Riding the remote island of Inis Oirr

Ryan Duggins | Live the World

November 23, 2022

For many of our visitors here, the trend is to fit in as many excursions as possible during the rare vacation to Ireland. From the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare to the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, the schedule will drag groups to all corners to take everything the country has to offer within that short space of time. I can understand then, that advising a trip to include 24 hours on a remote island off the coast, would be a tough proposition to accept. However, the Arran Islands in County Galway are an exceptional experience, and it’s the first one, Inis Oirr, where we’ll be spending the night.

© istock/LindaMarieCaldwell

Inis Oirr, pronounced Inisheer, sits just off the coast of County Clare, but is accessible via ferry from Clare or Galway. The island hosts around 250 residents and is the icon of preserved rural Ireland. As you sail into the Island, what’s remarkable is how flat the terrain is, as you can almost see right across the island to the other side, with green fields washing across the Isle. You can also see the paths lined with boulders, as if the Vikings had just landed and decided to start piling stones on top of each other to form walls. This is not a place where traffic lights would ever be needed.

© istock/lisandrotrarbach

You can visit for the day, but the most relaxing time is spent across a night, where you can adventure through the Island on bike whilst the sun is out, and settle into the evening to the backdrop of music and the sound of the sea. Hotel Inis Oirr sits a small walk from the shore, and is the beating pulse of the island, with hearty food, boutique guest rooms and live music. Dropping the bags off here upon arrival would be advised before a walk to the beach where Rothai Inis Oirr will lend you a bike to see the island in full.  

As the island has been so well preserved, the real treat is in the landscape and natural artifacts. You can count the roads on one-hand here, so it is very difficult to get lost on the cycle, which gives you real freedom to enjoy the ride. The lack of coverage allows an invigorating wind rush that can only lift the spirits as you meander through the paths. There are two monuments to dot-out on the map to see, with the first down at the south of the Island in Gorteenaguinell. The Inis Oirr Lighthouse pokes through the skyline like the only flower that survived a drought, with the path leading you right to the front door. After a few photos, we turn around and head to what must be Ireland’s only ghost ship.

In 1960, The MV Plassy, a large cargo ship carrying whiskey and stained glass, was sailing through Galway Bay during a stormy west coast night when a storm forced the ship to crash into a rock near the island, turning this quiet place into a frenzy of panic. Locals rushed out to rescue the entire crew, with a second storm forcing the ship up to shore a few weeks later where it was never removed. 60 years later, that very same ship is now a rusted giant, with colourful flowers sprouting through its' retired body. There is no barrier to the ship, so you can walk right up to the looming wreckage and touch the skin of the vessel. The face of the ship arcs into the sky, presenting an almost haunting feel to this washed-up cargo carrier. We leave the shore to return the bikes and also pick up a coffee from Man Of Arran Fudge that offers up a nice flat white as well as a few decent sweets.

The last ferry leaves these shores around 6pm, and it’s when that ferry leaves that sparks a real warmth to the isle. The bars of Tigh Ruairi and Hotel Inis Oirr will both be filled mostly by the tourists who decided to stay and would cuddle around the tables listening to acoustic music, knowing that everyone is staying here for the night. If what you are coming to Ireland for is a breath of fresh air from the busy city life you are leading currently, or maybe just a spot of country living to give you a boost, then a trip to the island of Inis Oirr is a must.

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