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10 of the most beautiful Irish islands to visit

10 of the most beautiful Irish islands to visit

Ireland, an island itself, is surrounded by hundreds of islands varying in size. However, only a fraction are inhabited. Packed with history, wildlife watching opportunities, stunning scenery, sandy beaches, friendly Irish speaking locals and traditional Irish food. The islands around Ireland’s coast are perfect for getting away from it all. So here’s 10 of the most beautiful Irish islands to visit:

1. Achill Island, County Mayo

Home to blue flag beaches, towering sea cliffs and breath-taking scenery, Achill Island is the largest of the Irish Isles. Connected to the mainland by a bridge, the island is easily accessible for a day trip or longer, if you fancy. The mountains of Croaghaun and Slievemore are perfect for keen hikers and provide stunning views from atop the peaks. Carrickkildavnet Castle – a fortified tower house and National Monument, and Keem Bay – one of the most beautiful Irish beaches, are also located on Achill Island.

 

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2.Clare Island, County Mayo

Located just six kilometres off the mainland, Clare Island has a population of around 150 people. With a varied terrain, this beautiful Irish island features spectacular sea cliffs, hills, bogs and woodland, making it extremely popular with outdoor enthusiasts. In addition, the island is home to historical landmarks, such as Clare Island Abbey; a former Cistercian monastery, Granuaile’s Castle; one of the strongholds of the 15th century pirate queen Grace O’Malley, and the Clare Island Lighthouse. The island has tourist accommodation and is accessible by daily ferry services from Roonagh.

3. Sherkin Island, County Cork

3 miles long by 1.5 miles wide, many visitors go to Sherkin Island for lush walking trails, sandy beaches, wildlife watching and impressive scenery. Explore the many archaeological ruins, including the Franciscan Friary; a 15th century abbey, and the remains of Dun na Long Castle. Despite a population of only 100, the island boasts many tourist amenities, including two pubs and accommodation options. One of the most accessible islands in Ireland, it is served year-round by a 10-minute ferry service from Baltimore.

 

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4. Cape Clear Island, County Cork

Situated off the south-west coast of County Cork, Cape Clear Island is the southernmost inhabited part of Ireland. Only 3 miles long by 1 mile wide, the tiny Irish island has a population of around 150 people. There are many interesting ruins and monuments on the island, including megalithic standing stones, a 12th century church and the 14th century O’Driscoll castle. A wildlife watchers paradise: seals, basking sharks and dolphins are often spotted in the waters here, as well as many migratory sea birds. You can travel to the island by boat, from either Baltimore or Schull.

5. Skellig Michael, County Kerry

Famous after being featured in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Skellig Michael is located 12 kilometres off the coast of Kerry. Home to a monastic settlement, dating from the 6th century, it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, accessible only by boat. As a result of its protected status, only 180 people are allowed on the island each day. You can reach the island by booking an island tour departing from Portmagee. Book your tickets well in advance as it is very popular.

 

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6. Aran Islands, County Galway

The Aran Islands are a group of three islands (Inishmore, Inishmaan, Inisheer) located at the mouth of Galway Bay. The islands are full of tradition and culture, and you’ll find historic monuments, ancient ruins and sacred sites on all three islands. Inishmore, the largest island, is home to Dun Aonghasa, an impressive archaeological site and National Monument with structures dating to the Bronze Age. There are various ways to get to the islands, but the most popular is via ferry, which departs daily from Rossaveal.

 

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7. Blasket Islands, County Kerry

The Blasket Islands are a group of six rugged islands, situated off the west coast of Ireland. Now uninhabited, the last of the islanders were evacuated in 1953 due to harsh living conditions. Today, it is possible to visit the largest island in the archipelago, Great Blasket, on a day trip. The waters surrounding the island are teeming with wildlife, including basking sharks, dolphins, minke whales and seals. There are regular ferry services to Great Blasket Island from Dunquin during the summer months.

8. Arranmore, County Donegal

Arranmore is the largest inhabited island of County Donegal. Found on the Wild Atlantic Way touring route, the island is known for its picturesque villages, music festivals, friendly Irish speaking locals and spectacular views. The clear waters surrounding the island provide perfect conditions for many water sports, including diving, kayaking, sea angling and sailing. On dry land, walking, cycling and rock climbing are among the most popular activities. Visitors can access the island via a ferry service from the village of Burtonport.

 

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9. Inishbofin, County Galway

A small island off the coast of Connemara, Inishbofin has around 180 inhabitants. Home to impressive landmarks, monastic sites and archaeological ruins, such as the 17th century Cromwell Barracks. In addition, visitors to the island can uncover the island’s rich history at the Inishbofin Heritage Museum. Beautiful coastline, featuring white, sandy beaches and clear waters provide ideal conditions for swimming, snorkelling and water sports. There is a ferry service to the island from Cleggan.

10. Saltee Islands, County Wexford

The Saltee Islands are a pair of tiny islands covering an area of 1.2 square kilometres combined. The uninhabited islands, named Great Saltee and Little Saltee, are a protected habitat as they are a haven for sea birds and other wildlife. Great Saltee is popular with day trippers and is accessible by ferry from Kilmore Quay Harbour. There are no facilities on the island so remember to pack food and water.

 

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