Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Island 369 - Inishbofin/Inis Bó Finne, County Galway

Inishbofin (Inis Bó Finne in Irish) is a lovely island located off the west coast of County Galway.  A ferry to the island runs daily from the village of Cleggan.  The island, which lies about 3 miles off the coast of County Galway, is about 5.5 miles from east to west and 2 miles from north to south and the highest point is 292 metres above sea level.  In Irish the name means "island of the white cow".  In 2011 the population was 160. Before the great famine of the 1850s the population reached a maximum of 1,600.

Sometimes I just know that I am going to like an island very much and I had this feeling about Inishbofin even before I got to Cleggan.   Within 5 minutes of leaving Cleggan Harbour on the ferry the local pod of dolphins put on a fantastic display for us - leaping out of the water and then swimming alongside and easily keeping up with the boat for about 15 minutes much to the delight of everyone on board.  This was the closest I had ever been to wild dolphins.

Inishbofin is divided into 5 townlands: West Quarter, Fawnmore, Middle Quarter, Cloonamore and Knock. There are 3 waymarked looped (circular) walks on the island: around West Quarter, Middle Quarter and Cloonamore.  There is a leaflet with a good map of the island showing places of interest and the routes of the looped walks.  I don't know where you get one from - the Community Centre perhaps.  I found one in a geocache and "borrowed" it.  It wouldn't be possible to explore the island fully in one day - you get about 5 hours on the island if you are a day visitor.  However there is a hostel, 3 hotels, several B&Bs and lots of self-catering properties if you want to stay for a few days. 

There is a shop on the island and a couple of bars and restaurants.  The Community Centre is also a sports hall, internet café, gym, library and radio studio and has food and drink vending machines.  There is a Catholic Church near the harbour. It was built 1910-14 on the site of an older church.  There is also a Heritage Museum at the Old Pier, which I must have walked by but didn't notice.

In my 5 hours I managed to visit Port Island at low tide, explore Knock and Cloonamore, find 3 geocaches and do the Cloonamore Looped Walk.  At one point I thought I wasn't going to get back to the ferry in time and would have won a prize for speed walking.  However it wasn't as far as I thought and I got back to the harbour with 20 minutes to spare. 

It is not known when Inishbofin was first inhabited.  St Colman landed on Inishbofin in 665 AD having travelled from Lindisfarne via Iona after falling out with some other monks over the dating of Easter.  He established a monastery on Inishbofin at Knock.  The present chapel ruins date from after 1334 when the original wooden chapel was ransacked and burnt down by John Darcy, a Lord Justice.

Inishbofin is a breeding ground for the rare corncrake.  I didn't see or hear one.

Catholic Church

Bofin Harbour

Ruined chapel and Graveyard on the site of St Colman's Monastery

View from the Chapel towards Inis Laighean

Hollowed out bullaun stone in the Chapel

Inis Laighean from Knock Hill

Loch a Teampaill

Hostel

Old Pier
 
Memorial at East End Bay to the  9 Inishbofin fishermen who were drowned during a storm on 28th October 1927
In all 45 men drowned - the others were from Cleggan, Inishkea and Lacken.  There is another memorial in the village of Cleggan.

Inishbofin Ferry at Cleggan

Inishbofin Community Centre

Inishbofin Blanket

Dun na h-Inine from the north coast of Inishbofin

Looking South East across East End Bay
 
Ruined cottage on the way to Port Island

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