6 islands around Ireland you never knew existed (but people live on)

Believe it or not, there are multiple Islands around Ireland you never knew existed, and people even live on them.

Ireland itself is an island with a population of around 6.4 million people. The country of Ireland also includes some other islands around it, such as Achill Island, Inishmore, Gormuna, and the Aran Islands, all of which most Irish people would be familiar with.

These islands have populations of hundreds of people and are even tourist attractions, but alongside these islands on the Irish coast, there are other smaller islands around Ireland that you never knew existed, but people live on. Here are our top six.

6. Inishgort – the only inhabited place is the lighthouse

Inishgort's lighthouse is the only inhabited building on the entire island.
Credit: @western_explorer / Instagram

The island of Inishgort is located in Clew Bay, County Mayo. Inishgort is one of the last few inhabited small islands in Clew Bay. The population of Inishgort peaked in 1871 at 35 people and has steadily declined since with only one person living there now.

The lone person living on Inishgort operates the lighthouse that has been there since 1806. We hope that Inishgort can return to its former glory and one day be home to two people just like it was back in 1996. This is definitely one of the inhabited islands around Ireland that you never knew existed.

5. Inishlyre – going strong with a population of four

Inishlyre is a island with a small population but has great sights and nature.
Credit: @sket49 / Instagram

Alongside Inishgort situated in Clew Bay, we also have the island of Inishlyre. As of 2011, Inishlyre had a remaining population of four people. This is a significant fall from grace from the population of 122 and the 17 houses recorded in Inishlyre in 1851.

After one hundred years in the year 1951, the population was down to 14, and we hope that one hundred years after this in the year 2051, Inishlyre will still be inhabited and thriving. Originally in the 19th century, there were two pubs on Inishlyre that had to receive their cargo from sea merchants as there was no deep-sea harbour in Westport.

4. Inishbarra – take the causeway to this picturesque island

be sure to visit Inishbarra, another of the top islands around Ireland that you never knew existed.

The Irish island of Inishbarra is located in Lettermore, County Galway. The island is accessible at very low tide by an artificial causeway connecting it to the mainland. The population of Inishbarra peaked in 1841 at 205 people.

The population has been up and down ever since and even went to zero in 2002. Thankfully, since then the island has been inhabited again and is now populated by one person.

3. Rutland Island – home to holiday-makers

Credit: Instagram / @r_alitza

Rutland Island is located in County Donegal in the Atlantic Ocean. The island, which is also known as Inishmadadurn, lies between Burtonport and Arranmore Island. Rutland Island does not currently have any permanent inhabitants and is not officially served by a ferry; however, the island does contain holiday homes and has up to 13 people living there in the summer.

The population of Rutland Island plummeted to zero in 1979 and stayed that way until the early 2000’s when holiday homes began to spring up on the island. The highest population recorded on Rutland Island was 125 in the year 1841. Even though Rutland Island may no longer be home to any permanent residents, it is still hosting a large amount of fauna, particularly badgers and foxes.

2. Horse Island – yours if you’ve got €6 million

Horse Island is another of the islands around Ireland you never knew existed, it's also for sale!
Credit: privateislandsonline.com

Horse Island is a small privately-owned island in Roaringwater Bay, County Cork. The island was offered for sale for €6,750,000 in 2018. The highest recorded population on the island is 137 people in the year 1841. At this time there was a copper mine on the island that employed about 100 of these people.

As of 2016, the recorded population of Horse Island is one person. There is no ferry service operating from Horse Island, but there is a jetty. In recent times there was an attempt to establish an Irish whiskey distillery on the island, but Cork County Council rejected the planning permission, so the island is left with its central infrastructure being its single road.

1. Gola Island – home to many animal inhabitants

Gola Island is another of the best islands around Ireland you never knew existed, it's full of beautiful animals and sights.
Credit: @herrlengl / Instagram

Gola Island is a small island located about one kilometre off the coast of Gweedore, County Donegal. The population fluctuated up and down until, finally in 1971, there were zero inhabitants recorded on the island. Since the early 2000s, a lot of the abandoned houses have been renovated into holiday homes, and in 2011 there was a population of 15 recorded on the island.

The island is definitely behind the times and only received mains electricity in 2005. Although not all of the house dwellers remain on Gola Island all-year-round, you can always find sheep, goats, and birds along the cliffs.

Gola Island is the birthplace of Irish writer Seán ‘Ac Fhionnlaoich and also plays a feature in the traditional children’s song Báidín Fheilimí. Gola is probably one of the islands around Ireland you never knew existed, but it is packed with Irish history.

Find Your Dream Hotel in Ireland

On the hunt for the ultimate hotel for your Irish adventure? Explore a curated selection ranging from the charming heritage of boutique accommodations in Dublin's vibrant heart to the tranquil luxury of rural retreats and the captivating coastal vistas. Start your search below to find the perfect stay with our trusted hotel partner.

Get featured on Ireland Before You Die

Do you want to get your Irish business more online exposure? Especially to those interested in travelling the best places in Ireland? Then why not get a dedicated feature on Ireland Before You Die. Find out more here.

Related Posts


Ireland Before You Die is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more