The great 19th century author William Thackeray wrote of Clew Bay, "…the bay and the Reek, which sweeps down to the sea, and the hundred isles in it, were dressed up in gold and purple and crimson, with the whole cloudy west in a flame. Wonderful, wonderful!”
Local legend has it that Yoko Ono had a different experience when she first stepped on the isolated island of Dorinish in the late sixties. She was swooped upon by nesting terns and swore never to return. John Lennon had earlier arranged for a wooden “gypsy caravan” painted in psychedelic colours to be brought from London and floated out to the island on a purpose built raft as a temporary home. He later agreed to allow Sid Rawle, the "King of the Hippies" to establish a commune on the island.
The largest of these is Clare Island, home of the 'Pirate Queen' Grace O'Malley. This 16th century legend imposed her will on countless ships in the area. As a result, she was famously invited to meet a curious Queen Elizabeth. O'Malley refused to bow before Elizabeth because she did not perceive her as the Queen of Ireland. Their discussion was carried out in Latin, as O'Malley spoke no English and Elizabeth spoke no Irish.
Such stories are a part of Croagh Patrick and the Islands of Clew Bay - A Guide to the Edge of Europe, the new book by Michael Cusack. This is the first time that every island in Clew Bay, its history and other details, has been explored for the armchair traveller, along with tales of the great mountain, shipwrecks, the magical Brackloon Wood, and other remarkable aspects of this area.