Inis Oirr, County Galway

Inis Oírr

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Last Updated : 3 February 2023

Inis Oirr, County Galway

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Inis Oírr is the smallest and most easterly of the three Aran Islands off the coast of County Galway, Ireland. The island has a rich history dating back to the time of Saint Enda in the 5th century and beyond. Today, Inis Oírr is a popular holiday destination for travellers from all over the world especially the USA and the UK.

The island has something for everyone; stunning landscapes, traditional Irish pubs, local culture, the Irish language and more. So if you’re looking for a place to relax, unwind and enjoy some Irish hospitality, Inis Oírr is the perfect destination for you.


Inis Oírr – The Smallest of the Aran Islands

Located to the south-west of Galway City, Inis Oírr (Inisheer in English) is the smallest of the three Aran Islands off the western coast of Ireland. The islands, officially in county Galway, are in fact much closer to the Clare coast, Doolin and the Cliffs of Moher. It may be known for its small size, but this island certainly packs a punch – with stunning views of wild cliffs and the crystal-clear sea, as well as green rolling hills, strewn with ancient stone walls.

Visitors have flocked here for centuries for the unique cultural heritage, ancient Celtic roots and iconic religious sites. Whether you are looking for a unique experience exploring nature and history, or something different from your Irish holiday, Inis Oírr is sure to deliver!

The History of Inis Oírr

The island of Ireland has a long and varied history, stretching back to Neolithic times, with evidence of an extensive human presence on the island for over 5,000 years. Part of the Kingdom of Connacht since the 12th century, it has famously given rise to some of Ireland’s legendary customs and folklore. Historically seen as a meeting point for Gaelic people, Norsemen and Norman settlers alike, this small island on the edge of Europe has seen many cultures come together, forming a distinct identity. Throughout much of its long and vibrant history it has been home to many intrepid adventurers. Let’s look at some of the island’s historic landmarks…

The Sunken Church of Inis Oírr

Teampall Caomhán, also known as St. Caomhán’s church or St. Cavan in English, is a 10th century ruin located opposite the airstrip in the Inis Oirr graveyard. Popularly referred to as the ‘Sunken Church’, it is one of the best preserved examples in Ireland and easily accessible to visitors, but the chancel is the only part of the building that can be seen today.

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O’Brien’s Castle

O’Brien’s Castle, located on the high point of the island, dates back to the 14th century. The castle was besieged by the O’Flahertys of Connemara in 1582 who were driven west by the Norman conquest but fought fiercely for their local influence. Years later it was taken again by English Cromwellian forces and partially destroyed in favour of other strongholds and ring forts on Inis Mór. Today visitors taking the ferry from Doolin see this magnificent ruin first, overlooking the beaches and pier below, when they arrive.

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The Plassey Shipwreck

The celebrated Plassey shipwreck is renowned all over the globe. She appears at the beginning of the famous comedy show, Father Ted and is an absolute must-see for travellers to this, the smallest of the three Aran Islands. Since March 1960, this unexpected arrival has become an essential member of the community on Inis Oírr.

The Plassey Shipwreck is a highlight of every Wanderly Wagon Tour.

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Inis Oírr & the Irish Language

The Aran Islands, and Inis Oírr in particular, is very much a Gaeltacht region, meaning that the first language of the local population is the Irish language (Gaeilge). But don’t worry holiday makers, although everyday conversation between the locals is in Irish, (almost) everyone can speak English. The Islanders are extremely proud of their living language and its heritage, and very much welcome visitors with an interest in learning or practising their Irish. Student Summer Courses offering opportunities to learn or practise Gaeilge are run during June, July, or August each year.

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Inis Oírr – An Island of Culture

Inis Oírr is a vibrant and musical island, where cultural traditions come alive each year through its many music festivals and other events. Attending one of these acclaimed events is an unforgettable experience that brings local communities together in a celebration of music and culture. Listening to traditional Irish music fills audiences with joy as they tap their feet to the rhythm. And while each festival offers something unique to culture lovers, all share a common bond – an appreciation for musical artistry and strong community spirit.

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More Activities on the Aran Islands

Visitors can enjoy hiking, biking, fishing, and swimming while on Inis Oírr, and much more. Inis Oírr is the perfect place for an active vacation. Visitors to the island can explore the stunning scenery and abundant wildlife on foot, through a network of trails. But of course Wanderly Wagon is the best way to see Inis Oírr !!

There are also plenty of spots for fishing, both from shore or a boat, where anglers can catch a variety of fish, but if you just want to take a dip in the salty waters around the island, go ahead ! Alternatively, pack your wetsuit and enjoy some surfing waves too. With all these activities available on Inis Oírr, it’s no wonder it has become such a popular holiday destination!

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Inis Oírr is an incredible place like no other. It’s a place with a deep cultural and historical tradition going back thousands of years, which can be felt everywhere you go. This uniqueness is bolstered by the friendly locals speaking Irish, and a festive spirit that comes alive around a traditional music festival. If you’re looking for a heavy dose of relaxation or some quiet enjoyment in nature, Inis Oírr should be at the top of your list!

There are endless activities and exploration opportunities to keep anyone busy, there’s something to delight any adventurer. So don’t wait, book a tour with Wanderly Wagon, conquer Inis Oírr and make lasting memories that will stay with you forever. And if you do decide to take the trip out there – enjoy every moment!