People walking a pathway along Inishturk Island, off the coast of County Mayo People walking a pathway along Inishturk Island, off the coast of County Mayo

Islands of Ireland

A guide to the Islands of Ireland

An island itself, Ireland is surrounded by smaller islands and islets. Some of these, like the Aran Islands and Skellig Island, are quite well known internationally. And although others, such as Inishbiggle and Gola Island, may be a little less familiar, that doesn't make them any less interesting.

Use this page to help you find the islands and islets you would most like to visit.

Irish Islands and Islets by region:

Use these links to find the Irish Islands you would most like to visit during your stay on the Emerald Isle.

Island's off the East Coast Ireland

Here you can explore the, somewhat overlooked, island of Ireland's East Coast. Less known that their West Coast counterparts the islands on Ireland's East Coast are nonetheless stunning in their own right.

Lambay Island Co. Dublin

Lambay island lies 2 miles off the coast of County Dublin in the Irish Sea. It is 593 acres in size and has steep cliffs on its northern, eastern and southern sides. The name Lambay comes from the Old Norse word for Lamb.

A 2017 census recorded the total population on the island as 7. The bird life on the island include kittiwakes, herring gulls & greylag geese. There is also deer farmed cattle, and amazingly... wallabies, which were introduced to the island due to the wallaby becoming too plentiful in Dublin Zoo in the 1950's.

Ireland's Eye Co. Dublin

Ireland's Eye is located north of the fishing village of Howth, County Dublin. The island is 2 acres in size and is currently uninhabited. The name 'Ireland's Eye' comes from a mixture of the girls name Eria, which eventually became confused with the Irish word for Ireland 'Éireann' and the Viking word for the name Eria, Ey. So, Éireann Ey became Ireland's Eye.

Sea birds of the island include razorbills, fulmars, guillemots and gulls. There is a large number of grey seals in the sea around the island, it is also home to numerous pairs of breeding puffins.

The Island's of South East Ireland

Look further into the islands off the South East coast of Ireland, or specifically the island group of the Saltee Islands off the coast of Wexford.

Saltee Islands Co. Wexford

The Saltee Island are comprised of 2 islands, Great Saltee and Little Saltee, which lie 3 miles off the coast of Wexford in the South East of Ireland. Great Saltee is 89 hectares and Little Saltee is 37 hectares. In a 2011 census the 2 islands were recorded as having a population of 2 people.

The waters surrounding the Saltee Island are extremely treacherous and the area has become known as "The Graveyard of a Thousand Ships." The wildlife of the area include grey seal, fulmar, gannet, shag, guillemot, razorbill and puffin.

West Ireland and its islands

The West of Ireland is famed for some of the most remote islands on the planet. The islands suffered desolation during the early parts of the 20th century due to immigration. Some of the island have small populations while some are completely empty except for their wildlife.

Inishmore Co. Galway

Inishmore, Inis Mór in Irish means Big Island, is the largest of the Aran Islands, 12 square miles. It lies 7 miles from Galway Bay. The other 2 island that make up the Aran Island are Inisheer and Inishmaan which lie just South East Inishmore. The total population of Inishmore, according to a 2011 census, is 845.

Due to its strange climate Inishmore hosts a mixture of alpine, Mediterranean and Arctic plant-life side by side. Today the island is a major Irish Tourism attraction. Bed and Breakfasts, horse-drawn carriages and bicycle rental companies all enjoy the tourism industry in Inishmore, especially during the summer months. Tourists flock to the island to witness Aran Sweaters being produced, to sample poteen from the local distillery and visit the thatched cottages and ancient ruins of the island.

Inishmaan Co. Galway

Inishmaan is the middle island, both in size and location, of the Aran Islands. It measures 3.5 square miles and,according to a 2011 census, has a population of 157 people. As with the other Aran Islands, Inishmaan enjoys an unusually warm climate. The snow that hit Ireland at the end of 2010 was the first to reach the islands in living memory. Usually the soil temperature of Inishmaan doesn't drop below 6 °C and, in turn, has one of the longest harvest seasons of anywhere in Ireland and Britain.

Inisheer Co. Galway

Inisheer is the smallest, 3.1 square miles, and most eastern of the Aran Islands. Its official name is Inis Oirthir, which in Irish means East Ireland. In 2016, a census recored the island as having 260 residence. It lies about 7 miles from Galway Bay.

The earliest evidence of human settlements in Ireland were discovered here, in 1885, when a burial site dating back to 1500B.C was found. The cargo ship Plassey was shipwrecked on the island in 1960 and can be see in the opening credits of the comedy show 'Father Ted'.

Inishbofin Co. Galway

Inishbofin, named 'Island of the White Cow' or in Irish Inis Bó Finne, is an Island off the coast of Connemara, County Galway. It has a population of 180 people. Measuring 3.4 miles long and 1.9 miles wide. The first settlement of the island are said to date anywhere from between the Bronze and the early Medieval Ages. The island can be reached by ferry from the village of Cleggan, County Galway.

Clare Island Co. Mayo

Clare Island guards the entrance to Clew Bay, County Mayo. It is a mountainous island with a population of 168 people, according to a 2011 census. Clare Island can be accessed via a daily ferry from Roonagh Pier near Louisburgh in County Mayo.

Inishturk Co. Mayo

Inishturk, meaning Island of the Wild Boar in Irish, is located 9 miles from the coast of County Mayo. As of 2014 it has a population of 58 people. In 1993 Inishturk Community Centre opened, which also doubles as a pub and a library. Inishturk is famous for its sports field which was craved out of the foot of a mountain. There is also a primary school on the island, Ireland's smallest, with only 3 pupils. If we would recommend a visit to only one island Inishturk would have to come into consideration. Read about our recent day trip to Inishturk.

Achill Island Co. Mayo

Achill Island is the largest of the Irish isles with a coastline of almost 80 miles and has a population of 2,569. The island is 87% peat bog. During the 17th and 18th centuries the was a huge migration away from the island to the Irish mainland, in particular to Ulster. Many of the areas of Achill Island have two names due to the fact that there are two separate dialects of Irish spoken there.

Inishbiggle Co. Mayo

Inishbiggle, meaning Vigil Island in Irish, can be found of the coast of the village of Ballycroy in Co. Mayo. The island covers 650 acres and is situated northeast of Achill Island. The population of the island currently stands at 18 people. Sheep and cattle farming as well as fishing and winkle picking are the main industries of the island. There has been a discussion, ongoing since 1996, to construct a cable-car link across the treacherous Bullsmouth Channel to Achill Island.

The islands off South West Island

The islands off the coast of Cork and Kerry are a hive of activity over the Summer months as tourists flock to the ever popular South West region of Ireland. In Summer you can expect to find students from the Irish Language College's found on the islands as well as people joining in the water based activities. During other months of the year, the population decreases back to their local residence due to the colder and sometimes stormy weather of the region.

Cape Clear Island Co. Cork

Cape Clear Island is the southern most inhabited island of Ireland. According to a 2011 census there was 124 people living permanently on the island. The most notable feature of the island is a signal tower dating from the Napoleonic Wars. The ruins of a 12 century church also stands near the islands main pier. Around 50% of the islands population speak Irish on a daily basis, outside of the education system. Up until 1995 Cape Clear was supplied with electricity via diesel generators, these were replaced with submarine power cables.

Sherkin Island Co. Cork

Sherkin Island lies off the southwest coast of County Cork. It is 3 miles long and 1.5 miles wide. The island is home to 111 people, as of 2016. It is also home to 2 pubs, a hotel and a community centre.

From the time of the Great Irish Famine, 1845 to 1849, when the population was thought to be 1,000 people, the population has seen a steady decline. There is an increase of people on the island over the summer months as people return to their summer homes and tourist begin exploring the islands. The current population of Sherkin Island is seen as a very bohemian one. The island is home to musicians, writers and artists as well as fishermen, farmers, teachers and doctors.

Dursey Island Co. Cork

Dursey Island is 4 miles long and 1 mile wide. It has a population of 4 people and currently has no shops, pubs or restaurants. Up until recently there was a post office on the island but this has since closed.

There are rocks off Dursey Island: Bull Rock, Calf Rock and Cow Rock. Bull Rock was inhabited until 1991 when the lighthouse which had been manually operated since 1888 became automatic. The remains of a lighthouse, damaged in a storm in 1881, can still be seen today. Dolphins, whales and basking shark can often be seen in the waters of Cow Island.

Bere IslandCo. Cork

Bere Island, which comes from the Irish Oiléan Béarra meaning Bear Island, is located off the Beara Peninsula, near Bantry Bay, in County Cork. It is around 6 x 1.5 miles in size. As of 2016 the island had a population of 167 people. There is a church and graveyard located in the village of Ballinakilla and the main harbour, Lawrence Cove, is located in the islands main village of Rerrin.

Whiddy Island Co. Cork

Whiddy Island is most famous, unfortunately, for the worst maritime disaster in Irish history. On January 8th 1979, a French tanker was unloading crude oil at a Whiddy Island terminal when it exploded. In total 50 people were killed in the explosion and subsequent fire.

Today there is a total of only 20 people living on Whiddy Island. It is roughly 3.5 miles long and 1.5 miles wide. The island is accessible via the ferry Ocean Star III, which makes multiple return trips every day from Bantry Bay, County Cork.

Garnish Island Co. Cork

Located in Glengarriff harbour, Bantry Bay, off the southwest coast of Ireland. The island is famous for its beautiful gardens. the gardens were designed by Harold Peto for the islands owner at the time, John Annan Bryce, who purchased the island from the war Office in 1910. The island is also home to a Martello tower which dates back to the Napoleonic Wars. There is currently nobody living on the island but its garden and tower attract many tourists, especially during the summer months.

Heir Island Co. Cork

Heir Island was once home to roughly 400 people, the McCarthy and O'Neill families were the main residence of the island. Fishing and farming were the main activities of the island before younger residence began to emigrate away, mainly to England, Australia and the United States from the island during the early 20th century.

Today there is approximately people living on the island. This number increases during the summer when people return to their holiday homes and tourists begin to flock to the island to avail of its wildlife preserve and numerous beaches.

Blasket Islands Co. Kerry

The name Blasket comes from the Norse word "brasker", which means "a dangerous place". The Blasket Islands are made up of individual islands: Great Blasket Island, Tearaght Island, Inishtooskert, Inishvickillane, Inishnabro and Beginish. They are currently uninhabited but there was people living across them up until 1953 by a completely Irish speaking population. the Irish government evacuated the population in 1953 because of concerns over the locals welfare due to declining population and the general harsh existence of life on the island.

There are day trips available to the Blasket Islands (only to Great Blasket) via ferry, with an option of camping overnight, which is only advisable during the summer months. There is no landing facilities for larger ships which means at a certain distance to the island visitors must transfer from the ferry to a RIB.

Valentia Island Co. Kerry

Valentia Island is located off the South West coast of County Kerry, off the Iveragh Peninsula. The Maurice O'Neill Memorial Bridge links the island to the mainland. Valentia Island measures 7 miles long and 2 miles wide. According to a 2016 census, the population of the island stood at 665 people. The waters around Valentia Island are a very well known fishing location and are the most populated in Ireland for conger eel, red sea bream, Ray's bream and lesser spotted dogfish.

Skellig Michael Co. Kerry

Skellig Michael, also known as Great Skellig, is the larger of the two Skellig Islands, the other being Little Skellig. Its twin peaks are over 230 meter above sea level. The island was home to a 6th Christian monastery. Today the two Skellig Islands are home only to numerous sea bird colonies including European storm petrel, northern gannet,fulmar, Manx shearwater, black-legged kittiwake, common guillemot,razorbill and Atlantic puffin. There are more than 4,000 puffins on Skellig Michael alone.

In 2015 scenes from the Star Wars movies The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi were shot on the islands. See here for more on Irish Film Locations.

The islands of Northern Island

While numerous smaller, unpopulated islands can be found off the coast of Northern Island, there is the only one that has a population. Here we take a closer look at Rathlin Island.

Rathlin Island Co. Antrim

Rathlin Island is the only inhabited island off the Northern coast of Ireland. It lies off one of the most Northern point of Ulster, off the coast of County Antrim and measures 4 miles east to west and 2.5 miles from north to south. It is divided into 22 town lands and has a population of 150 people, that's about 7 people per town land.

The Rathlin Island Ferry Ltd operate a ferry that connects Rathlin Island with the mainland, at Ballycastle, 6 miles away. The first ever wireless telegraphy system was established on 6 July 1898, between East Lighthouse on Rathlin and Kenmara House in Ballycastle, by employees of, the man credited with the invention of the radio, Guglielmo Marconi.

Island's off the North West Coast Ireland

The North West of Ireland is renowned for its harsh and rugged landscape, the island off its coast are no different. Here we take a closer look at a few of the more well known Islands of Counties Donegal and Sligo.

Tory Island Co. Donegal

Tory Island can be found 9 miles off the coast of County Donegal. There is a population of 144 people, the main language spoken is Irish but English is also spoken when talking to visitors to the island. It is seen as one of the most remote inhibited islands of Ireland. It is divided into 4 towns: East Town, West Town, Middletown and Newtown. Regular ferries connect Tory Island with mainland Donegal. There are no cars allowed on the ferry but it can hold up to 70 passengers.

Gola Island Co. Donegal

Gola Island is located just 0.62 miles off the coast of Gweedore, a small Irish-speaking village in Donegal. There was people living on the island up until the 1960's. The houses that remained have now been renovated and act as holiday homes. A 2011 census recorded the island as having a population of 15 people. Mains electricity is not available on the island, people mainly use generators and oil lamps as well as solar and wind powered sources.

Arranmore Co. Donegal

A census of 2011 recorded Arranmore as having 514 people in permanent residence, making it the most inhabited island of Donegal. It is known in English as Aran Island, not to be confused with the Aran Islands. The island is used in the summer months as an Irish College for school kids learning Ulster Irish. During their 3 week stay students must only communicate in Irish and take part in Irish dancing, sports and music events on the island.

A number of residence of Arranmore, after being evicted from the island, ended up on Beaver Island in northern Lake Michigan, USA. Today the islands are 'twinned' and many of the people of Beaver Island trace their roots to Arranmore.

Coney Island Co. Sligo

Coney Island gets its name from the English word, rarely used today, for rabbit or rabbit hair, and is one of a few islands off the coast of Ireland with the same name. It covers around 400 acres. 124 people lived on the island in 1862, 45 of which were school children, today there is just one family remaining, a total of 2 people.

Other Regions of Ireland

Find the attractions and destinations of the other regions of Ireland here.

Guinness Barrels
Dublin
  • Visit here for:
  • Guiness Storehouse
  • Christ Church Cathedral
  • Trinity College
East Ireland
East
  • Visit here for:
  • Glendalough Monastic Site
  • Castletown House
  • Brú na Bóinne
Kilkenny Castle
South East
  • Visit here for:
  • Kilkenny City
  • Rock of Cashel
  • Tintern Abbey
Cliffs of Moher
West
  • Visit here for:
  • Wild Atlantic Way
  • Cliffs of Moher
  • Clonmacnoise Monastic Site
St Colmans Cathedral
South West
  • Visit here for:
  • Cork City
  • Blarney Castle
  • Ring of Kerry
Giant's Causeway
Northern Ireland
  • Visit here for:
  • Belfast City
  • Titanic
  • Giant's Causeway
Irish Music
North West
  • Visit here for:
  • Belfast City
  • Titanic
  • Giant's Causeway