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Clew Bay Islands

A short walk to the statue of Saint Patrick on the Reek often reveals stunning views of Clew Bay and the distant Nephin mountains, but (apart from the massive Clare Island to the west) how can you tell one island from another? Here are some clues:

Westport Bay from the Reek
Westport Bay from the Reek
    • The semi-island at the end of the long strip of land reaching from the shore out into the bay is called Bartraw. It is one of the most popular destinations in the Westport area
    • The island just off the tip of Bartraw is called Inishdaugh. Legend has it that Danish treasure is buried there
    • To the left of Inishdaugh is Inishleague, behind which are Inishimmel and Inishlaghan, while to its right is the island of Inisheeny, now uninhabited but once home to several families
    • The connected islands that look like a prehistoric bird with a long tail (furthest west from Bartraw) are Dorinish Beg and Dorinish More, once owned by Beatle John Lennon and once home to a commune of hippies led by Sid Rawle
    • The large island inside Westport Bay with a prominent white house at its eastern tip is Inishraher, now a retreat of the Transcendental Meditation (TM) organization
    • The tiny island that looks like a hat to the east of Inishraher is called Corillan or ‘The Scotsman’s Bonnet’
    • The island at the end of the Murrisk peninsula (closest to the Reek and just beyond Murrisk Abbey) is called Cahernaran, and once had its own fort
    • Beyond Cahernaran, further down the coast towards Westport, are the three islands of Annagh – East, Middle and West joined by narrow strips of land and shingle – now empty but once home to over thirty people
    • The island that boasts the only working lighthouse in Clew Bay (the white structure visible just beyond the ‘tail’ of Dorinish) is called Inishgort. At last count, this island had one inhabitant
    • The island with a cluster of buildings to the southeast of Inishgort is Inishlyre, whose deep natural harbour used to be used as a dropping off point by larger ships with cargo for Westport Quay. A family still lives on the island.
    • The large islands behind Inishgort are Island More and Knockycahillaun, which once housed several families and are part of a network of islands connected by shingle A new holiday home and the old houses are visible where Island More and Knockycahillaun meet
    • Beyond the Island More chain, the distant shingle bar jutting straight out into the bay is part of Inishbee island, beyond which lies the beautiful island of Inishoo, with its horseshoe harbour
    • Further north and east of Inishoo are the myriad islands of Newport Bay and the Nephin Mountains, one of the wildest and most remote areas in the entire country.
    • Looking further west from the Nephins is the dome of the Corraun Peninsula, and beyond that is the island of Achillbeg and Achill Island itself, the largest offshore island in the country, with its cliffs of Croaghaun on the western end of the island – the third highest sea cliffs in Europe.
    Sunset over Westport Bay
    Sunset over Westport Bay

    NOTE – It is not unusual to see rain sweeping over the Nephin Mountains, while the Reek may be bathed in sunshine, and vice-versa. When the wind swings to the northwest, the impressive form of Clare Island being suddenly obliterated by mist is often a harbinger of a squall heading for Croagh Patrick.

    NEXT POST – Everest Sherpas on the Reek

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