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Clare Island, Co Mayo, Ireland

Clare Island lies off the west coast of Ireland at at the entrance to Clew Bay.  The largest of the Mayo offshore  islands, it has a varied terrain: spectacular cliffs with large numbers of nesting sea birds and a rich 'inland' topography of hills and bogs and small pockets of woodland, making it ideal for hill-walking.
The island lies roughly four miles off the nearest mainland point and the ferry crossing takes approximately 20 minutes. The current permanent population of 130 increases substantially during the summer tourist season. The tourist infrastructure on the island however, is very basic, with only a few B&B's, one hostel and a bar in the Community Centre. Most places are closed outside the tourist season and in the off season, day trippers are advised to bring a packed lunch as there is nowhere to get food, other than one shop which is usually closed 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, to the 'pirate queen' Grace O'Malley's (Grainneuaile) castle and burial place. 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 dying beast. The island has been much studied, with the R.L. Praeger's The Clare Island Survey the most well known.

Clare Island Chart


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