Inishglora in Co. Mayo

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The small Inishglora island (Irish: Inis Gluaire) lies off the Mullet Peninsula in North Mayo not far from the islands of Duvillaun and the two islands of the Inishkeas.

Like Inishkea Islands and Erris area it is composed of gneiss and schist and from a distance it shines silver and green. It is covered with machair and white sand.

The island has been uninhabited since the early 20th century.

Inishglora is the holiest island among Mayo’s islands. Sailing nearby sailors and fishermen used to lower their top-sails to show their respect and to honour St. Brendan the Navigator who is reputed to have strong bond with this island.

It is rich in myths and legends and was one of the legendary places where the myth The Children of Lir took place.

On the island there are many interesting archaeological remains. Here, Saint Brendan the Navigator (484 – 577 AD) or Naomh Breandán in Irish, founded a church mentioned in the Preamble. The church, now roofless, is a good example of Gallarus type, a primitive Christian architecture also found in County Kerry. A wooden statue of the Saint was displayed in the north east corner of the chapel; in the past locals and visitors worshipped it, they believed it gave anyone power to relieve a woman in labour by lifting it three times and then touching her.

Here, according to legend, Saint Brendan cured the last male heir of the O'Malley clan immersing him into the Holy Well. The child grew up and led the O'Malley's clan saving it from extinction.

The island has the remains of two other churches: Teampall na bhfear and Teampall na mBan, meaning the Men's Church and the Women's Church in Irish. Both of them date back several centuries and are more modern than Saint Brendan's Church. The women's church may have been an early nunnery.

There are also the ruins of three beehive huts used as penitential cells by the monks. The largest of them is known as Saint Brendan's cell where, according to legend, the Saint slept and planned his voyages across the seas to the Scottish Islands and to various parts of England and Wales. An old custom suggests visitors to the huts should break bread with one another.

On Inishglora there is also St Brendan’s Well. There was an old superstition about it: if a woman took water from the well it would turn into blood and become full of red worms. Maybe the superstition grew up in order to ensure that nuns and monks would not use the well as an illicit meeting place, living in close proximity on this small island!

Scattered around the island there are several early cross slabs, pillars and the Seven Stations of the Cross, four of which are in the western area. The last station, a rock with two piles of stones, is called “Rock of Prayer”, in Irish “Cloch na h-Athchuinge”.

On the island garlic grows very well and locals say it was planted there by the monks and will grow forever.

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