Sinead Flynn, our US and Trinity College Dublin Ambassador, gives us the lowdown on her favourite place to visit in Ireland, Clare Island…
Countless awards, recognitions, publications, and photos do not encapsulate the true beauty of this gem of the west coast. This wonderful spot will always be my favourite place in Ireland for many reasons, one of which includes my family connection here. It has also been featured in two songs by the Saw Doctors: “Clare Island” and “The Green and Red of Mayo.”
As this is an actual Island, it requires a quick ferry ride of 25 minutes leaving from Roonagh Pier. Two Ferry Companies, O’Malley’s Ferries & Clare Island Ferry Co, cross Clew Bay to bring islanders, tourists, and visitors to this magical spot.
Things to do
Clare Island is a place where adventure truly is at your feet. Walking around the Island is one of the best ways to gain a feel for the awing landscapes. The first site one will encounter is the Pirate Queen’s Castle. This castle shows true insight into the building structures of the 16th Century. One of the most historic aspects about the Island is the famous medieval paintings in the Abbey from the 12th Century. Legend has it that Grace O’Malley’s remains are in the tomb there. The key to access this is found in O’Malley’s Food Shop, which is a great spot for a quick snack and drink to continue on your journey. The Lighthouse is a historic landmark that is situated on a high elevation point of the island, which also provides great views of the sea and distant sections of the Island. En route to the western end of the Island, one will find the Napoleonic Tower, which was built in 1804 in response to the Napoleonic War. More directed activities are available with Ballytoughey Loom, the Yoga Retreat, Macalla Horse Farm, Clare Island Adventures, and many more. A combination of scenic walks and activities create a vibrant and cultural experience.
Places to stay
There are various types of accommodation on the Island. Some people opt to camp-out on the Island near the Blue Flag Beach. There are countless B&B’s available that offer the true comforts of home to give a true community experience. Others may opt to stay at the Go Explore Hostel, which is attached to the Sailor’s Bar & Restaurant. A more “boutique” experience is available at the Clare Island Lighthouse. All types of accommodation include unique views of the scenery.
Reasons to go
Absolutely breath-taking views
There is nothing more exquisite than waking up, putting on your rain boots, and walking around the landscape here. This is one of my favourite things to do when I visit my grandparents here. My normal routine has emerged to walking down to the cliffs and soaking in the great views. A camera handy at any moment is necessary to capture the incessant beauty present here.
One of the most notable women from the Island is the one and only Grace (Granuaile) O’Malley, the Pirate Queen. She was a fierce woman born in 1530 that protected the Gaelic Kingdoms. She is described as a woman of land and sea. My grandmother’s maiden name is O’Malley, and me, like many others on the Island are descendants of this magnificent woman. Many accounts and records describe the exciting and brave life she lived.
Clare Island has a population of about 150 people during the winter, yet this population changes over the booming summer months. It is a tight-knit community with close friendships and family ties. Everyone has such active roles in planning community events and involvement in the planning processes. A great way to meet the islanders is to finish off with an evening in The Community Centre Bar. This is a fantastic spot to understand the perspectives of living on the Island, and to relax after a busy day.
This is truly a place that is essential to visit while in Ireland!