Tory Island, Ireland
Tory Island Reviews
Feb 23, 2008
Tory Island is situated in the far North West of Co.Donegal in Ireland. It is 8 miles from the mainland and accessible by daily ferry services from Magheraorty and Bunbeg Harbours.
Tory Island is a tiny place, just 3 miles long and half a mile wide and reachable only when the weather is favourable.
It is still inhabited, with its population of just under 200 spread over four tiny towns - West Town, East Town, Middletown and Newtown. A recent BBC radio broadcast described it very well.
"Tory is like a granite kaleidoscope where the shifting patterns of light in the seas and skies produce a curious ephemerality, as though the cliffs and beaches somehow change every time you look away."
The landscape on the island is remarkable, with grassy headlands leading to pinkish-granite cliffs and towers of rock rising up from the sea, battered by the Atlantic into extraordinary shapes. The bird life is diverse and interesting and the island is a magnet for bird watchers. St. Colmcille founded a monastery there in the sixth century, though part of a round tower and the ruins of two churches are all that remains of the settlement.
Life on Tory
The King of Tory Island is elected by the people of the Island and although the title holds no legal status it is one that confers condsiderable honour on its holder.
The current incumbant is Patsy Dan Rodgers, who makes it his business to personally greet every visitor on arrival.
Most of the islanders work off the island, many of them in the fishing industry or on oil rigs in the North Sea. There is no industry and little local employment, other than a few seasonal jobs providing services to tourists. There is now an Islands and Maritime Film Festival (heading into its third year) which has brought new people and renewed international interest ti the Island.
Tory Island Artists
The island is the unlikely home of a celebrated school of painters, who work in a naif primitive style and whose work is extremely sought after internationally. The tradition of painting is relatively recent, and started after a local man commented, on looking at the work of a distinguished visiting artist, Derek Hill, that he could do just as well. He had a go, so did others and now there are regular exhibitions of the work of Tory Islanders all over the world.
There are always some paintings on display in the community hall. Some of the island painters have set up a small gallery and museum to James Dixon, the first and maybe the most famous of the Tory School of Painters.
Visiting Tory Island
The only way to Tory is by Ferry, from Bunbeg or Magheroarty in Co Donegal although the Hotel now operates a smaller faster craft in the spring / summer / autumn seasons also. There are also helicopter flights which are quite expensive unless you are an island resident. There is also definate talk of an airstrip for the Island too.Once there you have a choice of accommodation. The only hotel is a small one, with just 14 bedrooms, there is also a hostel and a number of bed and breakfasts.
The hotel houses the only bar on the Island, indeed the only place of entertainment, although there are often events taking place in the community centre in West Town to which visitors are warmly welcomed.
Tory is not a social whirl and there are few concessions to tourists but you will experience a magic place, meet some extraordinary people and have memories that you will treasure for ever.
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