If you are looking for a unique and memorable experience in Ireland, you might want to consider visiting St. MacDara’s Island Monastery, a medieval Christian site that is located on a small island off the coast of Carna in South Connmeara of County Galway. St. MacDara’s Island, also known as St. Mac Dara’s Island or Oileán Mhic Dara, is home to one of the finest examples of an early Christian oratory in Ireland, as well as a rich history and culture that dates back to the 6th century.

St. MacDara, or Mac Dara, was a local saint who lived in the 6th century and is believed to have founded a wooden monastery on the island that bears his name. St. MacDara is said to be the patron saint of fishermen and sailors, and his feast day is celebrated on July 16th every year. According to tradition, a boat race and a pilgrimage are held on this day, and hundreds of people gather on the island to attend mass at the ancient church and to bless the boats.

The St. MacDara’s Island Monastery is a small rectangular church that is made of huge granite rocks and has an unusually steep roof. It measures about 4.8 by 3.6 meters and has a single doorway on the east side and a small window on the west side. The church is believed to have been built in the 10th or 11th century, but it may have replaced an earlier wooden structure that was founded by St. MacDara in the 6th century.

The church is remarkable for its simplicity and elegance, as well as its preservation. It is one of the few examples of an early Christian oratory that has survived intact in Ireland, and it has been designated as a National Monument by the Irish government. The church contains some interesting features, such as a stone altar, a holy well, a sundial, and several carved crosses.

St. MacDara’s Island Monastery is not only a historical and religious site, but also a scenic and peaceful destination that offers stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean and the surrounding islands. The island itself is about 22 hectares in size and has a rugged landscape that is home to various wildlife, such as seabirds, seals, and dolphins. The island is also known for its archaeological remains, such as stone walls, enclosures, hut sites, and burial grounds.

Visiting St. MacDara’s Island Monastery is a rare opportunity to experience a part of Ireland’s heritage that is often overlooked by tourists and locals alike. The island is only accessible by boat from Carna, Roundstone or Mace Pier on Mweenish Island, and there are no facilities or amenities on the island. Visitors need to bring their own food, water, and clothing, and respect the environment and the sacredness of the place.

There is no easy way to get to St. MacDara’s Island Monastery. Often, it’s a case of arranging your own boat trip to the island by contacting one of the local fishermen or boat owners who are willing to take visitors to the island for a fee. However, there are no regular tours or any guarantee that you’ll find someone to transport you across. Alternatively, it’s often best to visit the Island on the feast day of St. MacDara, July 16th. On this day, the local community gathers together and provides boat trips across to the island for the pilgrimage. However, this option may depend on the availability and weather conditions of the day also.

If you are feeling adventurous, you can also try kayaking or sailing to the island from Carna or Roundstone, but this requires some experience and equipment, as well as careful planning and safety precautions.

St. MacDara’s Island Monastery is one of Galway’s hidden gems that offers a glimpse into Ireland’s ancient past and culture. It is a place where you can admire the beauty and simplicity of an early Christian church, learn about the life and legacy of St. MacDara, and enjoy the natural scenery and wildlife of the island.


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St. MacDara's Island Monastery



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