Dorinish, County Mayo - Clew Bay's Beatle Island Once Belonged to John Lennon

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Clew Bay as seen from Croagh Patrick Clew Bay as seen from Croagh Patrick ©Panoramic Ireland

Ireland’s Clew Bay is home to many islands, but definitely not the 365 that often gets quoted. These are drumlin islands, an extension of the ‘drumlin belt’ that stretches from County Down on the east coast of Ireland all the way to County Mayo here on the west.

Drumlins are small, rounded hills formed as ice moved across the landscape, and here in Clew Bay became surrounded by the waters of the Atlantic as sea levels rose following the end of the last ice age some 12,000 years ago.

Among the many, remember there aren’t 365 islands in Clew Bay, are a few inhabited islands but the majority are uninhabited.

One of these islands, Dorinish, has a uniquely interesting story. In the 1871 census there were 15 people recorded as living on the two islands connected by a low bar of sand and gravel and measuring 19 acres, but that number dropped to zero by 1901. That remained the case until the late 1960s and early 1970s.

What makes Dorinish Island so interesting? Beatle John Lennon bought the island in 1967 with the intention of living his later years watching the Atlantic sunsets and the mists rolling over nearby Croagh Patrick from where the images in this article are taken.

He even took his Sergeant Pepper’s gypsy caravan out to Dorinish.

Outline of Dorinish or Beatle Island, once owned by John Lennon
Outline of Dorinish or Beatle Island, once owned by John Lennon

Lennon leased the land to Sid Rawle who intended to set up a permanent hippie commune on the island. This only lasted two years, the 30 or so inhabitants living in tents on the windswept island, a fire destroyed supplies and tents and in 1972 the commune on Dorinish disbanded.

Despite only returning once more to Dorinish, Lennon still planned to retire there with Yoko Ono, the plan was not realised due to his untimely death in 1980.

Yoko Ono sold Dorinish in 1984.

Clew Bay as seen from Croagh Patrick
Clew Bay as seen from Croagh Patrick

So the next time you’re in Westport, out on Clew Bay or climbing Croagh Patrick, have a look out for Dorinish, or Beatle Island.


Last modified on Friday, 01 March 2024 13:26
Darren McLoughlin

Irishman and International travel photographer in search of the best bits of Ireland. Leading photography tours and experiences in Ireland.

Contributor to New York Times / Sunday Times / Irish Times / Echtra Echtra and Eonmusic

Cancer survivor.

Ask me about travel in Ireland or about photography in Ireland.

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