I fulfilled a long held ambition to travel to Tory Island at Easter. Before going I had numerous negative comments but I am glad to report my experience was totally positive.
Getting there - I got the boat from Magheroarty. Not the most inviting looking mode of transport but was an important integral part of the whole Tory experience. I would advise good footwear and not to be expecting anything too fancy. There were some continentals onboard and they really enjoyed it. This was supposed to be a calm day but there was a gentle swell and on a few occasions passengers got splashed, so be careful lol. The trip across is 45 minutes.
I booked in to the Hotel, its looking out over the harbour and was shown to my room. I was surprised at the standard. Because of it being on an island I had assumed the standard would be low but I was totally wrong. It was immaculately clean and with an en-suite bathroom was wonderfully appointed. I would have to say though that the choice of TV channels was very limited and maybe an investment in Sky might be a good addition. The bar is the focal point of the hotel. The barman/manager was on duty and I would have to say he made us all feel most welcome. Being of an inquisitive nature I asked all about the island and where to go etc. Following his advice we went walking.
The best way to see the island is on foot. Turn right coming out of the hotel and follow the road towards the lighthouse. It is a lovely walk out to the unmanned lighthouse. But, it is only preparation for one of the most amazing pieces of scenery in Ireland you are ever likely to come upon. Firstly, I would recommend that one follows the signs out to the Commonwealth Graves. I would doubt if there is a more magnificent war grave setting in the world. The view is magnificent! Then walk back by the old road, up towards the former, now dilapidated, Lloyds building. Head up towards the modern looking building on a headland. Once again the view is amazing from here. Seemingly this is the former residence of a world renowned artist, the view would inspire greatness in anyone. As you walk on you discover a little cove which is idyllic before heading on back towards the village. Make sure, unlike me, that you have lots of space for photos on your camera, you'll be using it a lot. It takes at least 2 hours to walk round this area.
Following a refreshing drink in the bar we headed to see the other half of the island. What we had seen in the first half only was an appetiser for what we were to encounter next. We visited the local quaint church followed by the island shop. Then we walked along the road. This part was uninviting at first. There are "stations of the cross" on the roadside which was very nice. Then we walked up a lane to our left after the dump to the cliff edge. The unspoilt view here was amazing. I would say though, this area is very undeveloped and the cliff edges are unprotected so be very careful if its windy. We walked around the cliff edge for sun distance. I was astounded when we happened across a little low area with a stony beach on both sides of us. It was like a little oasis, calm and relaxing, you felt as if you were in a totally different world.
I have to admit I was getting tired at this stage and the prospect of walking to the top of the headland in front was just too much so we walked down towards the right towards a more inhabited part of the island. We happened across the old harbour. It was amazing. While there we met up with some canoeists who had canoed round the island that day and they spoke of the experience as being one of the best in their life. We met these people later that night and it transpired that they had actually canoed over from the mainland the previous day.
We walked back eventually to the hotel. We chatted to the wife of the owner of the hotel who was most interesting. She really made you feel at home and it was very obvious that her heart really lay in Tory Island. We booked dinner for 7pm. I have to be honest and say my expectations were not very high because I assumed that it being on an island all would be frozen. I would have to say a was very pleasantly surprised. The food was beautiful. Yes, there menus wasn't overly extensive but they were upfront and told me this was because they only served fresh food and anyway, there was plenty of choice for all in the group. Everything was very tasty and the servings were ample.
Afterwards, we retired to the bar. There we met up with the "King of Tory", Patsy Dan. I felt like I was coming to Tory for years, such was the welcome he extended to everyone. Having played a little music and told a few stories he showed us some of the paintings he had done. They weren't my cup of tea, but seemingly this style is very well known in art circles. After he had gone I met up again with the manager. I would have to say that the staff of the hotel are among the most friendly and genuine staff I have ever had the pleasure to meet up with.
Breakfast was very nice the following morning. Having had a great night's sleep in a very comfortable bed, I was bright and fresh for continuing my journey round Donegal. I am led to believe that the stories about the bar never closing is correct lol We got the boat off in the morning leaving behind an amazing experience.
Tory and the Tory Island Hotel are a unique experience that I would recommend to anyone.
- Also Known As:
- Tory Ostan Thoraig Letterkenny, County Donegal