Why You’ll Love Chilling on the Eco-Friendly Island of Inishbofin

This post may include affiliate links, including Amazon Associate links. I may earn money if you click on one at no extra cost to you.

Inishbofin reminds me of summers growing up in Canada, except that it’s unlike anywhere I’ve ever visited! It feels both familiar and unique at the same time!

Inishbofin is the most western island in all of Ireland. It’s also only one of only four inhabited islands in Connemara.  

The Inishbofin Difference

It’s a very close-knit, environmentally friendly community of 180 people. The islander’s combined efforts have resulted in Inishbofin being the first island in Ireland to receive an Ecotourism award recognized by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council!
eco-friendly island of Inishbofin, Ireland

You get that rare feeling when meeting locals and visitors alike on Inishbofin that you’re reuniting with long lost friends – even though it’s your first time meeting. And that only deepens over your stay. Inishbofin attracts 40,000 tourists a year.

Your visit plays an important role in preserving traditional island life and providing jobs to locals. Many nearby islands that were once inhabited, like Inishark, have been abandoned as islanders move to the mainland in search of jobs.

eco-friendly island of Inishbofin, Ireland

Why Was Inishbofin Awarded The Ecotourism Award

One of the reasons that Inishbofin was awarded the ecotourism award is the birdwatching breaks and wildlife photography courses offered through the Dolphin Hotel where I stayed. It’s a family-run hotel –  Pat and Jackie are incredible hosts, and the first hotel on an Irish island to receive a Silver Award for Ecotourism.

Inishbofin is a great place for birdwatching, especially in the spring and fall where migratory birds can also be seen.  Of particular interest to birders is the Corncrake.

It’s an endangered bird that breeds on Inishbofin and is rarely seen in other parts of Ireland. But to be fair, you will likely hear it’s distinctive call before you see it!

eco-friendly island of Inishbofin, Ireland
I saw this guy while having breakfast at the Dolphin Hotel.

Things To Do In Inishbofin

Besides birdwatching, you can also do one of the island’s three self-guided walks that show you the most spectacular parts of the island or rent bikes if that’s more your style.

Recommended Reading: The Best Bikepacking Panniers: What you Need to Know

looped walking trails on the eco-friendly island of Inishbofin, Ireland
Signs pointing to the looped walking trails. Now, which one to choose?
Lake that you'll pass by on one of the looped walks on the eco-friendly island of Inishbofin, Ireland
Lake that you’ll pass by on one of the looped walks.
I strongly suspect there are more sheep than people living on Inishbofin, Ireland.
I strongly suspect there are more sheep than people living on Inishbofin.

This summer Inishbofin is also introducing paddle boarding. There’s also a dive shop for certified divers! Naturally, angling trips are also popular with both locals and tourists!

eco-friendly island of Inishbofin, Ireland
Sailboat near Inishbofin

And you won’t believe the beaches! You’ll never believe you’re in Ireland! The beach at East End Bay has even received the Green Coast Award for 2016!

East End Bay has received the Green Coast Award for 2016. Located on the eco-friendly island of Inishbofin, Ireland
East End Bay has received the Green Coast Award for 2016!
East End Bay has received the Green Coast Award for 2016. Located on the eco-friendly island of Inishbofin, Ireland
Me hanging out on East End Bay.

Considering what a fantastic beach it is, you may also see some rather unexpected visitors:

East End Bay has received the Green Coast Award for 2016. Located on the eco-friendly island of Inishbofin, Ireland
Cows on East End Bay.

Who knew that cows had such great taste?

Beach on the eco-friendly island of Inishbofin, Ireland
Beach on the western part of Inishbofin, where swimming is not recommended due to strong waves.

The Walking Festival

The other thing that makes Inishbofin really special is all the festivals. I was there in April for the Walking Festival which I loved!

Despite, being an avid hiker, it was the first walking festival I had participated in. It attracts avid walkers from all over Ireland and even a couple of us from mainland Europe.

It was a great warmup for the 7-day Wicklow Way walk which I would be doing after my visit to Inishbofin.

Inishbofin Walking Festival is a great way to meet other hikers.
Inishbofin Walking Festival

There are different themed walks and you pick and choose which ones you want to do. I did all of them on Saturday because they all looked so good, and thoroughly enjoyed all of them.

The visit to Cromwell’s Fort was a special highlight, which was built in the 1600s. You can either visit it by yourself – check the tide table first, or with storyteller and archaeologist Tommy Burke.

He’s an expert on Inishbofin’s Bronze Age settlements, monastic sites, and Cromwell’s Fort and can be booked for private tours.

Cromwell's Fort on the eco-friendly island of Inishbofin, Ireland
Learning more about Cromwell’s Fort at the Inishbofin Walking Festival.
Cromwell's Fort on Inishbofin, Ireland
Cromwell’s Fort

My favourite part of the Walking Festival was visiting the abandoned island of Inishark. This is the most haunting island I’ve ever visited...

Although I was by myself, I never felt alone. Irish walkers are a really friendly bunch, and I made a couple of friends on the first walk at 6:30 am! The Walking Festival is a great way to explore the island, meet people and get some exercise!

Western part of Inishbofin, Ireland
The western part of Inishbofin which I visited as part of the Walking Festival.

Other Festivals Not To Be Missed

Besides the Walking Festival, you can find a wide range of festivals on Inishbofin from the Arts Festival, to the Island Conversations Festival, to the 10K & Half Marathon, to Creative Writing Holidays!

harbour at Inishbofin, Ireland
Harbour at Inishbofin.


The Irish Music Scene

While Inishbofin is a leader in eco-tourism, it’s also renowned for its Irish music scene, with both unknown and famous musicians coming from all over Ireland to play at one of the Irish pubs!

It’s a great way to end a leisurely day and that is exactly how I ended my Saturday night at the Walking Festival!

View over Inishbofin from the Dolphin Hotel
View from the Dolphin Hotel

Inishbofin reminds me of summers growing up in Canada when I explored from sunup to sundown, riding my bike everywhere, swimming in the creek, and listening to birds. It’s a place where you get back to nature.  

As a result, leave more grounded and connected – both to nature and to other people. It’s also unlike any other place I’ve ever visited. It’s a unique place for travellers and one that has to be experienced to be understood. Let me know how your visit goes!

Tips for Getting the Most From Your Visit to Inishbofin:

eco-friendly island of Inishbofin, Ireland

  • Travel in the offseason. The island is much quieter then and feels much different than it does in summer when the majority of the 40,000 visitors come.
  • Attend one of the festivals. This is a great way to get an inside perspective into what makes Inishbofin so unique and meet some fantastic people.
  • Be outdoors from sunup to sundown. So what of makes Inishbofin special is being outside, whether that is going for a swim, or taking a leisurely walk.
  • Leave No Trace. Support Inishbofin’s eco-friendly initiatives by following the 7 Leave No Trace principles.
  • Relax. There’s an expression on the island, called Bofin time. On other islands, you may have heard it referred to as Island time. It’s the same thing.
  • Learn more about Inishbofin’s eco-initiatives by watching this video.

How to Get to Inishbofin:

Inishbofin is located 1 1/2 hours west from Galway City. In keeping with the island’s eco-friendly theme, I took the IrishCityLink bus from Dublin to Galway, and from there to Cleggan. From Cleggan it’s only a 30-minute ferry ride.

Where to Stay:

The eco-friendly Dolphin Hotel is located on Inishbofin, Ireland
Dolphin Hotel

I stayed at the Dolphin Hotel, which has received a Silver Award for Ecotourism. I thoroughly enjoyed my stay, Pat and Jackie were warm friendly hosts, and the food was incredible!

You can also find accommodation at The Beach Days bar & B&B which has great reviews and is a beachfront property. You can even hire bikes from here.

Where to Eat in Inishbofin

Travellers will love the fresh fish served at Murray's Bar on Inishbofin, Ireland.
Fresh fish from Murray’s Bar.

Inishbofin is a Fairtrade Island and each of the restaurants below tries to source food locally wherever possible. Each restaurant also offers live music – a staple on Inishbofin!

Dolphin Hotel & Restaurant: Pat and Jackie’s enthusiasm for life permeates your soul. You’ll leave feeling happy after a delicious meal. It’s also a great spot for bird watching – right from the restaurant!

Beach Day’s Bar & Restaurant: Located right on the beach and a stone’s throw away from the sea. The owner Adrian has a background in hotel management and his love of wine is evidenced by an extensive wine list!

Doonmore Hotel & Restaurant: This establishment has been owned and run by the Murray family for three generations! Murray’s Bar is famous for its Irish music scene. The crab I had was some of the best I’ve ever had anywhere!

Inishbofin House Hotel & Marine Spa: A mix of modern luxury and warm island hospitality. You’ll enjoy a harbour view while noshing on traditional Irish food! If you want to pamper yourself afterwards, head over to the luxurious spa!

For more eco-friendly destinations in Ireland be sure to check out walking the Wicklow Way!

eco-friendly island of Inishbofin, Ireland

Inishbofin is a small town and full of Irish charm that makes you feel at home. It is really worth a visit if you ever find yourself in Ireland.

Note: Thank you to Inishbofin Tourism, Ecotourism Ireland and Tourism Ireland for making my visit possible. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.

This post has been updated and republished.