipwreck and you can soak up more history at Teampall Caomhán.

Is it worth staying on Inis Oírr?

In my opinion, yes – it is! Although you can 100% take a day trip to the island and enjoy every second of it, staying over night will 1, let you explore at a more relaxed pace and 2, give you the opportunity to whittle away in Tigh Ned.

James Connolly is a professional writer based in London. Having lived in cities across the world including Mumbai, Medellin and Barcelona, he uses his expertise to write articles showcasing the best of global travel.

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