|Day 7: Island #3: Toraigh (Tory) Island
Mad Scientess Jane Expat
|Becca and Kegan on the starboard side of the ferry to Tory Island|
|Today is a day for breakfast and second breakfast. We eat at the Blueberry Tea Room in Donegal Town while waiting for the coach that will take us to Crolly. Crolly is a Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking) area. When we walk into the pub, which sits at the roadside surrounded by fields of nothing, I feel a brief disconnect from reality, like we've just turned into the strangers strolling into a saloon in an old Western movie. The old men lined up at the bar break off their conversations (in Irish) with the bartenders to turn in unison to stare at us. Becca boldly goes to the bar to inquire about getting a taxi to Donegal airport. The men turn away and resume their conversations, except for one sitting at a table who says, "Hong Kong? Singapore?" several times in a thick Irish accent. I figure out that he's asking about our racial heritage. I tell him I'm half Filipino. He says he's been there. I smile and say I haven't before I'm distracted by the arrival of beer and a list of phone numbers for taxis.|
The bartender comes outside while we're waiting for it. He's noticed Becca's tattoo and wants to show us his forearms. His tattoos are faded and smudged, with a combination of nautical and Catholic themes. He tells us he got them in the 1950s from "the one guy" in Glasgow at the time. They're all single-needle. We wish we could stay and talk to him longer but we need to pick up our car and drive to the ferry to Tory.
|View from just outside Tory Island hostel|
|Obsolete farm equipment|
|The taxi driver gives us directions to Magheraroarty (MAH-her-AHR-or-tee; run the last three syllables together rapidly) that are laden with descriptors like "turn left at the green house on the hill over there." I tell him, without irony, that the mention of landmarks is helpful. He takes this as a cue to rail against the "fockin eejits" who deface all the English words on the signs in the area.|
We go straight to the docks at Magheraroarty after getting our little Nissan Micra, which Becca adapts to driving almost right away. Tory lies twelve kilometers from the Bloody Foreland and we pass Inishbofin (a different one) and another uninhabited island before we reach it. The ferry is quite a bit smaller than either of the ones we took to Inishbofin or Clare, and the forty-five minutes crossing is rough even though the weather is good. I stand at the front until I get thoroughly soaked by a large wave and then prudently move back so I can take pictures.
We miss being greeted by Toraigh's king, but according to the taxi driver, it's probably better that way for Becca and me.
"Patsy Dan has roving hands. Anywhere else, he'd have no hands left," he tells us.
Kegan responds, "It's good to be the king."
The hostel on Toraigh is unexpectedly commodious and beautiful and is almost directly on the beach. I go for a stroll down the pier and snap a few images around An Baile Thiar (West Town) before dinner.
|In case you were wondering why we went to all the trouble to get this remote, treeless, wind-swept island, here's one of the attractions. The Tau Cross is one of only two such Coptic Christian relics in Ireland and is believed to date from the twelfth century. It's carved from a single slab of mica slate, which isn't found on Toraigh, and stands a little under two meters high. The local fishermen traditionally pray before it each time they set out to sea.|
Toraigh has been inhabited for at least four and a half thousand years, according to the earliest known structure, a dolmen (communal tomb) dated at 2500 BC. Unfortunately, the inhabitants dismantled it later to construct the wall that protects the lighthouse. The destruction of the historical site (by humans, at any rate – degradation by the elements is difficult to prevent in such a harsh environment) proved to be an exception rather than the rule as time went on. There are sites from various periods in history all over the island, and its few inhabitants have gone out of their way to preserve them. Rather than knock down obsolete buildings, they build new ones on adjacent sites. The resulting architectural hodgepodge is both bizarre and enchanting.
Historical background summarized from the visitor's guide Toraigh: a remote and historic outpost by Cóilín MacLochlainn.
|Twilight on the pier|
|The wind rises strongly after dinner, but with a few hours of daylight left there's still time to go for a pint and a walk towards An Baile Thoir (East Town). We make it to the grotto about halfway through the town but we're beginning to have trouble standing upright, let alone holding our cameras steady, so we decide to turn back rather than venture on to the end of the island to the dangerous and highly exposed Wishing Stone and the ruined castle site. We plan to spend all day tomorrow on the island, so we should have plenty of time to go further and also to the other end of the island to the lighthouse when it's lighter, if not less windy.|
We leave the windows in the slanted roof of our dorm open so that the endless crash of the surf lulls us to sleep. In the middle of the night, it begins to rain.
|Washed-up torpedo, planted by islanders|