Omey is a tidal island situated nearCladdaghduff on the western edge of Connemara. From the mainland, the island is inconspicuous and almost hidden. At low tide, it is possible to ride, drive or walk across the large sandy strand to the island by following the arrowed signs.
The island is the site of a monastery and settlement founded by St Feichín, who is believed to have established many such communities across the west of Ireland. St Feichín is considered one of the most important of the early founders of the rich tradition of Irish Christianity.
In the early-to-mid-1990s a team of archaeologists from University College Dublin began work to study the monastic heritage of the island. This excavation brought new insights into the life of early Christianity in Ireland and included one of the few known burials of a female within a monastic burial ground. The site is believed to date from the early 6th century.
The O’Tooles of Leinster settled here in the early 1500s, under the protection of the famous Galway O’Flaherty’s. During the Cromwellian settlements the Browns and D’Arcys took over. In the early 1800s two townlands on Omey belonged to the Martins of Ballynahinch and one belonged to the D’Arcys of Clifden.
The population of the island has diminished drastically from its maximum when hundreds of people lived there in the early 19th century. The National School (opened in 1883) closed in 1973. In 1988 there were just three households left. The Irish Poet Richard Murphy lived for some time on Omey Island, where he built an octagonal retreat that still exists.
The beach is the site of the annual Omey Races. This horse racing event is held in late summer (July/August).