POSTCARD FROM (the edge of) IRELAND: Tory Island.

Welcome to our latest ‘Postcard from Ireland’ where the Irish Family History Centre try and give you a flavour of some of the new or lesser known museums/exhibitions and attractions in Dublin and further afield in Ireland. Research Director, Fiona Fitzsimons, takes a trip to the edge of Ireland. 

To celebrate a recent significant birthday, my ever-loving whisked me away to Tory Island for the weekend.

Tory has a special significance for me. When I graduated, way back when, I visited the island and stayed for a week.

The island is situated eight miles off the Donegal coast, and has its own weather system.

 the edge of Ireland Tory Island

That week in June ’92 was magical, with big blue skies, turquoise water, sea-pinks dotting the green hues of turf, grass and lichen. Having spent most of the previous year in a library, I sat at the top of the cliffs, or by Balor’s Fort (by the wishing chair) watching the nesting birds, and looking for the distinctive flash of orange/red of the puffins. In the evenings I walked down to the social club, met the islanders and sat in on the best traditional music sessions you are ever likely to find anywhere.

Tory Island has a long history of habitation and is dotted with antiquities. As you get off the boat, and walk to where the harbour intersects Main Street, you will find a Tau Cross (one of only three known in Ireland). Turn west (left) to walk down Main Street, and you will shortly come to the remains of a round tower, partially destroyed in the 1590s, to curtail pirates who used the remote island as their base. A little further on, you find the Church of the Seven, where islanders collect pinch of soil to deter rats.

Irish is the first language of the islanders, but everyone speaks fluent English. The truth is, you have to be resourceful to make a living on this most northerly of all Ireland’s off-shore islands. I was sure to send postcards to my dearest, but not necessarily nearest, all with the distinctive stamp of the Tory Post Office, to prove I was there.

In 2019 the island is as fresh and friendly as ever, and the music even better than before. It’s unlike any other place, and yet it is a quintessentially Irish experience.

Sincere thanks to everyone that extended such a warm welcome to us when we arrived on your home, especially Eddie, Tracey, Daniel, Daithi, and all the musicians, young and old, we met in the social.

To visit Tory Island, fly from Dublin to Carrickfinn Airport in Donegal (1h 05m) from €36 return.

There are two flights a day leaving Dublin, 13:15 and 18:50.

Catch a cab from the airport to the port of Magheraroarty €35 one way.

In the port, you can catch the Tory Island Ferry (45 m) €25 return.

The island has B&Bs and a hotel during the high season.

Bikes are available for hire.

Tory is an island in the Atlantic, and sailing times may change rapidly.

 By Fiona Fitzsimons

Fiona Fitzsimons

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