When Irish isles are hiding

The road to Omey at low tide.

It’s not every day you get to walk out to an island; but then Omey is only sometimes an island.

Omey lies just off the Connemara coast and is accessible via a sand bar which is revealed only at low tide. The rest of the time it’s just like any other island.

On the ‘road’.

We walked over to Omey, following the road signs in the sand, largely because we weren’t sure how our hire car agreement would go if we had a problem. Of course, if we had had a problem explaining that we were two hundred meters offshore would have been fun.

Omey was once home to a couple of thousand people, but now there are only twenty residents. We didn’t see a soul on the island although we passed a couple of cars driving over the sandbar road. There’s a pretty walk around the perimeter of the island with great views over the Atlantic. Today the water was like a millpond all the way to the horizon. It was really quite eerie.

Omey local.

The island is dotted with middens filled with small sea-shells demonstrating both how long it has been inhabited and the tough existence the inhabitants had. We had lunch in nearby Cleggan where the pub had a newspaper front page from 1927 detailing the tragedy that struck the area when a huge storm sprung up and sank the entire local fishing fleet with 31 lives lost. The paper describes the hand-to-mouth lives of the local farmer-fishermen and the devastation wrought when that many bread-winners disappeared from the small communities. They died because they simply could not afford to abandon their nets which represented an extraordinary investment for them. It wasn’t long ago that this was one of the poorest areas in Europe.

Declan stalking rabbit.

Anyway, back to Omey which in addition to its 20 residents is home to a donkey, a herd of cows, innumerable birds and rabbits. The boys were thrilled to see a rabbit and try to stalk it. I reckon the bunny was on its last legs considering how close it let Declan get.

The rabbit disappeared down a hole, and we headed back over the sandbar before the tide made Omey an island again.

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