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See the Aran Islands off the coast of Ireland for rugged beauty

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The Aran Islands were originally inhabited in the 5th century when St. Edna is said to have brought Christianity to these isolated islands. Sitting outside of Galway Bay, these islands get the brunt of Mother Nature’s Atlantic weather, but the inhabitants wouldn’t trade it for anything. The islands are actually an extension of the Burren, that vast limestone landscape you've seen if you hiked the Cliffs of Moher Coastal Walk.

Ferry boats take you from Doolin, Galway or Rossaveal to the three islands:

· Inisheer – the smallest and closest to Doolin

· Inishmaan – the center and medium sized island

· Inishmore – the largest and western most island

If you’re pressed for time, Inisheer is the quickest to get to and the easiest to get around. You’ll find bike rentals and jaunting cars available for hire. A jaunting car is actually a pony-drawn carriage with a driver guide who’ll give you the history of the island and show you its highlights.

[For more photos of the Aran Islands, click here]

You’ll be struck by the beauty of all the stone walls – which were built of necessity, since farmers needed to get rid of all the stones to create a grazing area for their livestock. Stones were gathered as the fields were cleared and the simplest thing to do with them was to stack them around the perimeter creating the walls that are still there centuries later.

After a one-hour jaunting car ride, you’ll still have time to wander and see the fort atop the hill as well as catch a cold one from the pub just above the harbor. You’ll see the ferry coming when its time to return to the mainland.

If you have more time, check another island or if you want to make a day of it, check out Inishmore with its larger cities, monastic settlements, forts and 12th century church.

Heading back to the mainland, we’re off to the Ring of Kerry next.

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Click here for the index of all Wild Atlantic Way articles in this series

Previous article in the Wild Atlantic Way series: Doolin and the Mammoth stalagtites

Next article in the Wild Atlantic Way series: Ring of Kerry

Why travel the Wild Atlantic Way? [Infographic]

Doug Bardwell, based in Cleveland, OH, writes about travel destinations, photography and tech topics across the country and around the world at DougBardwell.com. Feel free to drop him a line at travel.dougbardwell@gmail.com with suggestions for future stories. To get his stories delivered to your inbox, click the RSS feed or the "Subscribe" button above or follow him on Facebook , Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. To read Doug’s disclosure notice, click here. For travel ideas in Cleveland and around the world, check his Calendar of Events. To see his travel photo collection, see BardwellPhotography.com.

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