Take a ferry to Arranmore and discover this unspoiled island. The trip to the island affords spectacular views, passing a number of small islands before crossing a stretch of open Atlantic water.
Lovely walks include the spectacular cliff scenery on the island. Bealach Na Gaeltachta the national way marked way includes a loop around the island. There are regular traditional music sessions and the annual festival is held in August. Crafts available include Aran knitwear.
The permanent population is 528, but this rises to well over 1,000during the summer months. A large proportion of the housing stock are holiday homes, with both native islanders and their descendants, as well as non locals being attracted to the beauty of the island.
Most of the population lives along the southern and (comparatively sheltered) eastern coast. It has been settled since pre-Celtic times, and the few remaining signs of early settlement include apromontory fort to the south of the island and shell middens dotted along the beaches. Its position near the Atlantic shipping lanes was exploited, with a coastguard station and a lighthouse positioned on the most north-westerly point, and a World War 2 monitoring post set up to look out for U-Boats.
The island is home to Ireland’s only island-based football team, and formerly Donegal’s only non-inshore lifeboat service. The Arranmore station, with its Severn class lifeboat, remains the best equipped in the county.
For a visitor, the island has a character distinct from Donegal, partly through its separation from the mainland and partly through its diaspora outside Ireland. The island, in common with many communities at the edge of Europe, has shed people to many parts of the English-speaking world. These are not lost, however, and many return for the summer school holidays, doubling the resident population. The influx of young people during the summer gives rise to an active youth culture.
The result is that a visitor is not conscious of being in the Gaeltacht and football – soccer – is preferred to GAA sports. The island hosts the Arranmore Challenge, an annual soccer competition every June bank holiday weekend where 16 teams compete over 2 days. The competition has increased in popularity every year since it was introduced in 2001 and hosts teams from all over Ireland and Great Britain.