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Clare Island, Ireland
Clare Island, Ireland (Photo by Jarek Skowron on Unsplash)

Clare Island, Ireland

Just 5 km from Country Mayo, off the north west of Ireland, Clare Island stands guard over the entrance to Clew Bay. Only 8 km by 5 km, the island is dominated by two hills, Knockaven to the east, and Knockmore to the west. Clare is fertile, green, undulating and treeless, with hundreds of sheep dotted over the landscape, their wool providing yarns which are dyed and worked into beautiful, individual scarves, bags and other woven items.

Inhabited for 5,000 years, Clare Island has many ancient sites. These include the remnants of ten promontory forts, Bronze Age cooking sites, Iron Age huts and field systems, and a megalithic tomb. The charming, white painted lighthouse on the western side has been in private hands since 1965, first as a B&B but now as a rarely used second home. Fantastic views can be enjoyed from the 19th century Napoleonic signal tower.

Clare Island is home to a 12th century Cistercian Abbey in which can be seen the remains of some of Ireland's best murals depicting mythical figures, warriors and animals. It also contains the tomb of the island's most famous resident, Grace O'Malley, the 16th century pirate queen. During her colourful life she headed 20 pirate ships, fought and met - Elizabeth I, and lived here in Granuaille Castle, which is du to be renovated.

Clare is also well known for the craic, and many wedding parties take place here as a result. There is no resident policeman here, so the opening hours of the island's bar is a moveable feast. Should a policeman be travelling from the mainland, that fact will be known good time, since the ferry is owned by the O'Malleys, who also Own the hotel..