• Inishmore

Aran Islands

Strewn like limestone chips hammered off the jagged west coast, the three Aran Islands — Inishmore, Inishmaan, and Inisheer — confront the wild Atlantic with stubborn grit. There's a stark beauty about the Aran Islands and the simple lives their inhabitants eke out of a mean sea and less than six inches of topsoil. Craggy, vertical cliffs fortify the southern flanks of each island. Windswept rocky fields, stitched together by stone walls, blanket the interiors. And the island's precious few sandy beaches hide in coves that dimple the northern shores. The vast majority of the islands' visitors make a day trip to Inishmore (the biggest of the islands), where they take a minivan tour to Dun Aengus (the must-see Iron Age fort), grab a simple lunch, then spend an hour or two browsing through the few shops or sitting at a picnic table outside a pub with a pint of Guinness.