Clare Island welcomes all single rainbow warriors!

TravelBy Fay Brophy
Rainbow warriors are encouraged to try Clare Island
Rainbow warriors are encouraged to try Clare Island

It’s always the quiet ones you have to look out for. Like how at the office Christmas party it’s the boring old accountants who end up drinking everyone under the table, before dancing on top of it. And it’s the wallflower who won’t-say-boo-to-a-goose office intern by day who turns into a foxy Samantha Jones by night.

The bigger cities have all the bright lights, multiple-floor nightclubs and Z-list celeb appearances, but it’s the small country pubs where the craic is mighty – with grannies tossing down their knitting and old men chucking down their whiskey chasers to do a jig.

And while Michelin stars, celebrity chefs and €100-a-head restaurants are all very posh and fancy, it’s the cheap and cheerful pizzerias with their warm welcomes, slight dysfunction and free shots of limoncello that truly hit the spot.

Likewise, Clare Island surpasses its traditional reputation. It’s a sleepy sanctuary of nature at its best, uncomplicated humanity at its warmest, and with no invasive commercialism. But, by God, do they know have to have fun there – and when the LGBT singletons dock at the end of the month, it’s about to get a lot more colourful.

Fewer than 200 people inhabit this stunning mountainous island guarding the entrance to Clew Bay in Co. Mayo, but the hard-working locals have welcomed thousands of Irish and foreign visitors all summer.

It has been a bumper season for the island’s B&Bs, hostels, shops, bars and restaurant owners, who have been hosting happy holidaymakers for the past few months, despite the miserable weather. This summer’s rain couldn’t dampen Clare Island’s party attitude as top bands sailed in weekly to entertain visiting hikers, hens and stags. Water activities were a little chillier, but wilder (a good thing), and foodies were stuffed to the gills at last month’s seafood festival.

And after the rain, there’s always a rainbow. Yes, to celebrate the success of the Marriage Equality Referendum, Clare Island is hosting its first LGBT singles weekend on September 25 to 27. It’s set to be a fierce, colourful affair.

Carl O’Grady, who runs the brilliant Go Explore Hostel and Sailor’s Bar and Restaurant (which won 2014’s Small Firms Association National Small Business Award under the Emerging New Business category) is responsible for organising the island’s hugely successful, activity-oriented weekends, devised for single men and women who “have a passion and energy for life, and love the outdoors”.

After staying on the island (in what is one of Ireland’s premier hostels) last year, I can see how these weekends have become such a success. There’s hiking, fishing, horse riding, angling and sunset boat trips – and yoga, heritage and cookery classes for the slower-paced – followed by the greatest home-grown pastimes of drinks, song and laughter around open fires... forget rom-com, this is rom-craic at its best.

The weekends aren’t all about match-making, they’re about bringing like-minded people together to enjoy some top outdoor fun.

If you’re single, gay and into adventure, on September 25 you should definitely hop on the ferry for the 20-minute crossing from Roonagh Pier in Westport to Clare Island. You’ll make new friends (nothing bonds people better than high-adrenalin adventures like zorbing, jet-skiing or rock climbing), master new skills and will hate to leave this special island and its people.

Of course, if love does so happen to blossom, you could always return for your wedding. :

Check out www.clareislandadventures.ie, email [email protected] or call 087 346 7713.


Fact File:

The all-in price for the LGBT singles weekend on Clare Island is €215 per person. This covers return ferry, B&B in Go Explore Hostel, two dinners, one lunch and all activities, including gear provision. The banter, craic and divilment are free.

hIf you’re already committed to walking down the aisle, check out the fun, adventure-packed hen and stag weekend packages that Carl O’Grady and his team organise. One night (includes ferry, B&B and a half-day adventure package) costs €85. Stay for two nights for €115.