Everything you can imagine, nature has already created.
Those of you familiar with the Harry Potter saga will know that to reach the magic school of Hogwarts, the young wizard, each year, must go to platform 9 ¾ in London station, an apparently nonexistent platform only accessible through a yellow brick pillar between platforms 9 and 10. Hogwarts is located in a sort of parallel dimension, connected to reality, yet set apart, regulated by its own physical laws and organized according to other powers.
You could say that the ferry from Roonagh Quay to Clare Island departs from dock 9 ¾. It is actually a small pier, quite unassuming, but from which you reach an amazing place, so much so that the 25-minute trip that separates the mainland from Clare Island seems too short, a destination so beautiful merits a long and arduous journey like in the novels. Clare Island is the largest of the 365 islands that make up the archipelago of Clew Bay - one for each day of the year according to the legend. Those lucky enough to visit shouldn’t choose just any day one which to go but one that is important to you.
It surely wasn’t by chance that the Pirate Queen, Grace O'Malley, chose the sandy beach of Clare Island on which to build her castle, which can still be seen today, spartan but solid, a sentinel of the sea. Clare Island seems to be in a bubble, almost as if under a spell. The edges of the buildings, the vegetation, the gentle rippling of waves in the marina or the crash of the powerful waves against the cliffs just seem blurred, rarefied under the bright sunlight or beneath the clouds that dull the colours.
Once at the harbour you can rent a bike and venture out to one of the two magnetic poles between which the island can be found: to the south, the abbey and high up to the north, the lighthouse. The narrow streets of Clare are so silent that upon entering, you almost feel the need to ask permission, particularly because of the long stretches where you don’t meet anyone.
You have the feeling that there is something in the air, like a higher energy, a kind of spirit of the place. Clare Island seems at one with nature. It’s like a woman, sure of her emotions and not afraid to express them, rising up to look into the distance or falling deep down into the contrasting darkness. Clare is a brave and authoritative woman, she knows how to be alone in the open sea yet seeks the protection of her little sisters, gathered near the coast, slightly lost. Clare Island resembles Grace O'Malley.
Clare Abbey is also a little set apart and just like the island she sits on, is awash with unexpected treasures: here the remains of the pirate queen are buried and it’s here where you’ll find one of the best examples of medieval wall paintings in all of Ireland. The lighthouse however will draw you in. Whilst it requires an ascent, it isn’t a tiring one but contemplated and slow, where in every corner, every perspective, every shrub and animal begs to be seen and remembered forever.
Once at the top, with the natural ease in which wonders occur, the path fades into a vast expanse of greenery that seems to expand infinitely, but then teases you as it abruptly stops and plummets into the intense deep blue of the waves. A magnetic force draws you to the edge, testing your vertigo, sheep graze next to it, queens of the land, unperturbed by the lighthouse, staring at the horizon, seemingly oblivious to the drop.
The Unlike Clare, the rest of the archipelago, prefer not to be separated from the coast, eternally divided between the earth and infinity. Of all the islands in the bay, steep green tongues shaped by the wind, Dorinish is the one with the most fascinating history that begins with the journey there. The island once belonged to John Lennon and climbing its steep profile one breathes the hope that its old owner is still the emblem.
There is no landing place, so you have to go by motor boat and then transfer to a small rowing boat for the latter part, disembarking directly on the beach: after all, every dream requires perseverance and Dorinish makes no exception. The effort required to see the sunset from the top pays off and was surely the reason why John Lennon chose it. It takes your breath, forces you to look afar and convinces you to believe.
When you think about it, the entire panorama of the bay, with its hundreds of small islands gathered there, inspire a sense of limitless possibility, and it’s no coincidence that on one of them, Collanmore Island, sailing lessons are offered to the local youngsters. And so it is that the archipelago of Clew Bay, from Clare Island to the smallest of the islands, tells a story in which man and nature interact and mingle with each other, united by an unbreakable bond, whether it is expressed by a path, a physical phenomenon or, more often, by magic.