The Aran Islands are a group of islands situated at the mouth of Galway Bay, on the west coast of Ireland. The islands offer quite a spectacular sight with monastic architecture, Neolithic tombs and traditional dry stone walls being as much a part of the islands’ landscape as the limestone on which they stand, left bare by the retreating glaciers from the last Ice Age.
As for diving, the Aran Islands offer plenty of amazing diving locations. A few of the most popular are: the Canyon, Poll Na bPeist(Worm Hole), Brannock, Glassan Rock, the Puffing Holes, Farvey Point, Poll Seidte, Blue Pool, Finnis Reef or Brocklinmore. As diving of an island is slightly different from diving of land, there are a few extra things that need to be considered beforehand i.e.: transportation, boat, compressor spares or accommodation if necessary.
The site is located between the Brannock and the North Light and consists of flat limestone with depths of approx. 10 m. The canyon itself can be found opposite the landing stage for the light house and is about 40 m wide with a max. depth of 33 m. As expected, the walls of the canyon are made limestone and they present many fissures making this an ideal spot for all sorts of fish life. The visibility in the canyon is often good enough to permit divers on one side of the wall to spot divers on the other side of the wall. The site is quite exposed and Force 3 winds result in a slight current being present.
Poll Na bPeist (Worm Hole)
This site is a perfectly rectangular pool that appears to be manmade, located on Inismore. The entry is through a 25 m long underground cave. The pool itself is approx. 15m deep, once outside, the seafloor extends down to 45m. The bottom is scattered with boulders which provide havens for all sorts of marine life. This brings you directly under the famous 90 m high cliff called Dun Aengus. The site gets good shelter in north easterly winds, but becomes inaccessible in westerly winds above Force 2.
This is a very sheltered site with no currents, exposed only to north to east winds situated between Brannock Rock and the main island. The site consists of a series of steps with depths starting at 8m and dropping down to 32 m after approx. 60 m. Each step is about 3m tall. The limescale is noticeable here as well and many fissures in the steps host various life forms.
This site is positioned at the south-westerly point of Inismore. Slightly north of the tip you can find a cave above the water. The depth here is of 15 m, but it drops to 30 m very fast. On the rock face, at approx. 12 m, there is an overhanging ledge 3-4 m deep that runs around the tip of the island. Towards the end the ledge narrows down providing an excellent home for congers, lobsters and wrasse. Even the occasional crayfish can be spotted hanging upside down in a recess in the ceiling. If you continue swimming around the tip of the island you will stumble onto a spectacular sight: giant boulders covered in dead man’s fingers propped against the side of the island. You can swim under some of them, but you’ll have to stop and have a look at shoals of pollack swimming by.
The Puffing Holes
This site is an underwater chasm at least 120 m long that is believed to lead to the puffing holes. The puffing holes are not visible from underwater but they can be seen high on the shore above. The chasm is closed to one end and although it can be a breathtaking dive under the right weather conditions, it is not advised for divers to venture in for more than 10 -15 m without advanced training and planning and the proper use of cave diving techniques.
This site begins about 800m south of the Island Pier at the point of Gob Na Fearbhai and stretches for about 2.5 km. This is a very suitable site for trainees as it is protected from the southwesterly winds and the currents here are of max. 1.5 knots. There are ledges running parallel to the shore at 10, 20 and 30 m. After 30 m the area is covered in great boulders with amazing colours and plenty of fish life.
Poll Seidte (Puffing Holes)
This is a dramatic dive site with a sudden drop close to the shore situated on the southern point of the island. This dive is only advised on a windless day or with winds from the north.
This dive site is under steep cliffs situated on the exposed side of Inismeain facing Inismore. Synge’s Chair is situated right above the dive site (this was Synge’s favourite place for mediation). The site reaches depths of 45 m and is abundant with wonderful colours along the drop-offs. As this site faces the open Atlantic the dive here should only be considered in good weather conditions.
This dive site is a reef that stretches from the island for about 1 km and levels onto a sandy bottom. It is located approx. 4.8 km west of the Innisheer Pier, halfway between the east marker of the reef and the island with a depth of 15m. This is a very colourful site, with various plant and marine life.
This site is a wonderful alternative for when the westerly winds don’t allow you out behind the islands. The site itself is an underwater ledge on the east side of Inishmor which stretches for most of the length of the island. The ledge is quite hard to locate without accurate GPS coordinates. Once under the water you can find the ledge by following the contour where the seabed rises from 30 to 20 m and follows the line of the island. The current here is quite gentle of 0.5 to 1 knots along the ledge. With good boat coverage this should be an effortless dive. The ledge is covered in rose corals and white sea fans so make sure you swim up and down the ledge. There are plenty of undercuts that can reach 5-6 m in places. Although too narrow to fit a diver this is the perfect home for the crayfish.
If we have manage to convince you to go for a dip around the Aran Islands, don’t forget to check the tides and the emergency plan for the area, and of course make sure the weather is on your side before going there.