Ireland is a small island country located in the North Atlantic Ocean. Surrounded by wild seas, with the British Isles to the East and North America to the West, the country is major bucket-list material.
Frequently associated with pints of the “black stuff” (a colloquial term for Guinness), pubs galore, rolling green hills, and grazing herds, Ireland has a lot of character. But adding to its character is a fact most people don’t know: In addition to being an island itself, Ireland has many smaller islands living off its coast.
While some are well known, many exist under the radar in pure serenity, visited by few. Here are 10 islands off the coast of Ireland you probably never knew existed.
10. Sherkin Island, Co. Cork
Located only moments from the mainland off the coast of Cork, Sherkin Island is a remote landmass accessed via a 10-minute ferry.
Sherkin Island was once home to nearly 1,000 people, although this number began to drop during the Great Irish Famine. Today it is home to only 100.
Measuring five kilometres long by three kilometres wide (three miles by 1.5 miles), the island is home to a primary school, two pubs, a B&B, a community centre, and a church.
9. Clare Island, Co. Mayo
Sitting off the west coast of County Mayo is the stunning and remote Clare Island. Home to approximately 145 people, this rugged landmass offers many types of accommodations, including a guest house, a hostel, and self-catering.
There are sights of interest and places to eat here, as well as the Macalla Farm yoga retreat.
8. Belle Island, Co. Fermanagh
For those of you looking for an ultimate summer escape, weekend break, or winter retreat, check out Belle Island.
Belle Isle Estate is a private island destination that encapsulates a total of eight islands off the coast of Fermanagh. Needless to say, this enchanting island escape will not be soon forgotten.
7. Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim
Just off the coast of Country Antrim in Northern Ireland is Rathlin Island. Currently, the island is inhabited by 150 people, although that number continues to grow.
There are many sights and places of archaeological interest to be enjoyed on Rathlin Island, including a seabird centre, and a ferry operates daily to and from the mainland. So if you’re planning to visit islands off the coast to Ireland, don’t overlook Rathlin!
6. Valentia Island, Co. Kerry
Close to the mainland is Valentia Island, off the coast of Kerry. Linked by a bridge, this island is super accessible and makes for a great place to enjoy a remote weekend retreat.
Fantastic cliff walks and nature trails define the island. There is also a lighthouse and heritage museum that is well worth a visit if time allows.
5. Garinish Island, Co. Cork
Not far from the mainland, just off County Cork is Garinish Island. A popular destination for horticulturists and nature lovers, the island is dense in native and rare flora and fauna that are seldom found elsewhere in Ireland.
You can get to Garnish Island by hopping on the shuttle from the Main Pier in Glengarriff, County Cork.
4. Tory Island, Co. Donegal
Tory Island is the most remote and uninhabited of all islands off the coast of Ireland. Rugged and weather-worn, this landmass sits close to County Donegal and offers fantastic countryside scenery, nature trails, and hikes.
3. Ireland’s Eye, Co. Dublin
Only a short ferry ride from the coast of Dublin is Ireland’s Eye. This uninhabited island can be accessed via boat from the seaside town of Howth and makes for a fantastic day trip.
Be sure to pack a picnic and any other essentials, as there are no amenities on this island.
2. Inishmurray Island, Co. Sligo
Only seven kilometres off the coast of Sligo lies the wild and uninhabited island of Inishmurray. Home to only primitive ruins and ancient terrain, this island makes for the perfect place for a day trip.
1. Gola Island, Co. Donegal
Not far from the coast of County Donegal is Gola Island. For a long time, this island was populated with a small community; however, by 1996, the landmass was abandoned.
In recent years there has been fresh life on Gola Island. As of 2011, 15 residents were listed on the island.
A ferry operates from the mainland during the mid-years months and can be provided on request throughout the rest of the year.