Walk on nature’s wildside on Mayo’s beautiful isle

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Clare Island 7km off the Mayo coast, is a haven for walkers with bogs, woodlands, rare flora and colonies of nesting sea birds.

Soaring Atlantic cliffs edge this mountainous island which is popular with devotees of a whole range of extreme adventure sports. The less active can marvel at 6,000 years of visible history, from an ancient bog-bound forest to a 5,500-year-old megalithic court tomb to a bronze-age promontory fort and numerous 3,000-year-old cooking pits.

You can also see a 600-year-old cartoon featuring a horseman, a hound, a fox, a snake, a crucifix, leaves, a dragon and archers painted on the walls of the 14th century Cistercian Abbey.  Clare Island is also home to another of the pirate queen Grace O'Malley's castles, this one including her burial place.


The islanders have come together to reimagine their rocky home as an adventure capital, with rock-climbing, canyoneering (rock-scrambling, cliff-jumping and cave-swimming), abseiling and kayaking sessions for singles, bachelor parties, corporate teams and school groups www.goexplorehostel.ie. There are no hotels on Clare Island and no other hostels.

The islanders also run a sailing festival, traditional music events, a regatta and a walking festival with the impassioned historian Michael Gibbons.


There’s a touch of the Galapagos to Clare Island, as Ireland’s greatest naturalist, RL Praeger chose the island for the most comprehensive inventory of nature and habitation ever conducted in a single geographical location in Britain and Ireland: The Clare Island Survey 1909-1911.

A century later the Royal Irish Academy repeated Praeger’s survey, tracking the changes that had occured since. It threw up exciting insights in every field: botany, geology, zoology, archaeology and anthropology.

A Praeger Education Centre has been opened on the island to allow scholars, students and curious visitors to immerse themselves in this new data.

Clare Island has plenty else to offer - here is just a flavour

  • Yoga - Clare Island Yoga Retreat is one of the most inspirational spots in Ireland - a crucible for yoga, vegetarian cooking, meditation and natural horsemanship on 10-acres of native woodland, with extensive organic gardens and 240 acres of mountain for its sheep and horses. Much of the food is home produced, including yogurt, kefir and cheese from its sheep and butter from an island farmer. Most inspirational of all are the 6,000 trees that have been planted on what most consider a barren, windswept island.
  • Some farms welcome Woofers (Willing Workers on Organic Farms), where visiting volunteers can experience island farm life in return for helping out 
  • Island Luxury - Clare Island Lighthouse is an elite sanctuary of luxury within the evocative walls of a 200 year-old maritime lighthouse – sophisticated design and food. A genuine escape from reality.

Various accommodation options are available throughout the island; check here for further details 

Getting to Clare Island

Clare Island is situated at the entrance of Clew Bay, north of Connemara.

To get to the island you must take a ferry. In summer, there are a number of ferry sailings from Roonagh Pier (near Louisburgh) to Clare Island. The boat crossing takes about 25 minutes. In the winter, there are usually only two boats a day (morning and evening). There are two ferry providers:

  • Clare Island Ferry Company – (O’Grady’s)

        For a timetable log onto www.clareislandferry.com

        For queries contact:            

        +353 (98) 23737

        +353 (86) 8515003

        +353 (87) 9004115

  • O’Malley’s Ferries (Clare Island) Ltd

        For a timetable log onto www.omalleyferries.com

        For queries contact:                          

        +353 (98) 25045

        +353 (86) 6000204

By Car

  • From Westport

Take the coast road to Louisburgh (16km), drive straight through Louisburgh and about a 500 metres after the village, take a right turn to Roonagh (the road is clearly signposted for Roonagh Pier and Clare Island.) It is a further 6km to the pier.

  • From Galway

From Galway an alternative (and more scenic) route – allow two hours – is to take the Clifden road to Maam Cross, where you turn right towards Leenane. From Leenane (and anywhere in Connemara) take the Westport road, and about 3km out of Leenare, take the first left turn towards Louisburgh. The beautiful drive will take you along the shores of Killary harbour, up the Delphi valley and the Doolough pass. Turn right at the crossroad when you arrive at Louisburgh (away from the village, signposted Roonagh Quay), and about 500 metres after the cross road, just after the Nomadic Display factory, take a right turn to Roonagh (the road is clearly signposted for Roonagh Pier and Clare Island). It is a further 6km to the pier.

By Taxi

Please consult these links for taxis operating out of

By Bus

Public buses run to both Westport and Louisburgh. For timetables please consult www.buseireann.ie. You will then need to get a taxi or walk the remaining 6km from Louisburgh to Roonagh Pier.

During the summer Clare Island Ferry operates a direct bus service from Westport to Roonagh Pier. Click on www.clareislandferry.com for information. You must ring Brian on (086) 8515003 the evening before to book a seat on the bus, which only operates if it is needed.

By Train

The nearest train station in Westport. For timetables please click on www.irishrail.ie. From Westport, take a taxi or bus for the 22km to Roonagh Quay.


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