29. Tory Island

A day, or even a couple of days, on Tory is an adventure in itself. From the minute you set foot on the ferry for the 45 min trip out from Magheroarty pier, there is the feeling of travelling to another land. An that’s on a calm day! If your sea legs or stomach are not good then choose your time carefully and wait for very calm weather. Oh but it’s worth it!

The handiest way to get to the pier is to type ‘Tory Island Ferry’ in Google Maps and it will set your route to Magheroarty. It’s about 1 hour 15 min drive north of Letterkenny. The turn for Magheroarty is on the N56 about 1km beyond the village of Gortahork and is well signposted. Tickets for the ferry can be bought online (Safest) or from the little ferry office beside the surf shop and cafe at the pier. Expect the ferry to be crowded in summertime. It has an open deck area astern and a covered cabin. The journey offers nice views of Inishboffin island and the coastline looking back to Earagail. You might even be lucky enough to see dolphins!

Once you disembark on Tory navigation is easy and there is much to see. You will find two maps near the harbour that clearly show the Slí Thoraigh walking routes. As far as food and drink go, the Harbour Hotel is very good at time of writing, as is An Club, the islands pub and music venue.

The hotel

Total walking distance here is about 12 km and you can happily spend four hours rambling over the loop west of West Town or walking east, past East Town, to the higher ground and sea cliffs of Balor’s Fort. Notable sights are the Tau Cross at the harbour, the round tower, the lighthouse, the torpedo, and of course Derek Hill’s hut. The well known English artist spent a good deal of time on the island and encouraged the Tory school of local painters. The last king of Tory, Patsy Dan Gallagher, sadly died in 2018, though Teach an Rí can still be found near An Club.

Dún Bhalor

The walking terrain is on paved road or gravel track with a bit of rough climbing at the eastern side to gain the best views. Do be alert to quite a lot of traffic coming and going between the two towns on narrow roads. Otherwise it’s best not to know too much in advance. Just head out there and enjoy rambles on this beautiful remote Donegal island!

  • Trailhead: The harbour on Tory Island
  • Facilities: Plenty. The hotel and An Club both serve food and have toilets. There are also toilets available in the community centre in West Town.
  • Distance: Approx. 12 km though variable.
  • Time: 4 hours – 2 Days if you want! Ferry out at 9.30am and 11.30am returning at 5.30pm, weather permitting.
  • Ascent: Nothing on the west side. A bit of climbing above the eastern cliffs.