Omey is a tidal Island in Connemara off the coast of County Galway in the west of Ireland. From the mainland the island is inconspicuous and almost hidden: you could drive along the coast road and not even realise the island exists in the panoramic view below you. It's a stunning landscape with sand-dunes and rolling hills, a lake, boulders, grass, flowers, cows and rabbits.
When the sea surrounds the island the atmosphere changes as if everything is at peace and in harmony. Poets, philosophers, writers and artists have been inspired by this sensation. Omey is as much a part of the spirit of the community as the people are. This is a place of joy and sorrow, of life and death. Don’t be fooled into thinking that time stands still here. Everything is constantly moving and changing with shifting sands, water, rocks and skies. This is a mysterious place.
First reach the mainland village of Claddaghduff. This is 12 km northwest of Clifden, with no public transport up the lane.
The strand from Claddaghduff to Omey Island is passable for about 3 hours either side of low water. Look this up on a tide predictor such as Easytide, using Clifden Bay as the base port, and Apr-Oct remember to factor in Daylight Saving Time. If you're hiking, be ready to start crossing soon after the water drops, since you want several hours to get around, and it's pointless coming to Omey if you have to keep glancing at your watch. With a car, maybe leave it an hour to dry out and minimise the salt spray into the vehicle. You don't need 4WD, but do stick to the marked route across.
There is an abundance of rabbits, birds and flowers and a virtually wild herd of cows roams freely. A bit closer to captivation an old donkey called Snowy patiently grazes a little field with an occasional carrot from his admirers.
Make sure to get to the two rock mounds on the highest point. Above the lake see if you can identify Love Heart Rock not far from the poet Richard Murphy’s Octagonal Retreat.
Bring a kite to catch the wind or some golf balls and clubs to meander to the head. Hire a bike or there’s pony trekking locally.The landscape is ever changing; no two photographs will be the same. There is some visible history including the Sunken Church, the Holy well and ancient middens.
Walking, swimming, snorkelling, fishing, bring a boat or canoe? You’ll amaze yourself at how much entertainment you can squeeze out of one little sandy island. Before long you’ll find yourself collecting yellow shells or white quartz stones. When was the last time you caught a crab? Explore the shore and rock pools at low tide. Boulder hopping, how’s your balance?
Watch the sun set or the tide close or the moon rise.
- Omey Races are held on the beach in early August, timings depend on the tides. The next event is Su 1 - M 2 Aug 2021.
- Sweeney’s in Claddaghduff has a bar with food, post office, general store and filling station.
- Omey Island Map + Guide + DVD, by Sean Corcoran, may be available in Clifden bookshop; it's not available on Amazon.
- Omey Island: A Geological and Human History, by Heather Greer, 1st edn 2018. Cleggan: Connemara Doorstep Publishing. And see County Galway for other publications.
- There's nothing here beyond what you bring. Sweeney's on the mainland does bar food, if you can reach it.
With your toes in the sand and the tide closed behind you, share a bottle of wine with the setting sun. There’s often music on in Sweeney’s Bar on the mainland so make sure to catch up with your neighbours for a sing song!
- There are two houses available for self-catering on Omey Island. Or you could camp, with tent or camper van.
- John and Marion McDonagh’s. Comfortable and well equipped 4-bedroom bungalow. It’s the house with the horseshoe garage door overlooking the lake. It can be rented through.
- Anne McLoughlin’s, ☏ . An original 1950s cottage complete with simple open fire and white washed walls. Back to basics with a little kitchen and 3 bedrooms.
As of June 2020, Eir has mobile outdoor coverage on the island but not 4G; Three has decent 4G and Vodafone is scratchy. 5G has not reached this area.
- From nearby Cleggan you can take a ferry to Inishbofin Island.
- Letterfrack further up that road is the usual access point for Connemara National Park.
- Clifden is going to feel like a bustling metropolis after Omey, and as for Galway city . . .