Introducing Tory Island
Swept by sea winds and stung by salt spray, the remote crag of Tory Island (Oileán Thóraí) has taken its fair share of batterings. With nothing to shield it from savage Atlantic squalls, it's a tribute to the hardiness of Tory Islanders that the island has been inhabited for over 4500 years. Although it's only 11km north of the mainland, the rough sea has long consolidated the island's staunch independence.
So it's no surprise that Tory is one of the last places in Ireland to hold onto traditional Irish culture instead of simply paying lip service to it. The island has its own dialect of Irish and even has an elected 'king', and over the decades its inhabitants had a reputation for distilling and smuggling contraband poitín (a peaty whiskey). However, the island is perhaps best known for its 'naive' (or outsider) artists, many of whom have attracted the attention of international collectors.
In 1974, after an eight-week storm that lashed the island mercilessly, the government made plans to evacuate Tory permanently. Father Diarmuid Ó Peícín came to the rescue, spearheading an international campaign to raise funds, create a proper ferry service, establish an electrical supply and more. The demise of the fishing industry has brought its own share of problems, but the community still doggedly perseveres.
The island has just one pebbly beach and two recognisable villages: West Town (An Baile Thiar), containing most of the island's facilities, and East Town (An Baile Thoir). Its eastern end is dominated by jagged quartzite crags like colossal keys, while the southwest slopes down to wave-washed bedrock.
Information is available from the Tory Island Co-op near the pier, next to the playground. You can also get information at the new craft shop at the top of the pier.