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Tory Island in the Parish of Tullaghobegly
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Tory Island in the Parish of Tullaghobegly 

Tory Island, or simply Tory (officially known by its Irish name Toraigh), is an island that lies nine miles off the northwest coast of Co.Donegal, Ireland. It is a small island measuring three miles in length and one mile across at its widest point. The population is one hundred and fifty which increases slightly during the summer months. It is an island steeped in history, music, song and dance with breathtaking views and is well worth a visit. 

Tory Island Map

A picture of Tory Island in Co Donegal, Irealnd's map. Downloaded from

Whether it is your first time to visit Tory or a return visit you will be sure to enjoy all that the island has to offer from sightseeing to relaxing at a ceilí night. The local language is Gaelige but English is also spoken. During May - September the Corncrake can be heard calling in fields, while puffins can be seen nesting on the high cliffs and in June ferry passengers often get the pleasure of spotting the basking sharks or dolphins on the trip. 

Ancient history 

In the apocryphal history of Ireland, Lebor Gabála Érenn, Tory Island was the site of Conand's Tower, the stronghold of the Fomorians, before they were defeated by the Nemedians in a great battle on the island. The later Fomorian king Balor of the evil eye also lived here. Balor would imprison Ethlinn in a tower built atop Tor Mór (or Túr Mór in Old Irish, meaning The High Tower). Tor Mór is the island's highest point. A monastery was founded on Tory in the 6th century by Colmcille. The monastery dominated life on the island until 1595, when it was plundered and destroyed by English troops, waging a war of suppression against local chieftains. The monastery's bell tower is the largest structure to survive and was built in the 6th or 7th century. 

The Battle of Tory Island

A painting of The Battle of Tory Island in Ireland. Downloaded from

Tor Mór

A picture of Tor Mór in Tory Island in Ireland. Downloaded from


A picture of St Colmcille or Columba. Downloaded from

The Bell Tower

A picture of The Bell Tower in Tory Island, Ireland. Downloaded from


A picture of the ruins of a monastery in Tory Island, Ireland. Downloaded from

Early modern history 

In 1608, the Siege of Tory Island, one of the final incidents of O'Doherty's Rebellion, took place when a surviving group of rebels took shelter in the castle, only to begin killing each other to secure a pardon. The Battle of Tory Island, the last action in the Irish Rebellion of 1798, took place at sea nearby. 

O'Doherty Rebellion

A picture of the overthrow of the O'doherty Rebellion started by Cahir O'Doherty. Downloaded from

Recent history 

On 27 October 1914, the British lost their first battleship of World War I: the British super dreadnought battleship HMS Audacious (23,400 tons) was sunk off Tory Island, by a minefield laid by the armed German merchant-cruiser Berlin. The loss was kept an official secret in Britain until 14 November 1918 (3 days after the end of the war). The sinking was witnessed and photographed by passengers on RMS Olympic, sister ship of RMS Titanic. Since the 1950s, the island has been home to a small community of artists, and has its own art gallery. The English artist Derek Hill was associated with the Tory artist community. 

The Battleship Audacious

A picture showing the saving of the crew of the HSM Audacious shipwreck as she is sinking after hitting a mine near Tory Island, Ireland. This happened during World War I. Downloaded from

RMS Olympic

RMS Olympic pictures. RMS Olympic was a British ship operated by White Star Line. Downloaded from

RMS Titanic

A picture of RMS Titanic that was a British ship operated by White Star Line. Downloaded from

Reflecting a long-standing tradition, a "king" is chosen by consensus of the islanders. The current Rí Thoraí(Irish for "King of Tory") is painter Patsy Dan Rodgers (Patsaí Dan Mac Ruaidhrí). The king has no formal powers, though duties include being a spokesperson for the island community and welcoming people to the island. 

Power is generated on the island today from three diesel electricity generators. These have a total capacity of 4 MW and burn through approximately 500 litres of fuel every day. Public attention was focused on the island in 2009 when a one-time resident was awarded a payout following a court case after his house was demolished and the grounds used as a car park. In 2015, the island's only café was destroyed by fire. 

Tory Island has a number of historical and mythological sites: 

  • Dún Bhaloir (Balor's Fort) is located on the island's eastern side. This peninsula is surrounded on three sides by 90-metre-high (295-foot) cliffs. Balor's Fort is accessible only by crossing a narrow isthmus, defended by four earthen embankments. 

  • 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 or the Big Tower). The spur has prominent rocky pinnacles – these are known as 'Balor's soldiers' (Saighdiúirí Bhaloir). They give the spur a 'toothed' appearance and contribute to the name, 'the Big Key'. 

Balor's Soldiers

A picture of Balor's Soldiers in Tory Island, Ireland. Downloaded from

A view of East Town (An Baile Thoir), Tory Island. 

  • 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. 

The Wishing Stone

A picture of The Wishing Stone in Tory Island, Ireland. Downloaded from

  • An Cloigtheach (the Bell Tower) is the largest structure to have survived the destruction of the monastery (see history section above). The round tower was built in the 6th or 7th century. 

The Round Tower

A picture of The Round Tower in Tory Island, Ireland. Downloaded from

  • 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 being in Kilnaboy, County Clare). 

Tau Cross

A picture of Tau Cross in Tory Island, Ireland. Downloaded from,_Tory_Island,_Co._Donegal.jpg

  • 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.[18] 

  • 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. The lighthouse is at coordinates 55°16.357′N 8°14.964′W 



Flora and fauna 

The island is an Important Bird Area. It is a breeding site for corn crakes (Crex crex), a globally threatened species whose numbers have fallen with the intensification of agriculture. In 2007, Tory Island recorded 18 calling males, down from a recent year's maximum of 34 calling males in 2003. In addition to its indigenous bird life, the island records many vagrants. Ancient records of the flora and fauna of this island can be found in Hyndman's notes on the history of the island. The island has no trees due to its high winds. 


Turasmara Ferry - Donegal Coastal Cruises operates a new and modern passenger Cruiser out of Bunbeg and Magheroarty. Groups of over 70 people can be accommodated. The cruiser operates daily from April to October and five days per week all year around. Short bay cruises are also available.  

Timetable: - Timetable 


Tory Island is an island of mystery and antiquity off the northern tip of Donegal. Its remoteness has led to the preservation of the traditions and way of life of its resilient and independent people. Their music, dance, song and stories are living expressions of an ancient Gaelic culture. Many of Tory’s ancient customs still survive, including the appointment of the island king or Rí Thoraí. 

Tory is famous for its school of 'primitive painters', who were encouraged by the internationally famous painter, the late Derek Hill. Gailearaí Dixon exhibits the work of island artists. 

Interesting historical sites include a round tower that once protected monks from Viking raids, the ruins of St Colmcille’s 6th century monastery and the intriguing Tau Cross that suggests early seafaring links to the Coptic Christians of Egypt. The island also boasts an abundance of rare bird life and wild flower species as well as a rich submarine landscape that can be explored through the local dive centre. 

Tory Island must be visited if one is to understand why this remote crag holds such an attraction for its inhabitants that they, like their forebears, endure the full fury of the North Atlantic winter for the privilege of living there in summer. 

Places of Interest - - Activities Adventure Tory Island loop - Tory Island 

www.googlemaps - Tory Island Lighthouse 

www.googlemaps - An Club 

www.googlemaps - Teach Pobail Cholmcille Naofa 

www.googlemaps - Tory Island Harbour 

www.googlemaps - Tory Island Ferry 

Accomodation - 

www.googlemaps - Tory Island Hostel and B&B 


Tory Club Restaurant: - Tory Club - Tory Club 

Map to Location 



Tory Island and Surrounding Townlands - 1830 Tithe Applotment Books  

Tory Island - 1857 Griffith Valuation  

Tory Island - 1901 Census Ireland  

Tory Island - 1911 Census Ireland  

Tory Island National School - 1934 National Folklore Collection (    


SOCIAL MEDIA: - Tory Island - Tory Island Harbour View Hotel - Tory Island Seaangling Charters - Teach Padraig Antoin - Tory Accommodation Island of Tory by Regina M Geither 

Tory Island – Google Images   

Tory Island - YouTube  

Tory Island - Vimeo  


Google Maps  

Googlemaps - Photos 


Shared on IrelandXO by: S.Callaghan (Kerrykeel) 

Civil Parishes throughout County Donegal (IrelandXO Links)  CLICK HERE  



Tory Island, Co.Donegal
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