Mayo Islands – Top 10 Things to Do – Clare Island

Posted in Connect on July 8, 2019.


Clare Island is the largest of the 365 islands in Clew Bay. It is the ancestral home of the legendary Pirate Queen Grace O’Malley (Granuaile). Rich in culture, archaeology and heritage, every corner of Clare Island is just waiting to be discovered.

1. The Sea Cliffs of the northern coastline are some of the most spectacular in Europe, hosting a wide variety of rare birds and vegetation.

2. Clare Island Lighthouse is unique because it’s the only two-towered lighthouse in Ireland. It was decommissioned in 1965 after 159 years of faithful service, because (ironically) it is so high on the cliffs it was often shrouded in mist! Today, it operates as an exclusive guesthouse.

3. There are many outdoor adventures t o enjoy such as snorkelling, coasteering, cycling, rock-climbing, abseiling, hillwalking, horse-riding, fishing, and boat trips to name just a few!

4. Saint Brigid’s Abbey is said to date from the 12th century, though it was rebuilt around 1460. It houses an O’Malley crest and legend says it’s the burial site of Grace O’Malley.

5. The ruins of Napoleonic Signal Tower at Tuar Mór go back to 1804, and is part of a network of towers along the coast of Ireland – central to the early 19th century alert system during the Napoleonic Wars.

6. Clare Island was the stronghold of the Pirate Queen Grace O’Malley (Granuaile). Grace operated from two military strongholds. The first is Carraig an Chabhlaigh castle, on Clew Bay. The second is the existing O’Malley castle on the harbour, strategically located for levying taxes on foreign sea vessels.

7. Clare Island was occupied long before the O’Malleys, which is evidenced by the 53 mysterious Bronze Age mounds. Four of these fulachtaí fi a have been excavated and prove that there has been continuous settlement on the island for centuries.

8. Ballytoughey Loom is a small cottage industry producing high quality natural fibre, hand-woven goods. There’s a shop on-site and they run courses all year round!

9. Sports & Activities: there’s a yoga centre on the island and the community hall hosts lots of indoor games, such as soccer and basketball. Just ask a local!

10. For freshly caught seafood & locally sourced ingredients, check out the local bar & restaurant, or the community centre, for a delicious meal.

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