Head to north-west Donegal to discover Tory Island and its traditional links with Colmcille.
Nine miles across the Tory Sound, Tory is the most remote of Ireland’s inhabited islands. It is just 2 1/2 miles long and 3/4 mile wide, and is home to over 100 people.
The island has a long history of human inhabitation and has archaeology dating back to the Iron Age. There are also Christian remains dating back to early medieval times.
Tory Island is also home to the mythical Balor of the Mighty Blows – a one-eyed king. The eye was so evil that it had to be kept covered. A prophecy told that Balor would be killed by his grandson so he locked his only daughter Eithne in a big stone tower – Tor Mór. But Eithne still managed to produce a son – Lúgh – who fulfilled the prophecy by killing his grandfather.
Lúgh is taken as a symbol of goodness and light fighting against the evil Balor. He was known in many parts of Celtic Europe as a powerful god. It seems likely that in Christian times some of the attributes of Lugh were transferred to the character of Colmcille.
The Tory ferry service runs from the pier at Magheroarty – Machaire Rabhartaigh. The timetable changes according to the season and crossings can be cancelled at short notice due to changing weather so please check before you travel.
Please note that the ferry is passenger-only.
From Letterkenny, take the N56 towards Dunfanaghy. Continue on through Falcarragh and Gortahork. Past Gortahork follow the R257 coast road to Magheroarty. There is parking by the pier.
Coming from Gweedore, take the R258 towards the coast at Bunbeg and turn right on to the R257 following the road round to Magheroarty.