Clare Island lighthouse has a long history of offering protection to sailors off the west coast. It now offers sanctuary of a different kind; luxury boutique accommodation in a unique setting.
Clare Island stands guard at the entrance to Clew Bay, off Ireland’s western Atlantic coast. For almost two centuries, the island’s Lighthouse has been a nautical landmark perched high on the craggy cliffs, watching over Achill, Westport and beyond. This architecturally majestic, listed building has been lovingly transformed into fully catered, luxury accommodation, complemented by magnificent sea views and an inspiring, natural environment.
Clare Island isreached by ferry and there are two companies operating, so the service is frequent and reliable. Once on the island it’s a different world, and the lighthouse is just visible up the top of the island. On a hot summers day children are swimming in the sea beside the harbour, and tourists hang around and take photos before embarking on the ferry which just brought me.
Soon the Lighthouse Land Rover comes down to pick me up, and I meet Tricia, one half of the couple who run it. We also collect another couple who are staying and who came on the earlier ferry.
The track is rugged and the landscape beautiful as we wend our way up the island, eventually reaching our destination on a cliff overlooking the wild Atlantic. Inside the Lighthouse buildings have been beautifully restored, and the public areas include a living room, dining room and the large kitchen. Here I meet Richard, the other half, and the man who will be cooking us dinner that evening.
Each of the guest rooms are different, and I am in the Achill Suite which is on the first floor and looks over the sea back to Croagh Patrick. I explored the lighthouse, and you can go outside and see the 360 degree views which are stunning. Tricia tells us it was the scene of a proposal the previous evening, a successful one fortunately.
Dinner is served in the dining room, after welcome drinks in the living room, where myself and my fellow guests get to know each other. Dinner is a communal affair, and so a good group is a distinct advantage. I was blessed with a fun and interesting bunch of people, and it made for a very enjoyable and stimulating evening.
The menu is set and a very good butternut squash soup with a swirl of cream and great homemade brown bread kicked us off nicely. Next up a cinnamon spiced lamb with homemade flatbread and artichoke hummus was tasty and light, and a very Middle Eastern influence was a pleasant surprise.
Lamb from this part of Ireland has its own flavour, the sheep live close to the sea, and can sometimes eat the sea grasses from amongst the dunes, or at the very least the salty spray that blows in off the ocean, giving the meat a sweetness and tenderness not often found.
A strawberry and vodka sorbet was sweet and tangy, and did its palate cleansing best to set us up for the star of the evening, perfectly cooked Hake with a creamy garlic and parsley sauce with roasted vegetables and potatoes was delicious.
A homemade chocolate tart brought up the rear, before we retired to the drawing room for cheese and port, all very Downton Abbey. Conversation flowed and some singers emerged from our motley crew, and a great night was had, before retiring to the best view in the world.
Breakfast the following morning was great, with a chice of fruits and cereals, thick slices of home baked ham and eggs cooked to order. A walk down from the Lighthouse to the harbour took 45 minutes, but on a summers day it was wonderful.
I will go back again to Clare Island Lighthouse, it is a magical and unique place to escape from the world. I think the separation from the mainland adds to the sense of relaxation and peace, after all, only twice a day can the world really reach over here. If an odyssey into beauty with great food, and hopefully good company is for you, then make a beeline to the island post haste