Mainistir Hostel is one of the few hostels available in the Aran Islands, located on the largest island of Inis Mor. During peak season, specifically July and August, it is very important to book ahead of time.
This hostel is located atop a hill, which means you have a bit of a hike from the pier where the ferry will drop you off. On the pier, you may rent bikes, which can make your trip easier if you can manage with your luggage. There are also vans available that can assist you if the kilometer walk is too strenuous. Once you reach Mainistir Hostel, you will see the walk is well worth the beautiful ocean view.
The "city centre" is situated around the pier including a few restaurants, shops, and one grocery store that you will pass by on your way to Mainistir. You will also pass the most popular of the island's bars, Joe Watty's, which usually offers live music at night and a pleasant mix of locals and tourists.
The island is one of the few remaining places where the primary language is still Gaelic but English is also prevalent. The landscape is ideal for long walks and bike rides to megalithic forts, towering cliffs, and beaches. The weather changes fast so you will want to be prepared with numerous layers of clothes. Plus it is almost always windy!
Rooms and Bathrooms
Mainistir Hostel offers four dorm rooms with six beds in each, private double bed ensuite, private double bed, and private twin bed. A key deposit is required which means you can lock up your belongings in your room. Of course in the dorms you do have others who will be sharing that space. Therefore keep valuables with you if you are worried about them.
All dorms and shared bathrooms are kept reasonably clean. The sheets may have a stain or tear. The bathrooms offer free, hot showers with plenty of counter space, mirrors, and hooks for clothing (although, sometimes the hot water goes out, so before you take a cold shower ask the staff to fix the problem).
The clean and tidy lobby offers a great place for meeting other travelers, reading, using the internet (with free wireless access), or just enjoying the view out the front windows. There are also two picnic tables out front you can enjoy a drink, meal, or smoke. Bottled water and soft drinks are available at the front desk and the friendly staff can assist you in getting a rental bicycle, van pick-up, or offer directions to the best spots on the island.
The hostel is generally quiet during the day and late at night when most are out and about. The evenings offer a nice time to chat with staff and travelers.
A complimentary breakfast is offered from 9 to 10 a.m. with coffee/tea, cereal, toast (and every other day oatmeal and/or juice).
As long as you make reservations, an amazing vegetarian dinner of Caribbean-style cuisine is made nightly by the owner, Joel. This buffet is some of the best food available on the island (and all of Ireland, if you like food other than pork and beans or fish and chips). At 8 p.m. sharp, soup is served, followed by the main course, and a freshly made dessert with coffee or tea. Feel free to bring your own wine or beer, since water is the only drink served with the meal.
It's worth mentioning that the owner doesn't like people and can be rude. And the staff are somewhat more accommodating, but also will be rude to you if you get on their bad side. Apparently the off-season is not recommended, as at this time all staff has left the island and it is just the unfriendly owner.
All and all this is a wonderful place to stay if you are trying to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city or if you just prefer a smaller, more intimate setting. On the Aran Islands you are likely to see sun for at least a part of the day and get some good exercise if you are up to the challenge. We met numerous fun and lively people during our week's stay at Mainistir Hostel and would recommend it to anyone!
by Jessica MacAlvey
Hostelz.com Staff Reviewer
Photos taken by the Hostelz.com reviewer — Genuine photos you can trust.