Brendan and I just got back from two nights on Inishbofin, a small (6km long by 3.5km wide) island a half-hour ferry ride off the coast of Connemara (not far from Clifden).
There isn't really anything in the way of tourist attractions, so Inishbofin doesn't see as many visitors as, say, Inis Mór (the largest Aran island). We came hoping for long peaceful walks and a bit of swimming, and we got both.
Above: the main road out to "East End Village," with a view of little Inis Laighean (uninhabited except by birds and occasionally sheep, which are brought over by boat) and the Twelve Bens of Connemara in the distance.
On our Monday evening walk to the northern shore, we passed this shed full of fleeces. There are plenty of sheep on the island, many of which had been sheared recently.
Inis Laighean again, with a view over the island's graveyard and the ruins of St. Colman's Abbey.
A closer view of Inis Laighean. On Tuesday morning we swam out to it, over a lot of long hair-like seaweed that got tangled around our limbs until we started swimming on our backs. It was a little creepy, that sensation of slender slippery vines winding around my neck and arms. The water was only waist-deep at most though. We got to the far shore and frolicked over much of the island. I never thought I would be walking barefoot on sheep turds in a wet bathing suit and telling you it was one of the most glorious things I've ever done, but here you have it. It was so exhilarating. The weather changed every few minutes--sometimes it was warm and sunny and then the clouds would gather and it would drizzle a bit. The island itself was interesting too--hilly and rocky and covered in strange squishy mosses and heather and tiny wildflowers.
Later that day, when we had lunch at this great little café nearby (called The Galley), we told the owner we'd swum out to it and she seemed pretty horrified. She told us we were crazy. We had just assumed loads of people swam out to it, but she said she hadn't ever heard of anyone swimming it, only walking out at low tide (when there was no water at all) and then getting stranded on the far side. She showed us how to get to the ruins of Cromwell's barracks, on an island overlooking the harbor, but when we got to the place where we were meant to take off our shoes and socks and wade across, the water was too deep (we weren't wearing our bathing suits anymore, otherwise we'd have done it). Here's a view of Port Island, where the barracks are--see those three little mounds on the horizon line?
Anyway, if you ever go to Inishbofin, swim out to Inis Laighean and romp around a bit. The views are amazing, and if you don't like the idea of tramping on sheep poo in your bare feet you can always pack a pair of water shoes.