This dramatic lighthouse stands sentinel at the edge the spectacular cliffs that frame the northern tip of Clare island. Strategically positioned guarding the entrance to Clew Bay, the island is most popularly associated with its renowned daughter, the pirate Queen, Grace O’Malley. Granuaile as she is also known, ruled the seas around Ireland in the 16th Century and famously refused to bow to Queen Elizabeth of England when they met. She considered her simply as her equal and did not recognize her as the Queen of Ireland. At their encounter, their conversation was carried out in Latin, as Ní Mháille spoke no English and Elizabeth spoke no Irish.
At the edge of the harbour on the island stands the tower house locally known as Grace O’Malley’s castle and on the island’s south coast, lies St Brigid’s Cistercian abbey where she’s reputed to be buried.
A mere seven years later the lighthouse burnt down due to the keeper throwing the smoldering tail ends of the candlewicks into a barrel which caught fire. A new lighthouse tower was built toward the end of 1818. Due to its height, it was often obscured by fog or low cloud and its long term suitability was questioned. Achillbeg had been posited as a replacement as far back as 1871, but no sanction was forthcoming to build the new light and in 1914, Clare island was refurbished.
By the time that automation was being considered for lighthouses around the coast, a new move to replace Clare Island was underway and a suitable site on Achillbeg was identified. On 28 September, Achillbeg lighthouse was established and after 159 years of service, Clare Island shone no more.
Today the listed lighthouse and adjoining buildings have been transformed into fully catered luxury accommodation, with magnificent sea views across the bay to Achill and beyond.
Inactive since 1965.
Location: 53°49’37.11″North, 9°58’58.98″West.
High on the northern cliffs of Clare island, the light no longer functions as a sea light but instead the station at this stunning location has been converted into luxury holiday apartments. I took a taxi out to the lighthouse and then set off on a leisurely walk back to the harbour, stopping for some well earned refreshments in the Sailor’s bar!
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