Ireland: Omey Island

Back in the day, before… everything, my mother-in-law would visit regularly from Poland, and I’d be able to drop my childcare duties for a day or two and escape to explore our adopted homeland.

On my way to Omey…

On these occasions, Connemara was always my favourite place to head. The light, the spectacular scenery and wild weather just kept on drawing me back. So, when I heard she was heading back over this month, I started making plans…

Omey is a small, tidal island off the coast of Connemara, a few miles north-west of Clifden in County Galway. The island offers fantastic views of the coastline and islands further off-shore, and is also home to some ancient archeological sites and an unusual habitat of grass-covered dunes.

By fluke, the tide timings suited my plans perfectly. I arrived as the tide was just about at its lowest and the 600m wide strand at its driest. It was easy to see how the sand between the mainland and the island could host horse racing one weekend a year, and the sands are so firm that there is a marked ‘road’ between the two.

I faced into the gale and headed out to the island, walking an anti-clockwise lap of its coastline…

Slightly inland from the northern shores of the island are the remains of Teampaill Feichín, the medieval parish church, on the site of St. Feichín’s original abbey.

Back on the shore and this crumbling bank is home to an ancient graveyard. As the weather eats away at the hillside, human remains are often exposed. All across the island, burrowing rabbits often bring up ancient ‘debris’.

At the western tip of Omey is an even smaller island, again only reachable when the tide is out, and provided that you keep your footing on the slippery seaweed. Illaunakeegher offers a great view back to Omey, but also out to Cruagh Island, and the former monastery on High Island.

Further around the coast of Omey, past the stoney beaches to the right and machair grasslands in the centre of the island to the left, and I came to the holy well (Tobar Feichín) with all the usual offerings that these sites gather.

There’s one road on the island that I followed back to the sands dividing the island from the mainland. Omey has one permanent inhabitant and perhaps a dozen holidays homes, that were all looking pretty sorry for themselves on a wet, October day.

Here’s the route I took…

The drive home along ‘The Bog Road’ delivered all of Connemara’s usual treats. Spectacular views that are obscured every 15 minutes or so by a squall rolling in off the Atlantic.

Gubbins:

All photographs made with a Leica M262 and a 35mm Summicron-M ASPH.

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