American Refugee: 5 Reasons to Visit Inishturk, Ireland

Last summer I read an article about a tiny Irish island that would welcome American refugees if Donald Trump is elected President of the United States. It was a joke, of course, probably meant to drum up some tourism.

During every election season stretching as far back as I can remember, Americans threaten to leave the country if their candidate loses. And on the Wednesday morning following every election night, those same people get ready for work and carry on as usual. However, this being an especially contentious election, I thought some voters might finally make good on those threats. Would that tiny Irish island be a good place for American “refugees”? I thought it might be prudent to check it out and report back. (Or, more truthfully, I was just looking for another excuse to return to Ireland…)

Anyway, two weeks after reading the article I was standing on Roonagh Pier, waiting to catch a passenger-only ferry to Inishturk, an island 14 km off the coast of County Mayo. The wind whipped my hair as I listened to stories about a storm that had blown through two days earlier. The ferry operators warned that the waters were still a little choppy, so we should all be careful and hold on. I have never been seasick but worried about the hour-long journey nonetheless.

Loading supplies

A dozen passengers and a few crew members boarded the ferry. Some stayed inside the cabin. I chose to stand on deck and keep my eyes on the horizon. The waves were a little rough at first, but by the time we arrived on Inishturk, the waters were much smoother.

And you know what? I’m glad (kind of, not really) Donald Trump ran for President because if not, I’d have never heard of Inishturk! I don’t know that I’d ever live there (it’s very remote), but I’d definitely go back for a week just to disconnect from all the daily noise that can make life so exhausting sometimes.

If you’re planning a trip to Ireland, whether to escape politics or just for fun, there are several great reasons to choose Inishturk island.

Reason 1: Peace and Quiet
Approximately 58 residents live on Inishturk. You could probably meet each one in an afternoon on your 5 km walk around the island. And forget theaters, fancy eateries, and shopping centers. There is a beautiful community center that functions as a restaurant, pub, and library and there are only a few B&B’s from which to choose.  It’s the simple life at its best. Writers, photographers, and artists will love a visit.



_DSC8905Reason 2: The People
I stayed at Tranaun Beach House, strategically located next to the community center/restaurant/pub. It’s a bit of a hike from the pier, so my host, Phylomena Heaney, drove down to pick me up.

The aroma of freshly baked bread greeted me at the front door of the B&B. Phylomena ushered me into the dining room, serving me tea and scones as I enjoyed a view of the Ireland’s west coast. She was so hospitable and kind – like everyone else I met during my stay. Islanders and other tourists simply wanted to stop and chat, and even though I’d traveled there alone, I never once felt lonely.

_DSC8890Reason 3: Sheep!
I met Farmer Heaney (Phylomena’s brother-in-law, I believe) on my walk around the island. He’d herded his sheep into a pen because some of them needed a fresh coat of paint. Farmers spray paint sheep with their mark as a means of identification. I’d never seen this done before, so he let me observe and take some pictures.



Reason 4: The Scenery
Fresh air and a decent view. I couldn’t ask for much more…


_DSC8938Reason 5: Hiking
As I’ve mentioned, it’s a 5 km walk around the island. The first part is all uphill from the pier, and it’s a great workout after spending so much time in airplanes, rental cars, and ferries to get there.

During my hike, I witnessed the islanders setting up for a festival that would expand their population from 58 to 150 over the weekend. I was tempted to stay on for that, but, as you can imagine, all of the B&B’s were booked and tents filled.




BONUS Reason:  On my way back to the mainland the next morning, several dolphins swam towards the ferry! They stayed alongside us for a few moments before diving below the surface and disappearing. Even the seasoned ferry captain was excited to see them!

Some tips before you go:

  • Ask your hosts if they need anything from the mainland. It’s expensive and time-consuming to go off-island. They’ll appreciate the offer.
  • Bring your Wellies! This goes for Ireland in general, but it’s especially helpful here. Your hike around the island will take you off road and through some soggy hillsides. Totally worth it for the view, though!

Slainte! And don’t forget to vote!!

The Beaches of Inishbofin

Inishbofin is a small island off the coast of County Galway, Ireland. With a population of 170 and accessible only by ferry, it’s a quiet retreat away from the mainland. My favorite part about visiting was renting a bicycle and exploring the beaches…and having them all to myself! _dsc8453_dsc8502_dsc8462_dsc8584_dsc8472_dsc8603_dsc8635_dsc8505_dsc8623


In Desperate Need of a Do Over

Do you ever look back at your old photos just to appreciate how far you’ve come as a photographer? Do any of those old images shock and horrify you?

In the Site Stats section of WordPress, I like to browse through the “Clicks” to see what pictures people well, clicked on… I’m always curious about what images inspire people to linger a bit longer. Today, I found that someone clicked on a very old image from when I was in Ireland in 2010, and seeing it again horrified me. Back in October 2010, I had just started using a DSLR, and I just had to shoot everything manually because shooting in auto would have been too easy. Considering I had no concept of ISO at the time, it’s no wonder so many of my photos look like crap to me by today’s standards. On top of that, I thought I had to post process everything and bump up the saturation. God knows why. Anyway, I decided to re-do a couple of the pictures I posted on my blog so long ago and do a side by side comparison.

Let’s start with this sad example. What the heck was I thinking here? I can’t believe I posted this to my blog with the sky all over exposed and over saturated. Why did I think this looked good?

Do over

Next, let’s examine poor old Mary, who appears to be praying for less saturation and a sky color actually found in nature. Again, I was a little heavy-handed with the wrong buttons while editing. Natural is better.

Do over

And finally, we have Hore Abbey. Yes, truly an unfortunate name and a victim of post processing errors. In the first photo, the focus is on the cows in the background and the abbey is very dark. In the do over, I lightened up the foreground using “Levels” in Photoshop. Levels is one of my favorite tools – you can make minor corrections to a photo that make a big difference.

Do Over

I considered replacing the pictures in the posts from 2 years ago but ultimately decided against it. For better or for worse, that’s just where my skill level was at the time. My blog documents my journey through life and photography, and that journey isn’t always perfect.

The Wrong Side of Everything

Day one on the wrong side of everything?  Success.  No humans or animals were harmed, despite the best efforts of the sheep that ran in front of us, and  I attribute this to Paul, a brilliant driving instructor and navigator.  Unfortunately, we had to part ways this evening, and I drove to Kilkenney alone.  This was terrifying, but I made it.   

Suicidal Sheep

Today was absolutely beautiful.  Paul and I drove through the Wicklow Mountains, on roads about half the size of Northshore.  I believe he expected me to drive off a cliff or into oncoming traffic, but again – I survived.    We spent most of the day in Glendalough walking through a forest to a lake and then back to an old monastery. 

Tower at the old monastery.  I felt quite small today. 

I arrived in Kilkenny too late to enjoy the castle, but tomorrow I’ll get an early start and be the first one in before the hordes of annoying tourists with cameras descend upon the place.   Um, wait….let me clarify.  I support tourism and cameras.  I don’t support hordes of people standing in the way of an otherwise good photo. 

Image from outside the LOCKED doors of Kilkenny Castle.

Tomorrow I’m off to County Cork!  Provided I can find the motorway again, this should be a great adventure!