Thursday, 1 June 2017

Island 375 - Omey/Iomaí, County Galway

Omey Island (Iomaí in Irish) is a tidal island located 600 metres west of the coast of County Galway near the village of Claddaghduff.  It is just over a mile from north to south and a bit more from east to west at its widest point.  It is publicised to visitors as an interesting walk to do and when I visited on a warm sunny morning there were a few dozen people crossing the causeway or on the island.  The causeway is just a beach of solid silver sand and you can drive your car across to the island and then over to the west coast where there is an informal car park.  I chose to leave my car in the more formal car park by the start of the waymarked causeway.

In 1841 before the Great Famine, Omey Island was home to 397 people.  Today there are several habitable houses but since the death of Pascal Whelan (a well known former stuntman) in February 2017 the island has no permanent residents at the moment.  The island is still farmed: there were several fields of cows on the island, mainly around Fahy Lough, which is a large lake in the middle of the island, which presumably provides drinking water for the cattle.

The island is very sandy and the west coast is machair grassland, which was covered in buttercups, daisies, primroses, violets, thrift, bird's-foot trefoil, orchids and milkwort.  I heard a cuckoo and several skylarks and saw a curlew.  I also thought I heard a chough.  The boggy parts of the island have extensive patches of yellow irises and some of the hedges lining the island's only road are mainly fuchsia bushes, although it was too early in the year for them to be in flower.  There are a few scrubby elder trees in the sheltered south east corner of the island.

St Féichín founded a monastery on Omey Island in the 7th century.  A medieval church (Teampaill Féichín), which is thought to stand on the site of St Féichín's Monastery, was excavated from the sand in 1981 and the ruins can still be seen on the north west side of the island.  I can't have been far from them but didn't notice them.  There is also a holy well dedicated to St Féichín but I didn't notice this either.  I think it is on the north side of the bay on the west coast of Omey.  There are also several shell middens on the island.  On the east coast of Omey there is a very large cemetery that looks to still be in use.

Omey's large cemetery

Orchid on Omey Island

Not sure what the purpose of the square building is

Lough Namackan

Omey's Football Pitch

White Stallion on welcoming duty

Ruined house on Omey Island

Bay on the west coast of Omey

Cruagh Island from the west coast of Omey

Fahy Lough

The multi-coloured cows of Omey

Cottage on Omey

Claddaghduff from Omey Island

It's this way

Omey Island from Claddaghduff with cars crossing the causeway

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