Clare Island lies 4 miles off the west coast of Ireland at the entrance to Clew Bay. The largest of the Mayo offshore islands, it has a varied terrain: spectacular cliffs with large numbers of nesting sea birds and a rich ‘inland’ topography of hills and bogs and small pockets of woodland, making it ideal for hill-walking. The Fawnglass loop is one of two loops on the island.
The island’s complex history can be read through its landscape: from archaeological remains of the Neolithic and Bronze age, to rare medieval wall-paintings in the 14th century Cistercian Abbey (well known for its rare medieval roof paintings, to the ‘pirate queen’ Grace O’Malley’s (Grainneuaile) castle and burial place. The island population is now around 130, yet everywhere there are traces of past generations, most significantly the 19th century population explosion and subsequent famine when the island’s population of 1600 was reduced by half. Old potato ridges, or ‘lazy beds’ are everywhere: the evening sun reveals them jutting out from the land like the rib cages of some dying beast. The ferry crossing takes approximately 20 minutes and is quite regular during the summer when there is a steady tourist season. In the winter, there are usually two boats a day. See website for Ferry Timetable
A-B. Starting from the mapboard at the pier, follow the green (and purple) arrows for 100m and veer right at the first junction. Pass the Granuaile House and after 100m reach a Y-junction at O Grady’s Guesthouse. Veer left here - following the green arrow and the signpost for ‘All Routes’.
B-C. Continue along the surfaced roadway for 1km to reach the second ‘bohereen’ on the right. The longer Knocknaveen Loop (marked with purple arrows) continues along the surfaced roadway here – you turn left following the green arrow.
C-D. Follow the bohereen uphill and through a series of gates to reach a junction with a ‘green’ track. Here the loop rejoins the Knocknaveen Loop on its return to the trailhead. The loop turns sharply to the right and passes through a gateway to begin the descent to the pier.
D-A. Follow the green roadway for 200m to reach another gate which takes you onto a surfaced ’bohereen’ beside the old schoolhouse. Turn right and continue the descent to Capnagower - passing the Gaelic Football pitch on the way. Turning right again, follow the road along the small beach to reach the trailhead.