Self-selected Tourism? The Case of the Aran Islands.

Self-selected Tourism? The Case of the Aran Islands.

It’s not easy to come to one of the Aran Islands: Inishmore, Inishmeain or Inisheer. Although all three are well connected with mainland Ireland- as islanders call the rest of their country- the trip is demanding in terms of a mental challenge. The trip made by plane or by ferry still challenges ordinary tourists. I spoke to few locals during my stay on the island and they told me that they are pretty happy about it. What they get as a result is a group of extraordinary tourists.

Who comes to the island?

The major part of visitors come to see Dun Aengus. This famous ancient spot brings hundreds of tourists every year. Islanders have organized everything to make one day trip  possible. Thanks to a well-working system of small buses and bike rentals people who are coming with a ferry at 11:15 are able to see the fort and catch the latest ferry back to the mainland. You might be surprised to what extend the locals have thought about visitors: pensioners don’t neet to use the bus. They can also rent an electric bike! All to make their trip effortless and easy.

Second large group of visitors constitute school trips and guided tours. They visit Ireland starting with Dublin and eventually they come to see the famous cliffs. In Dun Aengus I met an Italian school trip from a secondary school in Modena. They had a school exchange programme and stayed in Galway. For one day they came to see the famous fort.

And there is a group of individual tourists, who come because they have always dreamt about it or they like it so much that they come every year. Some of the retired visitors decide to spend here the rest of their life, enjoying advantages of being a pensionate. While staying on the island only for a week I met Australians, Americans, French, Dutch, Germans and Italians, of all ages. Just like one of the interviewee of Nicolas Bouvier said: when I was young I travelled the world and now when I am old the world comes to me.

Locals are always smiled

Locals are always smiled

Mairtin from Man of Aran Tours

Mairtin from Man of Aran Tours

What they do on the island?

Inishmore is a perfect place for active people. You can walk around and ride a bike all day long. Take trekking shoes with you as some of the paths are rocky. Before I came to the island I thought I was fit however riding a bike against strong and unstable wind was exhaustive. I thought I will never make it! A nice old lady crossed my path on her electric bike making me feel even worse. When cycling I also met a guy who was riding in the opposite direction- with the wind- and he only shouted: “Don’t worry! It’ll be great on your way baaaack….” and he was gone, taken by the strong wind. I was still racing against the wind, red face and no breath. And- as you might expected- on my way back the direction of the wind suddenly change so both rides were against the wind. At least the way back was downhill which was pretty cool.

Bike ride

Bike ride is a good idea…when the day is not windy

Trekking around is excellent idea. There are no high peaks, of course, but the cliffs are considerable high. If you think this island has between 3-4km of width, one side is at the see level and the other is around 50-70 meters high, then you will get the picture of the downgrade. There are many paths to walk and all interesting spots are located on the high part of the island.

Pony and trap tour seams to be a main attraction for families with children. Everyday, regardless the weather, a group of locals wait with their ponies at the pier, so the tourists getting off the ferry just bump into them. The group of the ponies’ owners is extraordinary: all of them speak Irish, they know their island well and enjoy telling the stories. Mairtin (see the picture above) was extremely helpful in my research of people who might remembered Nicolas Bouvier. Some of the pony and trap reminded me Gandalf and his coach.

Pony and trap

Pony and trap going towards Dun Aengus

Gandalf like pony and trap

Gandalf like pony and trap

It was hard to believe but there are also people who actually come for a windsurf. I know it seams to be cold but they say that the waves are gorgeous. I met John on my way to the island and he does it every couple of weeks for last eleven years. He said he was the first one who did it so meet the local trendsetter (on the picture below).

John the windsurfer

John the windsurfer

How about pubs and restaurants? Live music? In my next post, of course.

About the author

I get easily fascinated with people and places. I am passionately curious. I get often seduced with the beauty of nature. Blue sky, pure water, white snow and endless horizon seams to be enough to make me happy.

View all articles by Agata Mleczko

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