How to get to Clare Island
Climb aboard and soak up the spectacular views of Achill Island, the Nephin Beg mountains, Clew Bay and Croagh Patrick as the ferry gently chugs along. You can book in on the Clew Bay Queen or the Pirate Queen, but the Sea Sprinter lives up to its name, getting you to the island in just nine minutes.
You can also sail to Clare Island with O'Malley Ferries in just ten minutes. Enjoy the experience from the comfort of the heated saloon or head up to the deck and breathe in the fresh sea air.
Things to do on Clare Island
Check out the adventure sports
Adventure lovers can’t miss an outing with Clare Island Adventures. Get a group of friends together or plan a family day out and go raft building or orienteering. Scale new heights rock climbing where you’ll encounter sea birds such as guillemot, kittiwake, fulmar, and the greater black-backed gull. Discover new depths while snorkelling and eye up new horizons coasteering and kayaking.
Bring your walking boots
At 8km long and 5km wide, Clare Island is easy to get around. There are very few cars on the island, making it easier to enjoy the breathtaking scenery. If you’d prefer to cycle, pre-book a bike in advance or bring your own.
While it’s possible to walk around the entire island, there are shorter routes too. The 3km Fawnglass Loop begins and ends at the harbour, circling the townland of Fawnglass and Knockaveen Hill. With views of Clew Bay, the waymarked trail brings you to Granuaile’s Castle and takes about an hour. You can't go inside the castle but it's still worth a visit to see where Grace O'Malley, the Irish Pirate Queen, once lived.
The 8km Knocknaveen Loop takes you through hills and bogs, past the small loughs of Creggan and Leinnapollbruty. The waymarked loop takes about two and a half hours, starting and finishing at the harbour. Don’t forget your camera for epic shots of the cliffs. At 462 metres, majestic Knockmore is the highest peak on the island and it dominates the landscape.
Go swimming on Clare Island
Find Clare Island Beach right at the harbour, it’s the perfect place to sit and watch the world go by. On the north-east of the island under the watchful eye of the lighthouse, there’s a sheltered cove where you can take a peaceful dip in the water. This small harbour is used by local fisherman and close by, you’ll see the small waterfall flowing down the cliff face.
Experience festival fun
Although Clare Island is a remote paradise on the Mayo coast, it’s also a vibrant hub of activity during the summer months. Time your visit to coincide with the Regatta Festival in July where traditional currach boats compete against each other, the locals hold an epic tug of war competition, and kids get involved in the egg and spoon race. The craic is mighty, and you must experience it for yourself.
Travel back in time at the Bard Summer School and explore Clare Island’s ancient myths. This unique experience relives the island’s ancient past through music, poetry, song, and dance and takes place every year in July.
Plan your trip for the annual Film Festival in September and attend short film screenings and quirky events in secret venues. Whiskey fans should check out the Spirit of Clare Island Experience, held every Sunday from June to September. Taste the single malt spirit and choose from the Captain or Crew experience to learn about the seafaring history of the island.
Embrace history and heritage
The small island is rich in history, from megalithic tombs to holy wells. Visit Clare Island Abbey, where you’ll find rare medieval wall and intricate paintings. It’s rumoured that Grace O’Malley was baptised, married, and buried here. Take some time to explore this magnificent church.
As you walk around Clare Island and get a feel for this special place, look out for the Napoleonic signal tower on the island’s western point. It was built in 1804 in response to the threat of an invasion during the Napoleonic Wars and is a point of interest for history fans.
See the remains of fulachta fiadhs (cooking mounds) and spot tillage ridges left over from pre-famine times when the island’s population peaked at 1,700 people.
Plan a yoga retreat
The peace and tranquillity of Clare Island is the ideal setting to embrace your inner mindfulness guru. Book in for a stay at Macalla Farm, an organic farm and retreat centre. You can take a beginner’s yoga class, but you can also train to become a yoga teacher here, and it’s hard to imagine a more relaxing setting to perfect difficult postures. Conscious living is the ethos of this family-run farm and your time here is sure to leave you with a deeper appreciation of sustainability.
Learn the art of handweaving
Handweaver Beth Moran’s family have lived on Clare Island for generations and her colourful creations are truly special. Woven from sheep’s wool and finely spun silk and linen, her rugs and runners are the perfect souvenir and let you bring a touch of Clare Island into your own home. Book a course with Beth where you’ll get expert guidance on spinning, weaving, and natural dying.
Places to eat on Clare Island
Sailor’s Bar and Restaurant
When night falls, Sailor’s Bar and Restaurant is the place to be. Enjoy hearty, traditional dishes at this picturesque spot as you look out at the rolling waves of the Atlantic. Taste the fresh pollock and mackerel caught that day or opt for tasty Clew Bay mussels, served with homemade brown bread.
In the evening, music kicks off at Sailor’s. Budding musicians or expert artists, everyone is encouraged to join in with the live sessions. Pop your tin whistle in the suitcase, pack your guitar, or take your violin and get ready to play along. Tap your foot to the beat of traditional tunes and join in with the locals for a dance or two, the craic is mighty on Clare Island and you’ll never want to leave.
The Community Centre & Bar is right beside the beach, take a stroll on the strand and then pop inside. It’s another hub of activity with epic trad sessions, set dancing, sean-nós singing, and poetry.
Places to Stay on Clare Island
On Clare Island, you can sleep under the stars on the campsite near the beach, so you can start your day with a swim. There’s self-catering accommodation, quaint B&Bs are dotted across the island, and if you really want a unique experience, you can stay overnight in Clare Island Lighthouse.
From charming cottages to spectacular sea views, get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life with a stay on Clare Island.
Go Explore Hostel
Originally the house of the O’Donnells, the landlords of Clew Bay in the 1800s, Go Explore Hostel is a modern budget hostel. Next door to Sailor’s Bar and Restaurant, the cheerful hostel has communal areas so you can easily chat with fellow guests. Book into the family-run hostel and learn all the island’s insider tips before falling asleep to the sound of the ocean.
Right beside the harbour and in the shadow of Granuaile Castle, experience gorgeous Granuaile House. Overlooking the island’s main beach, this pretty B&B has beautiful sea views and is a great place to base yourself for a few days of exploring. It opened its doors and served its first guests in 1909, with visitors coming back time and time again to experience the famous Clare Island welcome.
Clare Island Lighthouse
If you want to treat your other half to a romantic getaway, Clare Island Lighthouse is sure to impress. Perched on the rugged cliffs, the luxury rooms are furnished with wood-burning stoves, cast-iron beds, and stunning artwork. It fills up fast so if you want to stay here, make sure you book in advance.
Couples can chill out together while solo travellers tend to mingle with guests in the drawing room and kitchen in the heart of the lighthouse, formerly the lighthouse keeper’s home. You can bring your furry friend for the weekend too, but the lighthouse isn’t suitable for children.
Clare Island has it all. You can embrace the serenity in this little slice of paradise where everyone gets around on foot, but there’s plenty of ceol agus craic too. Start planning your trip and check out our Mayo destination page for more inspiration to continue your holiday in the Heather County.