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The Inishkea Islands: The Ferry, Map + Attractions

The Inishkea Islands: The Ferry, Map + Attractions

The Inishkea Islands are the very definition of a ‘hidden gem’.

Located just off the Mayo coast and accessible by ferry from Blacksod Pier on the Mullet Peninsula, these two islands look like a tropical paradise.

Steeped in history, they make a very memorable trip and are easily visited alongside some of North Mayo’s other attractions.

Some quick need-to-knows about the Inishkea Islands

Inishkea Island Beach

Photo licensed via Shutterstock

 

Although a visit to the Inishkea Islands is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.

1. Location

The Inishkea Islands are a group of islands off the west coast of the Mullet Peninsula in County Mayo. 

2. A true hidden gem

These remote islands may not be as popular as some of Ireland’s other islands, but they are home to magnificent beaches and a wealth of history.

3. Getting there

To reach the Inishkea Islands, you’ll need to take a short ferry from Blacksod Pier (info below).

4. Two main islands

There are two main islands – Inishkea North and Inishkea South. Inishkea North is the larger of the two at 350 acres.

 

About the Inishkea Islands

The Inishkea Islands are a group of remote islands 3km off the coast of the Mullet Peninsula. 

The islands are made of schist ridges and gneiss rock which date back over 200 million years.

Flora and fauna

They are rich in mica minerals, and because of this, the islands seem to shine green and silver when viewed from a distance. 

Both islands are covered in machair and fine sand, creating a unique habitat that is important for local wildlife.

The islands contain over 200 plant species, and Inishkea North even contains Petalophyllum ralfsii, a rare petalwort species.

A wide range of birds nest, graze, and live on the islands, including rare species like Dunlin and Little Tern.

 

Early and modern life

Inishkea’s low-lying coasts are incredibly important for the Atlantic Grey Seal, and approximately one-third of Ireland’s Atlantic Grey Seal population lives on the islands. 

Both Inishkea North and South have a rich history, and there are several archaeological sites and ruins scattered across them.

Today, the island only has two year-round residents, but in the late 1800’s this number was closer to 120.

 

Getting to the Inishkea Islands

To get to the Inishkea Islands, you’ll need to take a ferry from Blacksod Pier.

Belmullet Boat Charters has daily sailings between May and September every year (dependent on the weather).

The crossing takes 35 minutes, but you’ll need to arrive 15 minutes before you set sail to check in at the ticket office.

Blacksod Sea Safari also run an Inishkea ferry that runs daily during summer.

 

Things to see and do around Inishkea

Inishkea north

Photo via Google Maps

Although the islands are best suited to slow-tourism, there’s plenty to see and do when you arrive.

A decent pair of walking shoes along with water/snacks are needed!

1. Stunning beaches

Inishkea is home to some of the best beaches in Mayo.

They have powdery white sand and crystal clear azure waters, plus incredible views of the mainland and neighbouring islands. 

In the summer they are an idyllic spot for a picnic, a quick dip, or a stroll.

2. Historical sites

Both islands are rich in history, and there are several interesting ruins to explore.

On Inishkea South, there’s an old school ruin, a white navigation tower, and the King’s House ruin. 

Inishkea North has the ruins of an abandoned 19th-century village, St. Colmcille’s Church, and an intriguing Crucifixion Slab and Monastery (Inishkea North was home to a thriving Christian monastery between the 6th and 10th centuries). 

 

3. Magnificent views

The views from the islands are simply stunning. Several spots have 360-degree views of the neighbouring islands and the Mullet Peninsula on the mainland. 

On Inishkea South there’s a lovely walk to the top of a large hill, and from there, you’ll be able to look back at the mainland, Achill Island, and beyond.

4. Seal and dolphins

The waters of Inishkea are home to several species of dolphins, porpoises, and even whales.

The best time to spot dolphins is between February and August, and for whales, the best time is between March and July. 

The islands are home to a large Atlantic Grey Seal population, and during autumn, the females come ashore to give birth. 

 

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