The island offers varying degrees of shelter that range from tolerable to good depending on weather conditions. Access to the tiny island is straightforward when unaffected by weather from difficult quadrants or tidal consideration.
Keyfacts for Tory Island
SummaryA tolerable location with straightforward access.
Position and approaches
Haven position55° 15.782' N, 008° 13.548' W
this is the position at the pierhead at West Town on Tory Island.
What is the initial fix?
Not what you need?
- Toberglassan Bay - 5.3 nautical miles SSE
- Tramore Bay - 8.2 nautical miles SE
- Inishsirrer Island - 9.5 nautical miles SSW
- Gola Island - 11.3 nautical miles SSW
- Bunbeg - 12.7 nautical miles SSW
- Sheep Haven - 13.9 nautical miles ESE
- Owey Island - 14.6 nautical miles SSW
- Mulroy Bay - 14.6 nautical miles ESE
- Cruit Bay - 15 nautical miles SSW
- Burtonport - 18.4 nautical miles SSW
How to get in?The 'Erris Head to Malin Head' coastal description provides approach information to the suggested initial fix. Vessels approaching from the south should select the northeast bound sequenced description; vessels approaching from the north should select the southwest bound sequence; western approaches may use either description.
This tiny island which is situated about 7.5 miles north northeast of Bloody Foreland, Irish : Cnoc Fola), with a population of about 150 is just 2.5 miles long and 0.75 miles wide and is bleak and desolate in appearance. The north side of the island consists of conspicuous cliffs and the land sloping southwest away from them gives it a wedge-like appearance when viewed from the northwest. The island usually appears as a low cluster of rocks but is not easily identified when in line with the high hills on the mainland. It can be reached by the two ferries which sail on a daily basis from Bunbeg (An Bun Beag) and Magheraroarty (Machaire Rabhartaigh) the journey taking about 40 minutes. Every two weeks a helicopter visits bringing a doctor to the island's health centre.
The island has two principal settlements, West Town (An Baile Thiar) on the south coast southeast of the lighthouse, and East Town (Baile Thoir) near the southeast extremity of the island. West Town has a small harbour which is enclosed to the west and south by an L shaped jetty which has about 120 metres length for alongside berthing in a depth of 2.5 metres, and has a convenient slipway adjacent to it.
It should always be borne in mind when anchoring off Tory Island that the weather in this area is particularly liable to sudden change and a boat should be prepared and ready to leave at short notice. The sandy Toberglassan Bay in Tory Sound off the sand isthmus that joins the two halves of Inishbofin about 5 miles south southeast of Tory Island affords a sheltered anchorage close at hand.
Camusmore Bay on the south side of Tory close to West Town affords a temporary anchorage in 5 to 10 metres depth, which is clear of the reefs on the west side of the bay, and is sheltered from northwest through north to east southeast.
In light winds from the west, Port Doon at the southeast end of the island affords an anchorage in depths of 5 to 7 metres, and in a calm sea a yacht can berth at a 24 metre long quay with a depth of 1.5 metres alongside.
Portnaglass on the north side of the island east of the lighthouse affords shelter in strong southerly winds. Except for a rock lying close off the west shore near the entrance and a drying ledge off the boulder strewn beach at its head, the bay is believed to be clear of dangers.
If planning a visit to Tory Island the 7.5 mile trip from either Bunbeg or Magheraroarty is challenging, however the Inishbofin group of islands shelters half of this, and the journey can be broken. As the exposed part of the passage between Tory and Inishbeg takes an hour or so, and another hour is needed for the passage between Inishbeg and Magheraroarty, it is impossible to organise slack water all the way across, but most travellers agree the reward at the end of the trip is well worth it as Tory Island is a most remarkable place.
Why visit here?Tory Island, Irish : Oilean Toraigh or Thorai; is Ireland's most remote inhabited island where time seems to have stood still; the story telling, music, song and dance of the people of the island are vibrant expressions of a distinctive Gaelic language and culture. The people know how to enjoy life as anyone who has attended a Ceilidh there will confirm, as the music, dancing and craic can last until daybreak and everyone joins in, even the visitors, and although the main language spoken on the island is Irish, English is also used.
Tory gets its name from either the Irish for rock : tor, or the Irish for robber (pirate) : torai. The first meaning refers to the cliffs and rocks that surround the island and the second refers to the first inhabitants of Tory, and indeed all of Ireland, the Fomorians, a sea faring band of pirates said to be descendents of Noah. Their king was Balor who was known as Balor of the Evil Eye or Balor of the Mighty Blows. At the far east coast of the island on the rock stack called Tor Mor lies the ruins of a promontory fort called Balor's Fort (Dun Bhaloir).
Surviving harsh winters the islanders are resilient and independent and many of Tory's old customs survive, such as the long standing tradition of appointing an island King (Ri Thorai). The King is chosen by consensus of the islanders and this unique tradition does not exist anywhere else in Ireland. The current King is painter Patsy Dan Rodgers who has no formal powers though duties include being a spokesperson for the island community and welcoming people to the island as they arrive on the ferries.
The Tau Cross (An Chros Tau) is probably one of the most recognisable images of Tory. The cross made of one piece of slate 2 metres high and 1 metre wide stands beside the pier and dates from the 6th century or perhaps earlier. The cross is of great importance to the people of the island and many fishermen still pray at it before setting off to sea. The Tau Cross on Tory is the only one in Ireland still in its original position, and its origin is somewhat confusing with many theories. The first mention of Tau is to be found in the Old Testament in Ezekiel “Go through the city of Jerusalem and put a Tau on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done”. The Tau is the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet and is almost identical to the letter T. The Tau Cross is also used in a symbol of the arm of Jesus crossed over the arm of St. Francis each with a hand outstretched and showing the mark of the crucifixion.
The views on and from Tory are amazing, gazing over the cliffs into the churning Atlantic crashing off the jagged rocks many feet below is truly breathtaking, or walking along Tory's only road with views of almost moonscape granite strewn land to the east of the island leading to the cliff edges, and then to the west of the island with its distinctive lighthouse. Tory Island lighthouse is situated at the far west end tip of Tory and is one of 11 Donegal lighthouses. It was designed by George Helpin and building on it commenced in 1828 and was completed in 1832 when the light was established. It is one of 3 lighthouses in Ireland in which a Differential Global Positioning System is installed.
Facilities on the island are mostly situated at either West Town or East Town, and they include fresh water, petrol and diesel fuel available by jerry can, 2 provisions shops, post office, hotel and hostel, pub and bars, a restaurant and a cafe, and a cycle hire shop. A local bus provides a tour of the island which doesn't take long as the island has only one road.
What facilities are available?Facilities on the island are somewhat limited and what is available is centred around the main settlement of West Town where there is a hotel and a hostel, fresh water available, petrol and diesel available by jerry can, a pub and a bar, a restaurant and a cafe, a post office, and a cycle hire shop.
With thanks to:inyourfootsteps.com site research. Photography with thanks to Colin Park, David Baird, Joseph Mischyshyn, Kay Atherton and Kenneth Allen.
The following videos present a photo montage of views of the Island.
Add your review or comment:
Paul Harrison wrote this review on Sep 14th 2015:
Water tap on harbour wall.Average Rating: Unrated
Charlie Kavanagh wrote this review on Jul 19th 2017:
The harbour in West Town is sheltered in all weathers and if space is available to tie alongside or raft up to other vessels it is a comfortable location to overnight for a visit to this beautiful remote island 11 miles north of the Donegal coast. Care should be taken not to block the ferry berth on the west pier near the steps and crane. Bird life abounds on the island and in particular, the very rare corncrake can be heard in the meadows adjacent to West Town. A circular ramble out to the Lighthouse opens fabulous views of the island and back to the hills of Donegal. The King of Tory, Patsy Dan Rogers is also likely to bid you a warm Cead Mile Failte to his kingdom and if you have a mind to, you can even purchase some of his art.Average Rating: Unrated
Iain Miller wrote this review on Dec 4th 2017:
Tory Island is a virtually undiscovered rock climbers paradise with the north coast of the island being one continuous granite sea cliff. Click an download the free guidebook at
Michael Harpur wrote this review on May 22nd 2018:
Thank you for commenting.
Firstly, my apology. We have to date only been only able to place reference notes for the northwest corner of Ireland. We do intend to fully write up the northwest coast, but we recognise that this will take a concerted effort to do correctly and we have not been able to apportion the time for that campaign yet.
When we do, comments like yours will be invaluable and, in the meantime, for those cruising the coast in advance of that write up. So please keep commenting they are enormously helpful. Thank you for your patience.
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