A northwestern island retreat is a great place to recharge, amidst all the comforts of home
By Maeve Tynan
Inishbofin, an island about 6 miles off the coast of Connemara, is a getaway popular
with Irish folks who want to escape the newfound strains of modern
living. A rugged, rocky outpost crisscrossed with stonewalls and undulating hills, Inishbofin is remote enough to feel secluded and utterly quiet. But the island also has all the amenities needed for visitors who like comfort – including a luxury spa set to
open this September.
Inishbofin (Inis Bo Finne) is about 5 miles long and just
two miles wide, making it a bit larger than its two nearby sister
islands Inishlyon (Inis Laiglean) and Inishark (Inis
Airc). The island is inhabited year-round by 200 souls,
mainly fisherman, farmers and people who run local
B&B's and hotels. Visitors enter through a harbor
guarded by the ruins of a Cromwellian fortress and behold a landscape
of gently rolling green hills (there's plenty of grass and
vegetation here, unlike the Aran Islands, where heavy winds will sweep
off anything that's not nailed down).
The lead attractions here are extreme quiet and great ocean views all
around. According to Tony Conneely, manager of the Days'
Inishbofin House Hotel (owned by the local Day family - no
relation to the large hotel chain), It's a great
place to completely "de-stress." I come from just
five miles inland, and even to me it seems like a different
Visitors like to hike the island or tour it on
bicycles (available at the harbor pier for reasonable rates). Most of
Inishbofin is ringed with beaches that are safe for swimming, though
the island's north end features some spectacular cliffs that
can be covered in a two-hour circular walk starting in town. If you
want to take a long, lazy break from your hiking or biking, The Gallery
Restaurant and B&B on the east side of the island provides a
nice coffee cum lunch menu that's sure to perk you right up.
Inishbofin is not exactly a secret. Like many remote locales, it is now
becoming more fashionable with creative, arty types who frequent it,
seeking inspiration and a chance to recharge their batteries. The
Inishbofin Arts Festival in May is a testament to the growing interest
in arts and culture on the island. There's also an outdoor
market every Wednesday from 9:30 to 12:00 at the East End, which sells
organically grown vegetables, fresh herbs, homebaking, fresh fish when
available, and free range eggs. And the main town has a heritage museum
and souvenir shop. For outdoorsmen, sea angling (call 095 45865 for
info) and wind-surfing are available.
Though most visitors come in
summer, Mr. Conneely says that winter is a good time to visit for those
who like real solitude and dramatic weather conditions, with lots of
dramatic seascapes everywhere.
Most accommodations are tucked in around the main harbor. On a recent
visit, we tried out the Inishbofin House Hotel, which re-opened just
this past July 1st after a major renovation. Although there seemed to
be some initial teething problems (service was a bit slow), it was very
pleasant overall and our stay was a great bargain for a fairly upscale
accomodation. A two-night stay with breakfast and one dinner worked out
to a total of about 180 Euros per person. The hotel's
"Marine Spa," so named because it's on
the beach and has seaweed baths, opens in September (www.dayshotel.ie).
There are plenty of other accommodations, including several
self-catering cottages on the east side of the island (get more info at
To get to Inishbofin, head from Galway to Clifden via Maam Cross on the
N 59 for approximately 8km. Follow N 59 north past Clifden, until you
reach Streamstown. Follow signs to the left for the road to Cleggan, a
small town which is really just a few pubs strung together by a number
of houses. The Inishbofin ferry departs Cleggan three times daily,
charging 15 Euros for a round trip ticket.