A Guide to Irish Islands to Explore This Summer

Ireland is an island of just over 5 million people with about 80 islands of considerable size surrounding the mainland. Of these 80 islands, about 20 are inhabited. And so with the summer approaching, we've compiled this guide to Ireland's islands to encourage you to consider exploring a little closer to home.


1: Dursey Island:


Starting off our island adventure with a thrill, Dursey Island is not just another island—it’s a journey. Located at the southwestern tip of the Beara Peninsula in County Cork, Dursey is accessible via Ireland’s only cable car, and yes, it's as exciting as it sounds! The cable car itself is a unique experience, offering stunning views over the Atlantic. Once on the 6.5km-by-1.5km wide island, you'll find a haven of tranquillity, as there are no shops, pubs, or restaurants. It's ideal for bird watchers and anyone looking to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life.



2: Fall Island:


Fall Island, situated within the picturesque region of The Rosses in County Donegal, offers a secluded escape for nature and outdoor lovers. This private island, nestled in the Atlantic, can be accessed by a short boat ride, promising an intimate encounter with Ireland's wild coastal beauty. Ideal for a day trip, Fall Island is perfect if you're looking to indulge in birdwatching, or simply unwind amidst the tranquil surroundings. The lack of commercial development enhances its appeal, making it a perfect spot for adventurers seeking serenity away from the bustling tourist paths.



3: Inch Island:


Connected to the mainland by a causeway in Lough Swilly, Inch Island in Donegal offers an easily accessible escape with panoramic views and a wealth of bird life. It's an excellent location for walking and wildlife photography. The island features a circular loop drive, which allows you to enjoy its beauty from the comfort of your car or on foot.




4: Cape Clear Island:


As Ireland’s southernmost inhabited island, Cape Clear (or Oileán Chléire) is a scenic gem in the wild Atlantic and a 45-minute ferry ride from Baltimore or Schull, County Cork. The island is a Gaeltacht area, meaning Irish is the spoken language here with a population of 110 according to the 2022 Census. If you love hiking, bird watching, and listening to stories of the rich history of Cape Clear, you’ll love this island.



5: Inisheer (Inis Oírr):


Inisheer, the smallest of the Aran Islands, is like stepping back in time with its ancient architecture. You can explore the 3km-by-3km wide island by bike or on foot, making it a fantastic day trip. The wreck of the Plassey, famously featured in the opening credits of “Father Ted,” is also a must-see along with St. Kevin's sunken church.



6: Inishmore (Árainn Mhór):


The largest of the Aran Islands, Inishmore is a canvas of Irish culture,  with Dún Aonghasa,  a fortified ring fort believed to be over 3,000 years old, one of the most popular attractions. If you visit the island, you can walk or cycle between lots of sights such as Kilmurvey Blue Flag Beach, The Seven Churches and Inishmore Seal Colony.



7: Inishbofin:


Off the coast of Connemara, Inishbofin has become a popular destination if you’re seeking beauty and adventure in equal measure. Known for its lovely beaches, scenic walking trails, and the remnants of a Cromwellian fort, the 12km² island offers a peaceful yet adventurous getaway. It's a designated “Special Area of Conservation,” since 1997 protecting corncrake birds, dry and wet heath and grey seals. When you go to the island there are no trees or forests and this is because previous generations cut down trees to use as heating fuel. And because of the salt-enriched air, trees were never able to re-establish themselves.




8: Great Blasket Island:


Once inhabited, this deserted island offers an evocative escape into Ireland’s past. Great Blasket provides incredible views and has a magical atmosphere that’s steeped in history and folklore. A boat ride from Dunquin Pier will take you to the island. You can explore the old village ruins, hike its rugged trails, or explore the island by sea safari with a tour of the caves and coves with stunning views of the Dingle coastline.




9: Omey Island:


A small tidal island located near Claddaghduff on the western edge of Connemara, Omey Island is reachable by foot or by car, but only at low tide. The island is rich in archaeological sites, including the ruins of St. Feichin’s church. If you’re visiting Connemara, you need to visit because it's a fascinating day trip that combines the pleasures of a simple walk with the thrill of racing the tide.




10: Great Island:


One of the most popular questions asked about islands off the coast if Ireland is “ What is the most populated island in Ireland? With a population of between 12,000 – 14,000, Great Island in Cork Harbour is the most populated island in Ireland. The island is connected to Fota Island by a 200-year-old road bridge and Fota Island is connected to the mainland via a causeway. In 2017, Great Island was Ireland's only designated berth for visiting cruise ships.




11: Fota Island:

Fota Island is a scenic island located in Cork Harbour, as mentioned above. It's known for its rich history, natural beauty, and several popular attractions that draw visitors from all around. One of the most notable attractions on Fota Island is Fota Wildlife Park. This park is renowned for its free-roaming animals and conservation efforts. The island is also home to Fota House and Gardens. The gardens surrounding the house are well-known for their structural planting and the tranquil atmosphere, which includes a notable arboretum with rare and exotic trees. You'll find Fota Island Resort, on the island, which includes a luxury hotel, a spa, and a championship golf course that has hosted prestigious tournaments.



12: Achill Island:


You might wonder, “What is the largest island off the coast of Ireland?” Achill Island is the largest island off the coast of Ireland at 148km² and arguably one of the most popular islands in Ireland with so many things to do, like kitesurfing and sauna. The island is connected to the mainland via a bridge at Achill Sound. With over 128km of coastline, you’re sure to find a spot on a beach to enjoy the views that stretch across into Clare Island on a clear day. 



This summer, before you book a holiday to another European island, let Ireland’s islands captivate your heart with their stories, landscapes, and the warmth of our culture. Whether you decide it's a day trip or a longer stay, the islands around Ireland offer a world away from the ordinary, just a short journey from home.


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