Roundstone Bay is effectively the northern side of Bertraghboy Bay.
Inis Ní / Inishnee
Inis Ní / Inishnee (pop. 28), a long low island in Roundstone Bay, is linked to the mainland at its northern end by a bridge and has a long single-lane road.
The remains of an ancient monument to Saint Brendan stand at the northern point, while at the southern end is the island’s impressive lighthouse, marking the entrance to Roundstone Harbour. Erected in 1961 to replace the first tower built in 1910, it casts its beacon across Croaghnakeela and St Macdara’s islands out over the Atlantic Ocean.
Several cottages are available on the island for holiday rental (highly recommended).
Cloch na Rón / Roundstone (Co. Galway / West)
Cloch na Rón ( “seal’s rock”) (pop. 660), usually anglicised as Roundstone, is an exceptionally attractive seaside fishing village set in a scenic area of great geological, archaeological and historical interest near the end of the northern arm of both Roundstone Bay and Bertraghboy Bay.
Currently marketed as “the most picturesque village in Ireland“, Roundstone is a popular tourist destination with a range of amenities for visitors, including several good accommodation options, pubs and sefood eateries. (Photo by Marianone)
Both the Irish and English toponyms derive from a strikingly round rock, very popular with seals, that acts as a marker at the mouth of the bay referred to as Round-stone Haven as early as 1684 by Roderick O’Flaherty.
The village was founded c.1825 by Alexander Nimmo, civil engineer for the Western District, who built roads, piers and harbours throughout Connemara. It was then settled by Scottish fisher folk. Within 15 years there were 75 houses, and the village supported an active fishing industry and a population of some 400 people.
St Mary’s church (CoI) is a striking Victorian building in well-tended grounds with interesting trees and plants. (Photo)
The church of Our Lady Star of the Sea (RC) is an attractive edifice with a vaguely Hispanic belfry. (Photo)
Roundstone has bees known for many years as an artistic haven. Leading Irish painters who have worked here include Paul Henry, Jack B Yeats, Gerard Dillon and Nano Reid, so the village and district feature in many famous works of art.
Yvonne King runs a gallery in the village showing local scenes and watercolours, while Rosie Mcgurran opens her studio during the summer months to display her unique vision of Connemara. Artists also exhibit in local hotels, restaurants and bars, and numerous works of art can be found in local business premises and homes.
Traditional Nights of music, song and dance from the Connemara area are held weekly throughout July and August.
Roundstone Arts Week is a major event, held at the end of June / beginning of July every year.
Roundstone’s other annual festivals include a Pony, Dog & Sheep Show in early July, the Roundstone Regatta for Galway Hookers and currachs later in the month, the Tour de Bog sponsored cycle in early August, and the All Ireland Supreme Champion of Champions Pony Show in September
Roundstone House Hotel **, run by the Vaughan family for over a century, is very highly recommended for its restaurant, open to all.
Franciscan Monastery / IDA Park
A Franciscan Monastery was established near Roundstone in 1835 and survived until the mid 1970s, when the last monks left the premises anf the property was bought by the Irish Development Authority (IDA). The C19th buildings were demolished in 1980 to make way for a small housing estate and craft centre.
The impressive bell tower, long used as an nautical landmark by local fishermen, and the old walls surrounding it are the last remaining features of the original monastery. (Photo by Paul Battley)
The Michael Killeen Park, as the IDA complex is officially called, is a small craft centre built as a pilot scheme for job creation in rural maritime areas, which, for demographic or other reasons, were unsuited to more conventional forms of industrial activity. It comprises various small factories and shops run by local artisans.
Roundstone Musical Instruments, established byMalachy Kearns in 1978, specialises in making bodhráns and also has a souvenir shop.
Roundstone Ceramics is a long established pottery studio and shop with beautiful locally inspired hand made ceramics.
The House of Mag Aoide makes silver jewellery on the premises.
Iorras Beag (“little peninsula”), usually anglicised as Errisbeg, is the name of the district between Roundstone and the open Atlantic coast.
Errisbeg House was constructed by Joseph Clogherty of Roundstone, an architecture student who is said to have gone with five friends to Texas, where he reportedly got involved in a gun battle with cattle rustlers; his five friends were killed, and Joseph swore that if he got back to Ireland alive, he would build Errisbeg house in their memory.
Errisbeg House was originally built in 1875 as a two story hunting lodge; an extension was added in 1901 by Joseph’s son Patrick Clogherty. Aka the Architect’s Folly for its odd design, the house contains original hand made mouldings, numerous beautiful engravings and ornaments, and a magnificent hand carved oak stair case.
The Stable Gallery, housed in an outbuilding complete with hand moulded troughs and cast iron partitions, exhibits works by contemporary artists, while the rambling rocky garden is dotted with modern sculptures.
Errisbeg House has since 1932 been the home of direct descendants of Richard de Stacpoole, who spent a fortune rebuilding significant parts of Rome after the Napoleonic Wars, for which he was given various titles by King Louis XVIII of France, Pope Leo XII and Pope Gregory XVI. The current Richard de Stacpoole variously styles himself Marquis and Duke de Stacpoole.
Errisbeg Hill (300m / 984ft), the most westerly summit in the South Connemara area, is the only peak of any height near Roundstone, making it easy to recognise from as far away as the Burren in County Clare. Roderic O’Flaherty wrote thus of its conspicuous position in 1684: “Westward of Inisnee and Round-stone haven ….. is Irrosbeg hill, the second place discovered by marriners [after the Twelve Bens] coming from the sea, on top of which is a poole where trouts breed“. The hill is one of the habitats of the rare Mackay’s heath and St Dabeoc’s heath, delightful in bloom. The summit commands fine views of the coast and inland over the intricate patchwork of water, bogland and forestry north of Roundstone. (Photo by madmadmaddin)
The Iorras Beag tombolo
Presumably the original Iorras Beag, this curious sandbar linking two former islands to the mainland is seen here from Errisbeg Hill. (Photo by simon3)
Shaped somewhat like the Celtic letter T, the promontory separates Dog’s Bay (L) and Gurteen Bay (R). Both bays have beaches made of tiny seashell fragments.
Sheltered by the former low-lying islands from dangerous Atlantic currents, but blessed with the benign influence of the Mexican Gulf Stream, they are quite safe for swimming, while Dog’s Bay is also popular for surfing and windsurfing.
Fierce storms here in the 1990s exposed archaeological artefacts indicating human habitations dating from at least 4000 BC.
Murvey, Dolan and Calla / Callow are other fairly sheltered bathing spots along this coast, much frequented by shore fishermen.
Emlaghmore Lodge, built as a fishing lodge in 1862, and owned by the Tinne family for over 75 years, is now run by Nick Tinne as a top class Guesthouse.
Lough Maumeen / Loch Máimín (“lake of the small maum or mountain pass”) is one of several freshwater expanses to be found inland from the coast road. In 1854 the flow of water into this lake was reversed via a manmade river and a dam at the western outlet of Lough Barrowen as part of a successful project to make the Dohulla Fishery the first salmon farming operation in the British Isles.