Beautiful Clare Island lies off the west coast of Ireland at at the entrance to Clew Bay. As the largest of the Mayo islands, Clare Island has a delightfully varied terrain, with spectacular sea-cliffs, very large numbers of nesting sea birds, and a rich ‘inland’ topography of hills, bogs, and small pockets of woodland.
The island lies just four miles off Roonagh Point, and the ferry crossing takes approximately 20 minutes. The island’s current permanent population of 130 souls increases substantially during the summer tourist season. The tourist infrastructure on Clare Island however, is very basic, with only a few bed and breakfasts, one hostel, and a bar in the Community Centre. Most places are closed outside the tourist season. Day trippers are advised to bring a packed lunch as there is nowhere to get food, other than one shop which closes on Sundays.
The island’s complex history can be read through its landscape, from archaeological remains of the Neolithic and Bronze age, to rare medieval wall paintings in the 14th century abbey. And, of course, Clare Island is the burial place of the infamous “pirate queen’ Grace O’Malley’s (Grainneuaile). The island population is now around 130, yet everywhere there are traces of past generations, most significantly the 19th century population explosion and subsequent famine, when the island’s population of 1600 was reduced by half. Old potato ridges, or ‘lazy beds’ are everywhere: the evening sun reveals them jutting out from the land like the rib cages of some great dying beast.
If witnessing island life at its simplest and most genuine is your thing, then Clare Island is for you.
Getting to Clare Island
By ferry or yacht. The Clare Island Ferry provides several sailings daily between Roonagh Point and Clare Island. Journey time is approximately 20 minutes.
Where to stay
Clare Island has a wide variety of places to stay including self-catering holiday homes, guesthouses and B&B's.
Clare Island is surrounded by beautiful coastal towns. Don't miss Louisburgh and Croagh Patrick if you are travelling north, and Inishturk, and Killary Harbour, if travelling south.
Things to do in Clare Island.
Clare Island’s spectacular cliffs are home to large numbers of nesting sea birds, and provide the ultimate haven for bird watching. See gannets, Manx shearwaters, puffins, razorbills, herring gulls, and many other species.
Circumnavigate Clare Island on foot. Clare Island’s scenic beauty, pristine beaches, rare flora and gentle Knockmore mountain peak (461m) make it an ideal destination for walkers. The clear waters surrounding the island are known for their exceptional cleanliness and scuba diving.
Swim on one of the islands beautiful bathing spots, and enjoy Atlantic water which has been purified by a 4,000 mile journey.