From Castlebar - County Mayo -

Frank Cawley
Will you meet me on Clare Island?
By Frank Cawley
19, Jun 2010 - 11:24

Clare island is the biggest of the 365 islands that dot their way around Clew Bay.  Its 4.5 miles sideways and 2.5 mile longways - at 53 degrees 48' north of Equador,  9 degrees 59' west of Greenwich.  I made the 4 mile trip accross the Atlantic from Ronagh Pier on O'Grady's recently commissioned "Clew Bay Queen", a 96 passenger cargo boat the largest of the three boats that make the daily 15 minute crossing to Grainne Uaile's crib.

Clare Island is unusual in that you have two ferry companies in Roonagh that will fight for the opportunity to offer you a safe passage onto the island.  The O'Gradys ran a service for years until one of their boats was claimed by a cruel Atlantic storm.  You can see the wreckage strewn across the rocks just down the road from the ostán.  I believe that the O'Malleys started a running a service using the "Island Princess".  The O'Gradys are back in business now with two main boats: the "Clew Bay Queen" and the "Pirate Queen"

Its kind of head wrecking to have to suddenly decide which boat to take.  So I'd recommend you do an inney meany miney mo, because in truth they both leave around the same time, the will both set you back in around the same spondulas.
Here are the details only relevant if your travelling with a family, or if the pots are tasty and you want a later return.

O'Gradys v's O'Malleys



Single boat returning to harbour

Fishing boat returning to base.  My favorite of the inhabited islands in the background, InisTurk, the Irish capital of the Ottoman empire.



O Gradys "Clew bay Queen" the biggest of the three ferrys.

O Gradys "Clew Bay Queen" a 96 passenger cargo ship, designed for easier transportation of precious cargo.  Like barrels of porter.



Road to the mainland

The lighthouse in the background I was too claimed to make it the whole way up to the door of this decommisioned lighthouse.  It was built in 1806 the last light shun on the 28th of September 1965.  It was outsourced to an automatic lighthouse on the nearby Achill Beg after 159 years of faithful service.  Well that's not totally true; it was briefly put out of service accidently in 1813 when the lighthouse was torched accidently after a bad batch of poteen.



Precious cargo

A batch of beer 19 kegs, 17 guinness, one beer, one larger.  They must have been expecting a visit from Winter.  The only man I know who drinks pints of stout two gulps at a time.  Two swallows never made a summer.



Bad exhaust

  An exhaust like the flag of Japan.  Something a friend of mine had after a recent business conference in New Delhi.



Clare Island Harbour

The kingdom of Glen.



On the rocks

The boat graveyard.



This is what the inside of the hotel bar looks like. I'll bet if you show this picture to any man thats spent the weekend quaffing pots in this guardless island tavern, they won't recognise it.

I've eaten in the Clare Island hotel a few times, food is good value for an off shore island, and it's as good as you will get any where on the mainland.  That's not necessarily a good thing, it won't win any awards, but its better than what you'd get in Castlebar.  The community centre has an Island takeaway too.  I spent a night drinking in this same hotel bar many moons ago.  All I can remember is when I asked what time was the last call they said early November.



Clare Island Ferrys

The return journey.



Glen Harbour

The old harbour, they finished the new pier since my last visit, it's even got a waiting room.



The thatch

I believe that I have an old picture of this same thatched cottage on, last time it was on a Good Friday and the weather was suitably overcast.  Last time I walked.  This time I rented a bike from the harbour, good value at €10.  This house is about 3 miles down the west coast, its at least 10 years since I was up on the saddle of a bike, and I had to ascent and stretch.  I was still walking like the Quiet Man for two days after.



O'Malley's The Island Princess

O'Malley's Island Princess.  It's a lot easier to tell the difference between the boats than it is to tell the difference between the two portacabins that sell you the tickets for the trip in Roonagh.  O'Gradys on the left O'Malleys on the right that's the ticket offices, mind you, not their political allegiances.



O'Grady's Clew Bay Queen

Clew Bay Queen on the return journey to the Tir Mor for some more hooch.  As a learned man once told me, "Francie my friend, you can never have a boat thats big enough" still no idea what the hell he was on about.  I was seeking advice from the same gentleman aka "Micky Roy" about short selling derivatives on the Hong Kong stock exchange.  Maybe he was advising the O'Gradys too.



The road between Croaghmore and Knocknaveen

The stone walls and the grass is green blah blah, no wonder the Saw Docters wrote a tune about Clare Island.

"Will you meet me on Clare Island
Summer stars are in the sky
We'll get the ferry out from roonagh
And wave all our cares goodbye."

This picture was taken on the B17 highway between Kill crossroads and the kingdom of Strake.



Baile Mór

This was the final part of my journey back to where I began, heading a much older and wiser man into the village of Glen. Camera full of images, tongue as dry as a bedoin's sandal, and with a dose of saddle rash as bad as the exhaust on the báid mór.



Napoleonic signal tower is situated at the western tip of the island.

I've been to Clare Island 10 times now, but this is the first time I went as far as the western most tip, to the kingdom of Strake. Where I traversed a peat bog and up a hill towords the deserted ruins of a Napoleonic signal tower. Must have been used to prevent invasions from the French and Spanish. It's worth the journey not just to look at the military ruins, but to scan across towords Achill and the majestic Keem Bay. You get a southerly view of Bills rocks too. The rocks that are standing solid somewhere in mid Atlantic between Clare Island and Achill. The Bills Rocks are a group of three rocks lying closely together, approximately 10 km south of Moyteoge Head on Achill Island, Co. Mayo. I heard they got their name from a famous Castlebar latcheco known as triple Bill, and also known as Bill Beautiful.



Grace's rest place, the Cistercian abbey church.

This is the old church, the one with the famous cave paintings. It was a Cistercian abbey. I hadn't time to go get the keys to have a look on this occasion. I did visit the new chapel. When ever I visit these islands I always light three candles. Future, past, and present. So I light one for Mayo to win an all Ireland, one for the people lost at sea, and one for a cáilin athas. I've visited every Church on every Island and I can tell you my faith is in tatters.



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