Clare Island is 6 km off the west coast of Co. Mayo. Once the home of Gráinne Mhaol, the island boasts a rich cultural heritage that the islanders are extremely proud of. Whether you’re the adventurous type or want to switch off from it all, Clare Island has something for everyone.
My Day On Clare Island
I was looking forward to visiting the island as it was on my wanderlust list. Visiting Clare Island with my mother was a chance for us to spend some quality time together before leaving for Canada. We took the ferry over, which was an experience in and of itself. I felt quite dizzy crossing over and felt sick on the way back. It was like having constant butterflies with your head spinning. Thankfully I recovered quickly. I’m definitely a landlubber.
Arriving on the island was magical. The first sight you see from the harbour is Gráinne Mhaol’s Castle. Gráinne Mhaol was chieftain of the Ó Máille clann during the 16th century. She was well-educated and was thought of by contemporaries as being exceptionally formidable and competent. Her castle is a fine example of a tower house.
The history nerd in me just couldn’t wait to have a closer look and explore. I tried to imagine what it must have been like back then. While walking around the island what struck me was the quietness. All you could hear were the birds singing, the sheep bleating and the sound of the ocean. There wasn’t even a gift shop in sight.
If I’m completely honest I was fully expecting the island to be thronged with visitors and tourists. But I was pleasantly surprised and delighted that it wasn’t a tourist trap. Apart from the few modern houses dotted around the rolling landscape and the telephone and electricity poles, the island is practically unspoiled. It’s like stepping back in time. The locals were so friendly, giving us a wave and a hello as we passed.
After browsing through the heritage centre and taking a leisurely stroll to the 12th-century abbey, we were feeling peckish. 40 minutes later and we were entering the Sailor’s Bar and Restaurant. I tried the falafel burger with homemade chips (they left the potato skins on, yum!) and my mother had good old fish and chips. The service was second to none and the view of the ocean from our table was stunning.
We had an hour kill before taking the boat back, so we decided to head to the beach. There we just sat and chatted about the day we had. The beach was empty and the air smelled of salt. Looking out to sea the boats were bobbing in the waves waiting to set sail and the seagulls were screeching overhead.
How To Get There
There are many ferries to choose from to get you to the island. My recommendation would be O’ Malley Ferries. You can take the ferry from Roonagh Pier, which is 7.3 km outside of the village of Louisburgh. Tickets can be bought at their offices on the pier but if you book through their website you get a 10% discount. The crossing only takes 10 minutes. They claim it to be the fastest crossing.
What To See
- The Church of The Sacred Heart
- Archaeological Sites
- Flora & Fauna
- The Abbey
- The Beach
- The Castle
- The Lighthouse
- The Napoleonic Tower
- The Sea Cliffs
What To Do
- Angling and Boat Trips
- Craft Workshops
- Adventure Activities
- Horse Riding
- Heritage Centre
- Walking and Hiking
Where To Eat
- Sailor’s Bar and Restaurant
- Clare Island Community Centre
I didn’t get a chance to explore the whole island. To walk the full loop of the island takes about 19 km. I would recommend a weekend on the island to experience everything it has to offer. And there is plenty of accommodation to choose from. Have you ever been to Clare Island? Let me know what you think of the island.