Are you considering a move to Arranmore Island?
Arranmore Island, the largest inhabited island in the region and part of the Donegal Gaeltacht, has a rich history of fishing dating back to pre-Celtic times.
It’s a captivating place with a unique mix of history, culture, and natural beauty, making it a truly enchanting place to call home. Tourism is now its main economy, attracting visitors from all over during the summer.
This guide gives you essential information about Arranmore Island and its pros and cons for living or visiting. You’ll also learn about the island’s neighborhoods, attractions, language, and culture.
Why are people being paid to move to Arranmore?
Arranmore is offering to pay people who want to move there and live in its vacant properties. The initiative, called “Our Living Islands”, aims to revitalize the island’s community and economy, which have been declining for decades.
New residents have the opportunity to receive up to €84,000 for renovating a vacant house on the island.
In 2019, Arranmore launched a campaign to attract remote workers and tourists from the US and Australia, offering amenities such as high-speed internet, a digital hub, a welcoming community, a laid-back lifestyle, and immersion in the Irish language.
The campaign quickly went viral and garnered thousands of responses from interested individuals. Arranmore’s goal is to expand its population and economy by positioning itself as a desirable destination for digital nomads and tourists.
Things to Know About Arranmore
Arranmore Island is an island off the west coast of Donegal, near the Gaeltacht fishing village of Burtonport and close to Donegal Airport.
As of 2022, the population of Arranmore Island is approximately 478 people.
The language used in Arranmore Island is mainly Irish, which is the official language of the island and part of its cultural heritage. Most of the islanders speak Ulster Irish, a dialect of Irish that is influenced by Scottish Gaelic and English.
However, most residents also speak English and are happy to teach visitors some Irish words or phrases.
To reach Arranmore, you need to take a ferry from Burtonport, a coastal town in Northwest Donegal. The ferry can carry both pedestrians and vehicles across the 5km stretch of the Atlantic Ocean to the Arranfery ferry terminal on the island.
Burtonport is about an hour’s drive from Letterkenny and only 25 minutes from the scenic Carrickfinn Airport, which has daily flights from Dublin.
The weather in Arranmore Island is generally cool and rainy throughout the year, with temperatures ranging from approximately 30ºF (-1ºC) to 60ºF (15ºC).
The island has a maritime climate, influenced by the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf Stream, which makes it milder than the mainland.
Advantages of Living in Arranmore
Arranmore Island is known for its close-knit community. The people are friendly, welcoming, and always ready to lend a hand.
The island is renowned for its stunning natural beauty, with beautiful beaches, cliffs, and wildlife. It’s a great place for those who love outdoor activities like hiking, bird watching, and fishing.
Strong Internet Connectivity
The island now has cutting-edge internet, becoming Ireland’s first offshore digital hub. You can work remotely, access online services, and stay connected without sacrificing the island’s charm and tranquility.
Low Crime Rate
Due to its small population and close-knit community, the crime rate on Arranmore Island is relatively low compared to urban areas.
Strong Cultural Heritage
The island has a rich cultural heritage, with a strong emphasis on traditional Irish music, language, and folklore. Residents can immerse themselves in the local culture and participate in various cultural events and festivals.
The island has a primary school and a secondary school, ensuring the basic educational needs of the residents.
If you’re looking for peace and quiet, Arranmore Island is the place to be. The pace of life is slower and more relaxed here.
Disadvantages of Living in Arranmore
While there is a local health center, it may not be equipped to deal with more serious health issues. Residents may need to travel to the mainland for more comprehensive medical care.
Limited Job Opportunities
The island’s economy is primarily based on agriculture, fishing, and tourism. Job opportunities outside these sectors can be limited.
While the island is accessible by ferry, getting around the island can be challenging without a car. Public transportation is limited.
There are fewer amenities on the island compared to the mainland. This includes shopping, dining, and entertainment options.
While the island has schools, the options are limited and they may not offer the same resources or extracurricular activities as larger schools on the mainland.
Although the sense of community can be strong, living on an island can also feel isolating, particularly during the winter months when ferry services may be reduced.
Notable Neighborhoods in Arranmore
Leabgarrow is the island’s main town, where the ferry terminal, the island’s school, shops, pubs, and hotels are located. It’s also home to the island’s digital hub, which offers high-speed internet access and remote working facilities.
Leabgarrow has a sandy beach and a pier, where fishing boats and leisure craft dock.
This is a small village on the northwestern coast of the island, where the Arranmore Lighthouse is situated. The lighthouse was built in 1859 and is still operational, guiding ships along the Donegal coast.
Aphort has a scenic viewpoint overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and the neighboring islands of Inishcoo and Inishkeeragh.
Ballard is a village located on the eastern side of the island, close to Arranmore’s highest point, which stands at 226 meters above sea level.
From Ballard, you can enjoy a panoramic view of the mainland and Mulroy Bay. Notably, it’s also near a historic promontory fort, dating back to pre-Celtic times and ranking among the island’s oldest archaeological sites.
Pollawaddy is a charming village situated on the island’s southern coast, offering a natural harbor that provides shelter for boats.
In Pollawaddy, you’ll discover a rocky beach and a small pier where local fishermen sell their catches. The village is also renowned for its traditional thatched cottages, which are characteristic of rural Ireland.
What to See in the Area
Arranmore Lighthouse is located on the north west tip of the island, making it most accessible by bike. The initial construction of the lighthouse dates back to 1798, making it the first lighthouse in Donegal during that period.
However, it was reconstructed in 1865 and eventually automated in 1982. Additionally, there are fascinating sea caves and sea arches in close proximity to the lighthouse.
Old Lighthouse Steps
The Old Lighthouse steps on Arranmore Island are a distinctive symbol. Carved into the rock, these steps were once essential for the lighthouse crew to reach rescue boats in the waters below.
While they are no longer in use, visitors to Aranmore can still admire these remarkable steps. For the adventurous, walking down them is also an option.
Beaver Island Monument
The Beaver Island monument, found by the narrow road to the Arranmore Lighthouse, commemorates the people of Arranmore Island who suffered greatly during the Irish Potato Famine in the mid-1800s.
The devastating famine led to a decimation of the island’s population, prompting many to flee. A significant number of these displaced individuals found refuge on Beaver Island in Lake Michigan.
Today, the monument serves as a reminder of those forced to leave their homeland and the enduring ties between these two islands.
From the narrow road that leads to the Arranmore Lighthouse, one can catch a glimpse of the magnificent Arranmore Cliffs.
Along the road, there are numerous spots to stop and admire the cliffs, as well as a few benches where one can unwind, soak in the breathtaking scenery, and enjoy a refreshing beverage.
Green Island, off the southwest tip, is a wildlife reserve. Boat trips pass by, but landing is not allowed due to cliffs and lack of a safe cove.
It’s a bird sanctuary for corncrakes, snipes, and seabirds, visible from Arranmore but not open for visits.
What to Do in the Area
Experience the Charm of Old Ireland
Arranmore Island is one of the few places that remain untouched. The trip to the island is worth it just for the incredible views you can experience while driving around.
Although life on Arranmore has adapted to modern times, there are still parts of the island that give you a sense of stepping back in time. So take your time and explore the random stops and beautiful views that the island has to offer.
Walk the Slí Árainn Mhór (Arranmore Island Loop)
County Donegal’s coastal beauty can be fully appreciated on this exceptional 14km island loop. This remote and rugged corner of the Wild Atlantic Way offers an abundance of seascapes and proudly showcases the county’s largest island.
The Slí Árainn Mhór – Arranmore Island Loop, which begins and ends at Arranmore Island’s ferry port, takes approximately five hours to complete. Throughout the loop, the views of the island and coastal scenery are simply superb.
A section of the loop descends and follows the edges of the picturesque Lough Shore. Along the way, there is a memorial that commemorates the island’s connection with Beaver Island.
Additionally, from this loop, you have the opportunity to embark on a 2km spur walk to the island’s remote lighthouse at Binrawros Point.
Relax by Fishing in Arranmore’s Serene Waters
One of the perfect ways to spend a relaxing summer’s day is fishing off the rocks. You can kick back and relax with your fishing rod, and you might even catch dinner!
In the twin lakes, you can catch Brown Trout, and in the biggest lake on the island, you can catch Rainbow Trout. This is one of the very few places in Ireland where rainbow Trout naturally breed.
When sea fishing, it is common to catch Trout, Pollock, and Mackerel.
Give Diving a Shot
If you are in search of more adventurous things to do on Arranmore Island, you should give diving a bash.
Arranmore boasts some of Ireland’s premier diving locations, offering unparalleled underwater experiences.
‘Dive Arranmore’ is a diving center on the island that started in 2012. You can dive with Jim Muldowney, a skilled instructor, and see many marine animals in the water.
Embark on Sea Safaris
One of the most exciting and enjoyable things to do in Arranmore is exploring marine heritage with an exciting sea safari.
You’ll see the harbour of Burtonport, the north and west coasts of Arranmore Island, and the small islands to the east of it. You’ll also learn about the history and culture of the fishing industry and the island communities.
You might spot dolphins, seals, basking sharks, and various birds along the way. A sea safari is a great way to discover the beauty and diversity of Arranmore and its surroundings.
Discover the Thrill of Rock Climbing
All the rock climbing documented on Arranmore is located exclusively along the breathtaking west coast of the island. This coast can be conveniently categorized into two distinct sections: the North and Southern ends.
The island offers outstanding rock climbing with thrilling opportunities, especially on the well-protected north coast, promising future growth in the sport.
Learn and speak Irish
Arranmore, in the Donegal Gaeltacht, has mostly Irish-speaking residents. The locals are friendly and happy to help visitors learn their language, so trying to speak Irish is much appreciated.
You can learn a few Irish words or phrases from a web search. You can also join a guided tour with Coláiste Árainn, a local Irish language college, and immerse yourself in the Irish culture and history.
Practising your Irish is a fun and unique way to experience Arranmore and its rich heritage.
Explore the Vibrant World of Traditional Music and Nightlife
During the day, the island offers a delightful sense of peace and tranquility. However, it is equally renowned for its vibrant nightlife.
At Teac Phil Ban, you can immerse yourself in the enchanting melodies of local band Green Island, while evenings at Early’s Bar are filled with captivating music.
And for those seeking to dance the night away, Smugglers Nightclub awaits, often keeping revelers entertained until the early hours of the morning.