A visit to Clare Island Lighthouse, Ireland, is absolutely something different.
First, you can leave your car behind at Roonagh Pier on the Mayo mainland and, journey across the water for a quaint visit on the Island. Clare Island lighthouse and its buildings have been restored and transformed into a luxury guesthouse, and the island itself offer a wealth of activity including walking, cycling, fishing, music and crafts.
The original lighthouse was built in 1806 by the Marquis of Sligo, on the isolated northern tip of Clare Island. However, seven years later, it was destroyed by fire due to the lighthouse keeper throwing the snuffings of the wicks of candles into a tub which eventually, of course, caught fire.
The new lighthouse tower was built toward the end of 1818. Clare Island Lighthouse had an incandescent light which flashed every 5 seconds at a range of 23 nautical miles until its closure at 7:45am on 29th September, 1965 after an amazing 159 years of service.
But did you know that the family of legendary pirate queen Grace O’Malley (or Grainuaile) owned Clare Island during the Middle Ages? Not by chance, the ruins of a tower house by the island’s harbour is known locally as Grace O’Malley’s Castle. Grace was a 16th century contemporary of Queen Elizabeth I of England, and she was describes as “A fearless leader by land and by sea, political pragmatist and tactician, rebel, pirate and matriarch”, but also the most notorious woman in all the coasts of Ireland, who challenged and manipulated the turbulent politics of the 16th century. More or less, a woman not to be trifled, with by all accounts.
Moreover, many of the O’Malley clan are buried there, in a small but very significant Cistercian Abbey near the south coast of the island. It was patronised by the O’Malley Clan in the 13th century and It contains numerous O’Malley tombs. As story goes, is where Grace was baptized, married and buried, and it is also believed that her body was interred within the decorated tomb niche at the Abbey.
Author’s note: Clare Island Lighthouse is the only lighthouse in Ireland that provides B&B accommodation and dinner. Here its website.
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Images from web – Google Research