28. Gola Island

Heading to Gola with Earagail behind.

If, like me until very recently, you have never been to Gola Island just off the Gaoth Dobhair coastline, then this page is for you. I have little excuse for not visiting Gola (Gabhla in Irish) sooner, but armed with some good tips from a friend with strong family connections there, I landed at Magheragallen pier just as the sun came out after a dreary morning. Travelling north through Bunbeg pass Seán Óg’s Bar on the right and then look for the next left turn with signposts for Gweedore Golf Club, CLG Ghaoth Dobhair and the Gola Island Ferry. Pass the golf club and keep right at the fork to continue to the pier where there is plenty of parking, although it was busy the day I was there.

In summertime, the Gola Island ferry (087 224 5881) runs constantly from 11am to 6pm or later depending on light and conditions. The return fare is €15 for an adult but families and groups get special rates, and the trip out to the island takes approximately 15 min.

Map of Gola Island

What a beautiful place! As far as walking on the island goes, it’s a case of ramble at will. There are useful maps posted near the sea tragedy memorial at the quay, and the Slí Ghabhla routes are well signposted. On my friend’s advice I made my way along the main (Gravel) road from the quay, through a scattering of pretty cottages, until I came to An Teach Beag, the island’s only shop. This is run by Eddie, a very friendly native speaker, who will gladly give you directions as well as the history of the island.

From there I first walked roughly north past the lake and small campsite to a small climb up to the highest point from where there are great views of the whole north west coastline and Arranmore to the south. There is a fine sea arch here as well. Returning to the shop, I then walked a short loop on the southern side, which took me past the smaller pier and on to the beautiful and poignant infant’s graveyard followed by the ruin of the island’s old national school returning via grassy path and track to the ‘main road’ again. There is also a marked track from near the lake that goes directly back to the quayside, and further tracks on the western side that are worth exploring if time allows. As the ferry runs constantly you don’t have to wait long for the next sailing back to the mainland. Obviously it is best to wait for a relatively calm and sunny day as this will make your visit to this delightful island all the more enjoyable.

Bain taithneamh as!!

  • Trailhead: Main pier on Gola Island
  • Facilities: Small shop with coffee, cold drinks and ice cream. Portaloo.
  • Distance: Can be varied. 2 – 6 km.
  • Time: Your choice. I spent two hours. Could easily have done four.
  • Terrain: Gravel road and track.
  • Ascent: Minimal. One short climb at the northern point.