Pirates, poitín and the colour purple – Ireland’s wild Inishkea Islands

  • Pirates, poitín and the colour purple – Ireland's wild Inishkea Islands

    Independent.ie

    Off the west coast of Mayo, you'll find the Mullet Peninsula – one of the most windswept and off-radar points on Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way.

    https://www.independent.ie/life/travel/ireland/pirates-poitn-and-the-colour-purple-irelands-wild-inishkea-islands-38314096.html

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Off the west coast of Mayo, you'll find the Mullet Peninsula – one of the most windswept and off-radar points on Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way.

Off the Mullet Peninsula, lie the Inishkea Islands.

Either named for the barnacle geese (in Irish, Inis Gé) that migrate to the west coast from Greenland each winter, the islands offer a desolately beautiful picture of clear water, grey seals and the abandoned husks of old cottages filled with sand.

Aside from a few seasonal holiday homes, Inishkea North and Inishkea South have been uninhabited since the 1930s, when local communities trickled away following a terrible fishing tragedy that saw a sudden storm claim the lives of 10 fishermen in 1927.

Now, there's a little more life about, thanks to almost daily (May to September) boat trips run by Geraghty Charters from Blacksod and Achill Island.

Videographer Seán Molloy accompanied the boat on a recent trip, and shot this footage (see video, top) of the evocative island landscapes.

Inishkea Islands. Photo: Seán Molloy
Inishkea Islands. Photo: Seán Molloy
Inishkea Islands. Photo: Sean Molloy
Inishkea Islands. Photo: Sean Molloy

Boat trips cost €35pp from Blacksod Pier in Erris, taking about 45 minutes each way. From Dugort, the 70-minute trip costs €45pp return.

Visitors spend about four hours on the islands, Molloy says – and are fascinated to learn that the boat's skipper, Jed Kane, is descended from Inishkea islanders.

Kane's grandparents left during the evacuation in the early 1930s, just one chapter in what turns out to be an intriguing history.

Monks that lived on the island between the sixth and 10th centuries earned a living by producing valuable purple dye from shells, for example.

By law, only royalty could wear purple, Molloy explains. It's also likely that vikings invaded around this time, most probably in the ninth century.

Inishkea North bears the ruins of St. Colmcille's Church, and burial mounds known as Bailey Mór, Bailey Beag and Bailey Dóite. The south island has a tall cross-inscribed slab and the ruins of a small ancient church, which visitors can seek out.

Inishkea Islands. Photo: Sean Molloy
Inishkea Islands. Photo: Sean Molloy

In the early 20th century, the Inishkeas were home to a Norwegian whaling station – causing tension between the north and south islands. It was said that the south islanders got the jobs, but the north islanders were left with the foul smell…

In early to mid 19th century, it's also said that some islanders took up piracy, Molloy adds – attacking passing ships and hijacking their cargos.

"Circumstances suited piracy," as David Walsh writes in his book, Oileáin: The Irish Islands Guide, "because calm weather conditions in April and May becalmed many a sailing boat. This all got out of hand, so the coaRead More – Source

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