I visited the Aran Islands while I was in college and loved them. Since our wedding is taking place so close to Galway, I thought some guests might be interested in checking them out. The Aran Islands are a group of three islands-Inis Mor (Big Island), Inis Mean (middle island) and Inis Oir (east island)-located 30 miles off the coast of Galway at the mouth of Galway Bay. These rugged, windswept islands are physically strange and starkly beautiful. The 1500 islanders who live there mostly make their living from farming and fishing. Being a foothold of Irish culture, Gaelic is the first language spoken there, though everyone speaks English as well. These islands were first populated around 3000 BC and many bronze and iron age wedge tombs and stone forts can be explored here. The most famous archaeological site you can visit is Dun Aoenghasa, which is located on Inis Mor. This iron age fort is located on the edge of a cliff, 300 feet above the sea.
There are several ways to get to these islands. Aran Island Ferries leave from Rossaveal, which is 20 miles west of Galway city. There are shuttle buses which leave the city center 1 hour prior to the time the ferries set sail. The journey over by ferry takes about 1 hour. Aran Island Direct is another ferry company which is actually owned by Aran Islanders. Their ferries are the only ones which are outfitted with electronic stabilizers, which help to ensure a smooth crossing. They set sail from Rossaveal daily as well. For those who don’t like boat trips, Aer Arann Islands offers flights from Connemara airport, which is located 18 miles west of Galway city. There are shuttle buses to the airport from the city centre. This is the fastest way to get there for those who don’t mind traveling on little baby “plane-lets” (they are 9 seaters). If you happen to be staying in Doolin, there are a couple of ferry companies which operate from this port-Aran Doolin Ferrries and Doolin Ferries. The trip is quicker from Doolin, however these crossings are often cancelled due to the weather. Crossing times are also somewhat limited, so it may work out better if you plan to spend the night on the islands.
One final tip, make sure you have plenty of cash with you prior to leaving the mainland. As far as I know, most businesses do not accept credit cards and there are no ATMs on the islands.