Located off the West Coast of Ireland, Clare Island is 3.5 miles from the mainland and is the largest (5 miles long and 3 miles wide) of the 365 islands in Clew Bay.
Situated at the entrance to Clew Bay, Clare Island is the largest of the Mayo offshore islands. It offers the visitor a glimpse of varied terrain, ranging from spectacular cliffs along the seafront to a rich topography of hills, bogs and woodland on the inner parts of the island, making it ideal for hill-walking, cycling and sight-seeing.
The island is located approx four miles off the nearest mainland point and the ferry crossing to Clare Island is 20 minutes. There is extra demand for this ferry service in the summer months when there is a steady tourist season. The island has a number of B&B's, one hotel with a bar and one shop which is also the post office.
Clare Island has a lot to offer the tourist or day-tripper who has an interest in large sea bird colonies, alpine flora or neolithic and bronze-age archaeology.
Today the island population is less than 150, but everywhere there are traces of past generations. The evening sun reveals old potato ridges, or 'lazy beds' as they are sometimes referred to, echoes of the 19th century population explosion and subsequent famine when the island's population of 1600 was reduced by half.
The old lighthouse, no longer in use, is perched on top of cliffs at the northern end of the island, and can be seen in the distance as you approach the island harbour. It operated for some time as a luxury bed & breakfast, but is now in private ownership.
Clare Island has an important cultural heritage. It was the stronghold of the 16th century 'pirate queen' Grace O'Malley's (Grainneuaile). Her castle stands on a rocky headland at the harbour and her burial place is marked by an ornate stone plaque in the nearby abbey. The 14th century Cistercian Abbey containing Medieval wall and ceiling paintings, is nationally recognized as among the most important and best preserved examples of such paintings in Ireland.
In the early 1900s, Clare Island was the subject of one of the most important natural history surveys in the British Isles - namely Robert Lloyd Praeger's ‘The Clare Island Survey’.
Clare Island has an active and vibrant community which hosts a number of festivals throughout the year including the well known “Singles Weekend” festival, which takes place annually in late September.