Clare Island, Co
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
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.
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 when there is a steady tourist season. The island has a
number of B&B's, one hotel with a bar, a Community Centre and
one shop which is also the post office.