Arranmore Island guide: when to visit, what to see, and things to know

Nestled off the west coast of County Donegal is the beautiful and idyllic island of Arranmore – one of Ireland’s best-kept secrets. Here is everything you need to know about this magical place with our Arranmore Island guide.

As Ireland’s second-largest inhabited island, Arranmore Island is a picture-perfect place worth exploring. Often overlooked by people who travel throughout the beautiful county of Donegal, this tranquil escape should not be missed!

Just 5 km (3 miles) off the west coast of Donegal is this haven. Home to just under 500 people, the islanders are proud to call Arranmore home.

Situated in a Gaeltacht (Irish speaking) area, this is a true Irish island experience. This wild and rugged place has incredible cliff views, wild and dramatic seas, and stunning golden beaches.

This magnificent island has been inhabited since pre-Celtic times; however, the population has decreased significantly over the years.

Most of the population left Arranmore due to eviction and because of the effects of the famine during the mid-19th-century.

When to visit – according to crowds and weather

When to visit Arranmore Island.
Credit: Tourism Ireland

During the summer months, the island’s population more than doubles in size due to the large numbers of holiday homes and the Irish-language students who come here to improve their Irish.

However, the island has so much space that it won’t feel crowded. If anything, it adds to the buzz of the place.

Ferry services to and from the island are more regular during the summer months (operating hourly), whereas during the winter months, they are less frequent.

Although more infrequent, the ferry services continue to operate multiple times a day during the winter.

What to see – explore the island on foot

Explore Arranmore Island on foot.
Credit: Fáilte Ireland

One of the best ways to explore Arranmore Island is either on foot or by bike. Follow the signs for Slí Arainn Mhór, which starts and ends at the ferry port.

The loop is 14 km in length and has spectacular views in all directions. However, it is particularly beautiful on the wild and uninhabited western side!

Head to Arranmore Lighthouse, which is a stunning white-washed lighthouse that looks out across the Atlantic Ocean. The lighthouse was used as a World War II post and helped to look out for U-boats.

The surrounding area and views make for a perfect place to stop and have a picnic.

If you’re feeling brave, climb the 151 gravity-defying steps that lead from the lighthouse down to the sea below. This route was originally built so goods could be easily transported to the lighthouse keeper. This makes for the ultimate adventure photograph.

Explore the sea caves below.
Credit: Tourism Ireland

Surrounded by crystal-clear waters, Arranmore is home to phenomenal water activities. Discover the abundant sea life in breathtaking dive locations with Dive Arranmore Charters.

Or discover the many caves, coves, and mesmerising rock formations from a kayak with Cumann na mBád.

Admire the abundant sea creatures and beautiful coastal landscape with a sea safari with Dive Arranmore Charters. You will have the opportunity to see some seals, dolphins, and basking sharks. Enjoy the wealth of history from the experienced and local guides.

Things to know – insider information

Things to know about visiting Arranmore Island.
Credit: Tourism Ireland

You can bring your car with you to explore the beautiful island of Arranmore. Hop on either of the two ferry services that depart from Burtonport on the mainland of County Donegal.

Be sure to book this in advance as each crossing can only accommodate six cars. The ferry takes between 15 and 20 minutes.

While most of the residents of Arranmore speak Irish as their first language, they are also fluent in English. However, they are more than happy to speak in Irish to those hoping to improve their Gaeilge.

Where to stay – cosy accommodation

Killeens of Arranmore is a great place to stay.
Credit: Facebook / @KilleensOfArranmore

Arranmore Hostel is the perfect place for a group of friends to base themselves while exploring the island. With dormitories, family rooms, and double rooms, there is something for everyone.

It also offers a communal kitchen, a day room, and a BBQ area with phenomenal views!

Killeens of Arranmore is a family-run hotel that overlooks the magnificent beach and bay of Aphort on the south of the island. With superior views of the Atlantic Ocean, turf fires, and traditional Irish music sessions in their bar, this place is a hit with everyone.

Experience Arranmore Island from a stunning wooden glamping pod with Arranmore Island Pods. With hammocks, fire pits, and BBQ facilities available, this truly is a perfect escape.

Where to eat – tasty food

Grab a bite to eat at Early's Pub.
Credit: Facebook / @EarlysBarArranmore

Steeped in history and renowned for the craic, Early’s Bar is the best place for enjoying a pint of Guinness on the island. Combine the charm of this traditional Irish pub with their stone-baked pizzas, and you are in for a treat!

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