O'Malley's Castle - Day 3 on Clare Island

Clare Island Travel Blog

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My bicycle and I were relaxing beside the beach, taking photos and admiring the view. I noticed the castle over beyond the other end of the beach and remembering something about the "pirate queen" Grainne O'Malley's castle on Clare Island, I picked up the bike and went to take a closer look. It was a pleasant surprise to find that it was open to the public today, despite the castle and it's grounds being completely deserted. Judging by the big gates both at the entrance to the grounds and the entrance to the castle, I assumed that it was open due to today's influx of visitors from the mainland, on a sort of "twin town" community visit (entailing a children's ceili, or several hours of organised yet enjoyable Irish dancing in large groups - that's my short and quick description of a ceili, a worthwhile and memorable experience if you ever get the opportunity).
Pirate Queen Grace O'Malley's castle


I strolled into the roofless castle and had a good look at the three-storey remains. The very center of the castle is completely gone, so standing in the middle you'd get soaking wet if it were raining. I could make out fireplaces and chimneys, and I could tell that if you had a ladder or were brave enough to scale the wall, like my rock-climbing friend Juliette might be, there are at least two little corner rooms that would be quite interesting to visit, as there is still shelter between the outer stone wall and an inner one, and it looks sturdy, at least. After taking plenty of photos that probably wont reflect the feeling of the place whatsoever, I made to leave.

As I was leaving I investigated the little dark corridor I had passed on my way in, just to see if I could visualise how the staircase would have been, as I had read that the castle once contained a series of wooden staircases.
But it was still there! Perpendicular to the little corridor was a hidden staircase of stone, with a wooden plank tempting you up on to the lowest remaining step. With a little hoisting I was up, and ascended carefully this narrow staircase that would be lethal if it were wet, or so I'm told. As it turned out, the staircase led right up to the top  floor, with no access to the first floor at all. It lead to a small landing with an open drop edge to the centre of the building, and a low window on the other side through which the wind came at tremendous speed. Once I had taken some photos I hurried back down the stairs as I was shaking with vertigo! All the way down the stairs I was visualizing Grainne Mhaol's ghost following me down (the curse that is vanity!).


Outside the castle I wandered up a little hill within the grounds, and was delighted to find there a secluded little beach, sheltered enough from the strong winds to sit for a couple of hours, admiring the scenery. This little beach with its surrounding cliffs on a small island got me thinking about coastal erosion. I could see a distinctive crack in one of the cliffs, not far from the castle, and I became curious as to how long it would last. I wonder how long the castle can stay standing where it is. Will it still be here when my grandchildren come to visit this lovely island in 60 year's time? I hope so.
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Pirate Queen Grace OMalleys cast…
Pirate Queen Grace O'Malley's cas…
Inside the castle
Inside the castle
High up in the castle (not advised…
High up in the castle (not advise…
My hands are shaking the picture l…
My hands are shaking the picture …
The secret beach beside the castle
The secret beach beside the castle
My lovely beach
My lovely beach
Croagh Patrick, in mainland Mayo
Croagh Patrick, in mainland Mayo
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Clare Island
photo by: unakt