Omey Island (Irish: Iomaidh) is a tidal island situated near Claddaghduff on the western edge of Connemara in County Galway, Ireland. From the mainland the island is inconspicuous and almost hidden. It is possible to drive or walk across a large sandy strand to the island by following the arrowed signs. At high tide, the water is deep enough to cover a car.
The closing tide
Sunset from Omey Island
The Omey Island Map
In the early to mid-1990s a team of archaeologists from University College Dublin began work to study the monastic heritage of the island, long known for being the site of a monastery and settlement founded by the prodigious St Feichin. In fact, its name derives from the Irish Iomaidh Feichín meaning Feichín's bed or seat.
The excavation gave new insights into the life of early Christianity in Ireland and included one of the few known burials of a female within a monastic burial ground. The site is believed to date from the early 6th century.
The island of Omey remains a place of devotion to Saint Feichín to this day, with a Holy Well situated by the western edge and several other key landmarks of piety, including the still existing ancient church - with the majority of its vast stones still very much in place (having been buried in centuries of sand until the parish priest took matters into his own hands and, with the help of locals, dug up the area surrounding it.
St Feichín is known to have established many such communities across the west of Ireland and is considered one of the most important of the early founders of the rich tradition of Irish Christianity.
The population of the island has diminished drastically from its maximum when hundreds of people lived there in the early 1800s.  In fact, for over ten years (until recently) the only full time inhabitant was the former stuntman and wrestler Pascal Whelan. Irish Poet Richard Murphy lived for some time on Omey Island, where he built an octagonal retreat that still exists. In 2003 the Irish Artist Sean Corcoran witnessed a strange creature in the lake that he describes as being similar to a Dobhar-chu / Master Otter.
Omey  is a tidal Island in Connemara off the coast of Galway in the west of Ireland. From the mainland at Claddaghduff the island is inconspicuous and almost hidden. In fact 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 magical and mysterious place.
Sweeney’s bar of Claddaghduff will be your first port of call. There’s a nice shop there and a post office, beer, wine, petrol, diesel, gas and briquettes. From there you can check the tides and take in the view. Omey will come alive before your eyes. The size of the strand will become apparent if the tide is open. Be careful with the tide though, it can close with remarkable speed. Cross the strand by car or foot to enter Omey Island.
There is an abundance of rabbits, birds and flowers and a virtually wild herd of cows roams freely. A bit closer to captivation a 26 year 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, the eye as I call it is mesmerising. 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. Simple things that we often overlook. Once a year the strand plays host to the Omey Races, an amazing spectacle. Horses, jockeys, bookies, punters and spectators come from far and wide to the temporary racetrack in the sand.
There’s not much in the way of broadband, telephone reception or TV signal so prepare yourself for DIY entertainment. I’m currently reading Tim Robinson’s new book, Connemara, the last pool of darkness which is very enlightening and the fruit of over 20 years work.
Catch it, cook it or plunder the mainland for provisions. If you want a meal cooked for you you'll have to go to Cleggan, Letterfrack or Clifden.
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 currently available for rent on Omey Island. Alternatively plenty of visitors park up for a day or two in their camper vans or its ideal for camping. There are also many other houses available on the mainland if you want a handier base to explore Connemara. July, August and September are the busiest months for bookings but Omey is every bit as dramatic in the winter.
The Star of the Sea Church is a stones throw from the island and there’s also a Community Hall. If you want to spread your wings a little bit further, Cleggan is only around the corner where you can have a nice meal or take a ferry to Inis Boffin. Letterfrack is further up the road, it's a nice village close to Connemara National Park. Take a day trip to Clifden, a bustling little country town about 10 miles away.
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