Inishtrahull (Co. Donegal)

Inishtrahull, (Inis Trá Thull)  off Malin Head on the Inishowen Peninsula, and known affectionately as “The Hull”, is regarded as Ireland’s most northerly land feature, although the Republic of Ireland also claims this honour for Rockall.

Inishtrahull is about 1.5 km long and roughly hourglass shaped. Hills form the ends, joined by a low flat piece of ground where the abandoned village and farmland lie. Uninhabited since 1928, except for visiting lighthouse personnel, there are ruined cottages and lazy beds. Beside the old schoolhouse there is a cross inscribed rock, possibly a Mass Rock There is at least one grave.

Inishtrahull’s main interest is geological. Ireland’s oldest rocks are to be found here and the off-lying Tor Rocks. Careful study of plate tectonics and field research established that the island and rocks are not related to the Irish mainland. Inishtrahull, Colonsay and Islay broke free of the southern tip of Greenland, and while the other two anchored off Scotland, Inishtrahull drifted that bit further south to the Donegal coastline.

A massive automated lighthouse built in 1958 stands at the west end – 23m high, reinforced concrete, novel in design. A disused stub of a lighthouse built in 1810/1813 stands at the east end. It has a very visible base surrounded by large cogs, bits of machinery and derelict living quarters which could provide shelter if stranded.

Perhaps because of the strong tides, no debris is found on Inishtrahull, most unusually for such an island.

Because of its pivotal position, Inishtrahull Sound is a major route of passage for all sorts of living creatures, and Basking Shark and Sunfish have been seen. The island is noted for its winter population of Barnacle Geese, Arctic Tern, and has a significant breeding Eider population, of particular interest to the local Peregrine falcons.

In 1994, a herd of 5 Sika deer was brought onto the island. In summer 2001, a  party of 200-odd people visited the island for a commemoration. The frightened deer jumped into the sea, and swam for it. Fortunately, they were spotted leaving by some scuba divers; by the time they were located, the deer had swum two thirds of the way to Malin Head. Unfortunately the only stag was drowned in the rescue efforts. The remaining four does were saved.

Great photo here: http://robertthompson.photoshelter.com/image/I0000B0ObYsefZF4