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Step back in time and enter The Pirate Queen's Stronghold.

Grace O'Malley, Gráinne Ní Mháille, Granuaile, lived in this Castle on Clare Island, in Mayo, off the West coast of Ireland. It was built by the Ó Máille (O'Malley), Kings of Umaill, and was her stronghold. Grace (c. 1530 – c. 1603) was the famous "Pirate Queen" of the West of Ireland.

After the death of her first husband Dónal (an Chogaidh) O’Flaherty Grace, taking with her the O’Flaherty men who wished to continue to serve under her, she returned to her father’s territory of Umhall and settled in the castle on Clare Island. From there, with a flotilla of at least three galleys and a number of smaller boats, she launched herself on a career that was to establish her as the legendary Pirate Queen of Ireland. 

Listen to Ellen O’Malley-Dunlop, Guardian Chieftain O'Malley Clan

Grace O’Malley is buried in a tomb in the Abbey on Clare Island which is very ornate and has the O’Malley Crest on the wall beside the tomb. It is said that the Pirate Queen’s head is buried near this castle. This location was strategically vital, as it helped her control the waters of Clew Bay and the seas off the west coast of Mayo.

In the 16th century during the lifetime of Grace O’Malley, Ireland’s Pirate Queen, her castle on Clare Island played an important part in the life of the island. It acted as a strategic outpost for those protecting the island from invasion and it also was an employer for islanders. Since that time it has had many uses but sadly fell into disrepair at the end of the 1800s. The roof collapsed and apart from some small maintenance interventions by the State, it has remained in a sorry state for the past 100 years, while still commanding a proud presence at the entrance of the Bay.

There have been a number of attempts to bring the castle back to life over the intervening years but sadly up to now nothing has worked. However a couple of months ago the Granuaile Castle Group in collaboration with the Clare Island Development Company, began the process of applying for Government funding for an updated  feasibility study on the Castle, to include recommendations for an interpretative centre and how best to use the Castle for the benefit of the island and the islanders. Sadly there was a mistake made in the process of the application and it has to be completed again. While this has delayed the plans it has not scuppered them.

In the meantime many of you will have experienced the virtual O’Malley/ Mayo Gathering in July sponsored by the Business Post, Fáilte Ireland, Mayo CO. CO., TG4, Tribe 101 Ireland, the Grace O’Malley Whiskey and supported by the O’Malley Clan. During the event we highlighted the castle project. We are very excited by the very positive responses we received from the Virtual Gathering and by the many people who have expressed an interest  in helping us make the plans for the castle a reality. I had  hoped to get back to you sooner with the plans from the feasibility study but because of the delay in the application process this is taking a bit more time. I would ask for your patience and assure you that I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Clare Island offers a unique opportunity, in a world that moves so fast, to visitors who visit, to relax in a beautiful landscape with a community who are welcoming and interested in sharing the amazing history of the island and its people. It is also open to welcoming more families to live on the island now that we have the new experience of being able to work from home with good broadband services. An unforeseen positive consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

It is more important than ever now to ensure that we can leverage the use of the Castle for the benefit of the sustainability of life on Clare Island.

The Granuaile Castle Group is mandated by the local Cliara Development Company to lead and develop the project to restore the Castle and build an interpretive centre that will highlight the importance and uniqueness of Grace O’Malley in the History of Ireland. This project when finished will be a big contributary factor to the sustainability of life on the island for the 150 inhabitants. It will also be a centre piece destination for the extension of the Green Way and the larger development of the Clew Bay area.

The Development Company has set up a designated account to receive donations for the restoration of the Castle. This account will adhere to all corporate governance requirements and will be used solely for the purpose of the castle restoration and development.

ACTION: IF YOU WANT TO PLEDGE A DONATION (DO NOT FORWARD MONEY YET) OR HELP FUNDRAISE, GIVE US YOUR EMAIL FOR UPDATES. 

Updated: June 25th, 2020

Fundraising Details

How much does the project need?

The fundraising target is €1.5m across the following three categories:

1. Public Funds: Target = €600k,  and we have indicative pledges so far are circa €120k

2. High net worth and business: Target = €500k, with indicative pledges so far = €45k

3. Micro funding from Ireland101 supporters: Target = €400k, with indicative pledges so far = €5k

Total Target = €1,500k, and indicative pledges so far = €170k


Why help with this project?

Help celebrate and promote Grace O'Malleys life as a female Irish legend.

Bring a new, heritage-rich tourist attraction to Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way.

Bring more tourists to the Island (by local ferry and large cruise liners).

Support local employment on the island and across Mayo's ferry villages.

Help protect an Irish island community and counteract its urban migration challenge.


What can I give and what do I get in return?

Donations from Ireland101 supporters are not capped, but we do have three proposed levels to suit people - NOTE: WE ARE JUST LOOKING FOR INDICATIVE PLEDGES AT THIS STAGE: 

1. Bronze Supporters = €50: electronic listing as a project supporter for the entire lifetime of the project.

2. Silver Supporters = €250: electronic listing as a project supporter for the entire lifetime of the project, and your name written in the welcome section of the interpretive centre.

3. Gold Supporters = €1,000:
+ electronic listing as a project supporter for the entire lifetime of the project,
+ your name written in the welcome section of the interpretive centre,
+ a signed copy of Anne Chambers book on Grace,
+ an invite to the official opening, and
+ your name carved in stone inside Grace O'Malley's Castle for your future ancestors to see and appreciate.

ACTION: IF YOU WANT TO PLEDGE A DONATION (DO NOT FORWARD MONEY YET) OR HELP FUNDRAISE, GIVE US YOUR EMAIL FOR UPDATES. 

Updated: June 25th, 2020

Project Updates

[TO ADD]

Geolocation: 53.79970159,-9.95105042 

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