Island Hopping in Ireland – The Ultimate Guide
Who says you need Greece to have an island hopping holiday this summer ? The Irish coastline is home to hidden gems and breath-taking locations that will tick every box on your holiday checklist, and the good news is you don’t have to travel too far to find one: No matter where you are starting your road trips from this list will give you the ultimate island hopping experience around Ireland with the best routes and roads to follow to get you there so you will never miss a moment of the beauty and charm of our beautiful coastline.
Stop Number 1: Saltee Islands, County Wexford
The first stop on this tour is to the Sunny South East in county Wexford, where you can visit the stunning Saltee Islands. While there is no camping or accommodation on this island, it promises to be the perfect day out for everyone, with its unspoiled land, magnificent sea views and abundance of nature, including the seasonal puffins who migrate to the island and the friendly seals who can be regularly spotted swimming close to the land. The Saltee’s are the perfect start to your island hopping adventure as they encompass the beauty and nature of Irelands islands, with regular boat trips from the mainland town of Kilmore Quay and at the end of the day you can treat yourself to the famous little Saltee’s take away for dinner!
Stop Number 2: Bere Island, County Cork
Once you leave Wexford you have a four hour drive ahead of you for your next island, but the good news is that you can take in the beautiful coastline and popular tourist spots like Dungarvan or Cobh along the way! The Beara Peninsula has been an extremely popular tourist spot in recent years, with additions like the Dursey cable cars and the Beara Brefine cycling way making this the perfect holiday spot for all ages and groups. Most striking of all is, of course, Bere Island, which is located in Bantry Bay and can be accessed by ferry route twice a day. This island is home to a large community who take pride in their island and try to protect it as much as possible. On the island you will find glamping, B&B’s and self-catering homes and a huge range of activities on offer including fishing, swimming, cycling and sea safaris. This magnificent location is a feast for the eyes and is the perfect spot for your holiday needs this summer!
Stop Number 3: Blasket Islands, Kerry
Next stop on your tour will be the Blasket Islands located just off of Dingle and surrounded by some of the most famous locations in Ireland including Dunquinn, the gap of Dunloe and Conor’s Pass. This island is a two hour drive from Bere and is an unspoiled haven, that is largely uninhabited, but offers accommodation options and boasts a long history of famous Irish writers and literature. There are boat tours to and around the island as well as self-catering cottages available for rental, but the splendour of this island is that you will be transported back to a much simpler way of life, with little to no electricity or phone signal, and an abundance of time to enjoy the flora and fauna of the isle and escape life’s daily distractions.
Stop Number 4: The Aran Islands
Would an island hopping tour of Ireland be complete without a trip to the Aran islands? Our three famous isles are the perfect stop on this trip as they offer everything you could need- culture, food, accommodation, events, and constant ferry hopping.
Inis Mor is the largest of the three islands and has the largest population, with opportunities for glamping, bike hire, diving, and traditional Irish music sessions most nights of the week. There is a ferry from Galway several times a day and this island has something for the whole family, whether it is diverse restaurants, festivals, or activities. Inishmore is also famous for being the most westerly point in all of Europe, a factor many people travel to the islands for.
Inis Oirr is the smallest of the three islands and is a walkers paradise, with unspoiled nature and spectacular views everywhere you look. Once you reach the island there are opportunities to rent a horse and trap for an old, authentic Irish experience, and you can settle into the Irish fishing village which offers a unique atmosphere!
Inis Meain is the least visited of the three islands but has an abundance of attractive highlights that make it stand out from the rest. This island is becoming well known for its diving exploits, with opportunities to learn diving skills as part of your visit, and locals have started up poetry and Irish dance courses so visitors can become immersed in the culture of the island. This island also offers exceptional views of the Cliffs of Moher!
Stop Number 5: Achill Island
Once you have had your fun on the Aran islands you will take a two and a half hour drive up to Achill Island in Mayo. On this drive you will take in Westport house and Clifden, before landing in beautiful county Mayo. Achill island is unique because it can be accessed by bridge, which was built in 1887. This island is the largest of all the Irish isles and has a large population, with a wealth of accommodation options available to visitors. Due to its size and larger population, this island will have more attractions and activities than any of the others on this whirlwind tour. You can do a guided tour of the ‘deserted village’, visit galleries, and enjoy cycling and walking trails designated for exploring the island. This island will be unique in your travels as you experience an island that has been inhabited and developed by locals over the years to become an important part of the mainland community
Stop Number 6: Innisfree
The final stop on your great Irish Island hopping tour is Innisfree in county Donegal. This magical island is most famous for being the subject of W.B Yeats poem ‘Lake Isle of Innisfree’ and it is easy to see why he was so taken by it! Located on a lake this island can be accessed by boat or bridge and is largely uninhabited, but does offer accommodation options to visitors. The untouched nature and remarkable views from this inspiring island will be the perfect, tranquil end to your busy road trip and while walking trails are available, we recommend taking this time to relax and admire the beauty Ireland has to offer.