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Minister weighs anchor for new Clare Island hostel

Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Michael Ring, cut the tape to officially open the Go Explore Hostel on Clare Island.
Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Michael Ring, cut the tape to officially open the Go Explore Hostel on Clare Island.

Minister weighs anchor for new Clare Island hostel opening

Áine Ryan


REALLY Leo Moran of The Sawdoctors said it all – well sang it all – with his rendition of the iconic song: “Will You Meet Me On Clare Island”. The sailing Sawdoctor was not quite ‘skinny-dipping’ (as the lyrics go) but he was stripped right back to an acoustic guitar when he sang the song at the official opening of the Go Explore Hostel and Praeger Education Centre on the island at the weekend. The development also incorporates The Sailor’s Bar and Restaurant.
Minutes earlier, Junior Minister for Tourism, Michael Ring had jumped up on a chair and given a rousing speech about ‘this great new story for Clare Island’. Forget about the Dublin Four media and all the economic negativity, ‘they need to come across the Shannon and see the real Ireland’, the straight-talking minister said.
“This new venture will spearhead Clare Island’s new marketing strategy by providing a platform to showcase all that the island has to offer to prospective visitors. And we know that Clare Island has much to offer from great B&Bs, cafes, walking tours, bike hire, sea angling and scenic boat trips,” Mr Ring told The Mayo News.
He cited the scenic location of the hostel – formerly a hotel run by the O’Grady family and earlier a landlord’s lodge during the 19th century – overlooking Clew Bay, with views of iconic Croagh Patrick.
Proprietor, Carl O’Grady explained the genesis of the ambitious project.
“Five years ago, after the hotel was partially damaged by fire, we realised that tourism was changing and that people who used to just come ‘for the beauty of a place’ wanted more: walking, sailing, kayaking, swimming. Well, Clare Island, as a backdrop, provides the perfect location for that,” Carl O’Grady said.
Citing  the  culture, history and natural beauty of the island, as well as its accessibility and many facilities, including the community centre and B&Bs, Mr O’Grady said the venture would be run in partnership with the many niche businesses already operating on the Clew Bay outpost.
He said the existence of the Clare Island Survey, with its multi-disciplinary appeal, was pivotal to the unique potential of the education centre. Afterwards, Ciara Cullen, of Clare Island Yoga Centre and Macalla Organic Farm, spoke about the work of the Centre for Island Studies and the original survey, led by Edwardian Naturalist, Robert Lloydd Praeger.
Ms Ellen O’Malley-Dunlop talked about Granuaile’s association with the island and the annual Bard Summer School. This year it will ‘explore the traditions of good leadership as embodied in the many King Stories from Ancient Ireland, for example Cormac mac Airt and Conaire Mór’. The school, which runs from July 4 to 8 next, will debate this subject in the context of contemporary leadership also.
Archaeologist, James Murphy, who will help run the Praeger Education Centre, said the island – with the existing body of study – was an ideal natural laboratory, since one ‘literally tripped over artefacts’. He cited the fact that of the 200 identified Fulachta Fiadh in Mayo, 53 had been discovered on Clare Island.
THE Chairman of Cliara Development Company Ltd, Padraic O’Malley congratulated Carl O’Grady on the new initiative.
Mr O’Malley said: “This new facility will enhance the existing businesses on the island, which include our community centre, B&Bs, cafes and arts and crafts outlets. We would hope that the Greenway is extended right across Clew Bay and that it is integrated into the wonderful and scenic pathways here on Clare Island.”
The official launch also featured stalls showcasing the many niche businesses on the island. They include Anna’s Coffee Shop, Ballytoughy Loom, run by master craftswoman, Beth Moran, Clare Island Art, run by Kathleen Barnes and Philomena O’Malley’s Reiki and Thai Massage service.
“It is a welcome addition to the island, particularly with the new interest in the outdoors and the success of the Greenway to Achill. The hostel can now capitalise on this, while the Praeger Education Centre can build on the work already carried out by the Centre for Island Studies,” said Anna Wettergren, who runs a coffee shop at The Mill. 
Attending the official opening, Brian Quinn of Fáilte Ireland said: “This is a fantastic investment in the island and we are absolutely delighted at the development of this necessary infrastructure. It consolidates for us the further development of the Granuaile Cycling Trail, which includes the Greenway, but will also be extended from Westport to Louisburgh and Clare Island where we hope people will stay overnight.”
Speaking to The Mayo News, Majella Ní Chríocháin, the Chief Executive of Comhar na nOileán, “It is wonderful to see a great project come to fruition and one that will contribute to the future economic sustainability of the island for generations to come. I believe that there is great potential for the Praeger Education Centre to link up with universities all around the world.”

MORE www.goexplorehostel.ie (will be live later this week, see Facebook)   www.clareisland.info, www.bard.ie

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