Clare Island is the largest of approximately 365 islands (an island for every day of the year!) in Clew Bay in County Mayo. At approximately eight kilometres long and four metres wide, the island is filled with an impressive amount of historical sites for such a small area – from megalithic finds to medieval structures.
The most ancient among the historical treasures found on the island are the various Bronze Age sites. A total of 53 mysterious Bronze Age mounds were once discovered on the island, four of which have since been excavated. From a series of archaeological digs, different artefacts were uncovered confirming a Bronze Age settlement in the area, some of them dating back as far as 2,000 B.C. On the island is also a megalithic tomb, which dates back to 4,000 to 3,000 B.C. and is supposedly the earliest type of megalithic tomb in Ireland.
Situated on Clare Island is also a Napoleonic Tower which stands high up along the western part of the island. The tower was built in 1804 as a defence against any attacks ahead of the potential Norman invasions of the time.
A further historical site on the island is its 16th-century castle, once the stronghold of the Pirate Queen Grace O’Malley, which still overlooks the shores of Clare Island today.
Then lastly is the island’s medieval abbey, a 12th-century church that has some of Ireland’s most unique and significant medieval paintings still emblazoned along its interior roof. The paintings are supposedly marked by two separate O’Malley chiefs who wanted to leave their mark on the abbey.
Clare Island is clearly an island that is well worth a visit, with its various historical sites spanning thousands of years. It possible to access the island by taking a ferry from Roonagh Pier (approximately 25 minutes journey time).