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Ireland’s largest domestic ferry launched from Galway City

Published: Tuesday, June 08, 2021.
Ireland’s largest domestic ferry Saoirse na Farraige
Photo:Boyd Challenger

Ireland’s largest domestic ferry Saoirse na Farraige Maiden Voyage launched by Aran Island Ferries from Galway City

Galway City Tourism Industry to benefit from new ferry route and ferry route as Aran Island Ferries cruises Galway City, Inis Mór and the Cliffs of Moher.

As the tourism industry re-opens from lockdown, Aran Island Ferries  the largest and longest established family owned, year round ferry service to the Aran Islands in Galway Bay launches its brand new route from Galway City to Inis Mór and the Cliffs of Moher today, Friday June 4th 2021.

It’s maiden voyage will depart from Galway City Docks at 9.30am following a blessing of the state of the art Saoirse na Farraige passenger ferry vessel, Ireland’s largest domestic  ferry. ‘Saoirse na Farraige – Freedom of the Sea’, a state of the art, purpose built, 400 seater passenger ferry will be escorted out of Galway Docks by the  Galway Hooker Sailing Club  in traditional Galway Hookers and Bád Mór. A poignant escort as the first ferry operated by the O’Brien family and Aran Island Ferries from Ros a’Mhíl in Connemara to the Aran Islands was on An Tonaí a traditional Galway Hooker.  

Offering a 90-minute cruise on Galway Bay, Aran Island Ferries luxury vessels will showcase the contrasting beauty and scenery of the spectacular Wild Atlantic Way coastline of Connemara and Clare along with all three of the Aran Islands, Inis Oirr and Inis Meáin before docking in Kilronan on Inis Mór, the largest of the three Aran Islands. The return journey to Galway City will bring passengers on a cruise along the iconic Cliffs of Moher. Galwegians and visitors to the city of the tribes are set to enjoy a safe, all-weather experience of the jewels in the crown of Galway Bay this summer.

Ireland’s largest domestic ferry Saoirse na Farraige
Photo: Ray Ryan

One of five vessels to carry passengers on the new Aran Islands route, Saoirse na Farraige was commissioned by the O’Brien Family of an Ceathrú Rua in the Connemara Gaeltacht from the boat building yard of Cheoy Lee Shipyards in Hong Kong to expand the high-quality fleet of Aran Island Ferries passenger ferries which they have operated for the past 38 years.

Captained by Shane Mc Cole, originally from Ardara in Donegal, Shane is highly accomplished as a Captain with extensive sea faring experience both as a commercial fisherman and on commercial boats in the North Sea, Norway and Brazil. He’s worked with Aran Island ferries for 4 years and has completed extensive training ahead of his appointment as Captain for the new Aran Island Ferries  new Galway City route and Saoirse na Farraige ferry vessel.

“I’m honoured to be appointed Captain of Saoirse na Farraige and to be part of the Aran Island Ferries crew at this momentous time in the company’s history. This is a huge investment not just for the O’Brien family business, but also for tourism in Galway City and the west of Ireland,” says, Shane Mc Cole. “ Saoirse na Farraige is state of the art with all of the latest touch screen technology, and the utmost in safety features but it’s also so quiet as a ferry, it’s beautiful to navigate and for our passengers on board, it’s leather seating, power points to charge their devices and  capture memories from a wonderful cruise on Galway Bay, visit to Inis Mór and of course the jewels of the Cliffs of Moher are all wonderful features. This is a hugely exciting time for me, the crew,  Aran Island Ferries and for Galway people and tourism businesses.”

Aran Island Ferries and the O’Brien family have sailed to the Aran Islands since the 1960’s primarily from Ros a’Mhíl in Connemara. This new route from Galway City is a significant investment for the company offering a tourism cruise product and creating an additional 15 new jobs.

In  the 1970’s the O’Brien’s sailed with their first passengers in a traditional Galway Hooker boat An Tonaí, and went on to purchase their first passenger ferry the Dún Aengus in 1983 and today with a fleet of 5 ferries, the  Saoirse na Farraige is of the highest passenger ferry specifications. The vessel is tier 4 compliant and therefore, has the cleanest exhaust emission of any ferry on Irish waters. On board, passengers will enjoy a smooth and COVID safe, 90-minute cruise experience. Offering the contrast of upper open air deck space and an expansive inner cabin, which are complete with the ultimate safety, style and comfort features.  Leather seating, charging points and plasma screens allow comfort and entertainment onboard. An audio guide, which can be downloaded upon booking will ensure an informed and entertaining cruise. There’s an on-board bar which will open when COVID restrictions ease further.

Ireland’s largest domestic ferry Saoirse na Farraige
Photo: Ray Ryan

The sixth ferry to be added to the Aran Island Ferries fleet, it too is complete with a COVID Safety Charter for all passengers embarking on a magical Galway Bay journey to Inis Mór and the Cliffs of Moher this summer.

“We’re very excited to launch our new route and state of the art passenger ferry,” says Director Susan O’Brien, “Saoirse na Farraige means Freedom of the Sea and in light of the recent pandemic we’re delighted to now set this vessel free on Galway Bay for what will be a memorable cruise and visit to Inis Mór, the Aran Islands and the Cliffs of Moher in complete luxury and safety. It’s a huge investment which will enhance the tourism product of Galway and the West, create at least 15 new jobs and bring excitement to what has been a tough year for all involved in tourism.”

Critical features of Saoirse na Farraige include its control systems which are all touch screen technology and for optimum safety Aran Island Ferries have increased navigation equipment which is beyond Government safety regulations. The new vessel enhances the company’s carbon energy strategy as it includes a unique wastewater treatment system which combines two options: treatment on board or waste can be pumped ashore for treatment.  Saoirse na Farraige also has the largest life rafts in Ireland capable of carrying 150-person each on 4 rafts. Aran Island Ferries also ensure that all of their vessels have twice the required number of children’s lifejackets on board. Saoirse na Farraige also has a wheelchair lift which is a new addition to the fleet.

Saoirse na Farraige,  Freedom of the Sea joins the extensive Aran Island Ferries fleet carrying passengers on all routes from Galway City and Rossaveel which includes Draíocht na Farraige , Magic of the Sea, Ceol na Farraige, Music of the Sea, Glór na Farraige,  Voice of the Sea and Banríon na Farraige  Queen of the sea,  and combined Aran Island Ferries have a total capacity of 1,420. Aran Islands Ferries new route from Galway City Docks has been long in the planning and is another chapter in the company’s progressive history as it is the first time since 2005 that there’s been a sailing to the Aran Islands from Galway City.

Ticket prices for a return journey from Galway City Docks will be:

Adult: €49, Student/Senior: €44, Child: €25, Day Tours, Overnight Tours, Single Tours and Family Rates are available to purchase and the latest news on Saoirse na Farraige and all of Aran Island Ferries fleet and Ros a’Mhíl departures can be found on www.aranislandferries.com or Tel: 091 568903 or Email: [email protected]  or follow our social media channels for the latest news.

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