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Letterkenny Accommodation - Tory Island


Tory Island (also known in Irish as Oileán Thoraigh) is located nine miles off the North West coast of County Donegal. The island is approximately 5 km long and 1 km  wide. It has a population of 170, divided among four towns — An Baile Thoir (East Town), An Baile Thiar (West Town), An Lár (Middletown) and Úrbaile (Newtown). It is part of the Donegal Gaeltacht and Irish is the island's main language. Since the 1950s, it has been home to a small community of artists, and has its own art gallery. The English artist Derek Hill is associated with the Tory artist community. The Island is an important breeding site for Corncrakes  whose numbers have fallen in other locations with the intensification of agriculture

King of Tory
A king is chosen by consensus of the islanders to represent the community, a unique tradition that no longer exists anywhere else in Ireland. The current Rí Thoraí (Irish for King of Tory) is the well-known painter Patsy Dan Rodgers. He has no formal powers, and some of his duties include being a spokesperson for the island and welcoming people to the island.

Tory island has no airport, but has regular ferry connections from mainland County Donegal. The Tory Island ferry travels daily from April to October and five times a week for the rest of the year. The ferry does not take cars, but holds up to 70 passengers.
During the winter months the boat is sometimes unable to cross due to rough seas but from November to March there is a small 4-seater helicopter that does a run from Falcarragh to Tory every other Thursday

Places of interest
Tory's spectacular cliff scenery is complemented by a rich and varied history which is related in the islanders distinctive Gaelic. Colmcille figures prominently in the history of this sacred island which he chose as a place of retreat and meditation for his monks. Shipwrecks, poitín smuggling and tales of violent storms have also been drawn into its folklore

Despite its small size, Tory Island is rich in historical and mythological sites:
1. Balor's Fort: Located on the eastern side of the island, the peninsula is surrounded on three sides by 90m-high cliffs, and is virtually impregnable. Balor's fort is only accessible by crossing a narrow isthmus, defended by four earthen embankments.
2. View from Dún Bhaloir An Eochair Mhór (The big key) is a long, steep-sided spur jutting from the east side of the peninsula and ending in a crag called An Tor Mór (the big rock).
3. Saighdiúirí Bhaloir (Balor's soldiers): An Eochair Mhór has prominent rocky pinnacles known as Balor's soldiers. They give the spur a 'toothed' appearance, hence the name, The Big Key.
4. The Wishing Stone' is a precipitous flat-topped rock beside the northern cliff-face of Balor's Fort. Traditionally, a wish is granted to anyone foolhardy enough to step onto the rock, or who succeeds in throwing three stones onto it.
5. The Bell Tower is the largest structure to have survived the destruction of the monastery - which was founded on Tory in the 6th century by Colmcille. The monastery dominated life on Tory until 1595, when it was plundered and destroyed by the English, waging a war of suppression against local chieftains. The tower was built in the 6th or 7th century.
6. The Tau Cross (a t-shaped cross) is believed to date from the 12th century. It is one of only two Tau crosses in Ireland (the other in Kilnaboy, County Clare).
7. Móirsheisear (Grave of the Seven): Móirsheisear, which actually translates as 'big six' — an archaic term for seven — is the tomb of seven people, six men and one woman, who drowned when their boat capsized off Scoilt an Mhóirsheisear (the cleft of the seven) on the island's northwest coast. According to local superstition, clay from the woman's grave has the power to ward off vermin.
8. The Lighthouse, standing at the west end of the island, was built between 1828 and 1832 to a design by George Halpin, a noted designer of Irish lighthouses. In April 1990 the lighthouse was automated. The lighthouse is one of three in Ireland in which a reference station for the Differential Global Positioning System (DGPS) is installed.
9. The Torpedo: A torpedo can be seen midway between An Baile Thiar and An Baile Thoir. It washed ashore during World War II and was defused and erected at its present location.

Ultimately, it is neither the myths, the monastic ruins nor even the majestic cliffs which make the deepest impression on visitors to Tory. It is the islanders themselves, like all people who live in remote places and work hard to make a living, the islanders know how to enjoy themselves and they always make a stranger feel at home.

Access to Tory is by Tory Island Ferry from either Bunbeg or Magheraroarty - both are approximately one hours drive from Letterkenny

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