Tory Island

Tory Island by croarty

Tory Island by croarty

Tory Island, off the coast of Donegal, 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 piece about Tory Island on the BBC radio programme “From our Own Correspondent” 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.”

Approaching Tory by kafeole

Tory Seagull by breandán

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.

Seabirds nest here in very large numbers, including  guillenots, razorbills, kittiwakes, puffins, strom petrels, manx shearwaters and fulmars. It is also one of the few place in Ireland where the corncrake survives.

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

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Your visit to Tory will start with a personal welcome from royalty! 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 considerable honour on its holder.

The current incumbent is Patsy Dan Rodgers, who makes it his business to personally greet every visitor on arrival and quite often lead them from the ferry in a parade complete with music. That’s Patsy Dan playing the accordion in the video.

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.

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.

Visiting Tory Island

The only way to Tory is by Ferry, from Bunbeg or Magheroarty in Co Donegal. Once there you have a choice of accommodation. The only hotel is a small one, with just 14 bedrooms, but 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, though there are often events taking place in the community centre 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.

Map of Tory Island

Published: December 29, 2008 | Updated: March 31, 2017

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  • alexandra says:

    I live on tory island sure its small but its very safe

  • […] we took a boat to Tory Island, home of a group of naive artists developed by Derek Hill. It lies about 8 miles offshore. The […]

  • Hannah Mc Hugh says:

    I know these people if you are still looking for them please contact me at my email address.
    They are still living on Tory and you could contact Anton via the Tory Island Artist website or Dixon’s gallery on the island.

    • How amazing to hear something about Anton! I met him last September while visiting the
      painting gallery. We had a wonderful talk and he even lent me the key to paint in my
      fellow painters cabin near the lighthouse wher Derek Hill used to work. I appreciated it
      very much. I wanted to email him but, at that time, he had no email address. Can you
      give me the Tory Island Artist website address or another way to keep in touch with him?


    • Katherine says:

      If you get in touch via the contact details on this page, they should be able to sort you out.

  • tanya collins says:

    27 years ago at the age of 11 on the shores of newfoundland i threw a bottle with a letter in it into the ocean. 13 months later it was picked up by a family from tory island who contacted me. we keep in touch for a few years. i later moved and lost all contact. i remember her name was patrica and her husbands name was anton…they had a little girl named alyssa..i would so love to find them again….if you know these people or how i can find them i would be so gratefull!!!!

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