Among the innumerable islands in Clew Bay is Clare Island, one of the largest islands in the bay. Clare Island immediately attracts attention by its size, its proximity to the coast, and the disturbing charm of its wild landscapes. Do not hesitate to venture there!
Located less than 6 km from the coast, off the coast of Louisburgh, Clare Island is 8 km long and 5 km wide. Its imposing size allows it to be endowed with a particularly pronounced relief: it has 2 mountains:
Knockmore (with a height of 463 meters)
as well as Knocknaveen, which is 220 metres high.
Clare Island is, of course, inhabited. Although it now has only 180 inhabitants, it was once inhabited by about 1,500 people before the period of the Great Famine, which subsequently decimated part of the local population.
Needless to say, living conditions there were difficult and precarious. Regular storms tended to cut the island off from the rest of the world, and weather conditions were never restful for the fishermen of the time!
Even today, the island still sometimes poses some dangers to local life, but the hundred or so remaining inhabitants would not leave the island for anything in the world.
Nowadays, the local population lives mainly from fishing and tourism, ensuring the protection of this island, which is increasingly popular with visitors. We can also count the existence of a few shops, as well as a school, thus ensuring the education of the children present on the island.
Some possible circuits for hikers
The island has only one shop and one hotel. Don’t even count on the presence of a Pub, or a supermarket to provide you with supplies. It is therefore important to plan well in advance the contents of your backpack: food, water and enough to cover yourself.
If you’re not afraid to walk, Clare Island can be walked long, wide and cross-country, with stunning views of the ocean and the rest of Clew Bay. You will then be able to climb the 2 peaks of the island (Knockmore and Knocknaveen) and thus plunge into a breathtaking wilderness. Expect lush green pastures, exceptional flora and the presence of numerous sheep grazing freely here and there.
Don’t miss a visit to the small harbour of Clare Island and the old 16th century fortress that dominates the area. This fortress is a square tower that is unfortunately closed to visitors. It once belonged to an Irish pirate woman known as Grace O’Maley.
Finally, if you like the charm of the ancient ruins, you should also think of taking a tour of the Kill side. This small hamlet is home to a few dwellings, as well as an old Cistercian abbey dating back to the 12th century. A little further on there is also a ruined Napoleonic tower dating from the 19th century.