18th December

Oileáin – The Irish islands guide

Perhaps an adage too readily used is that Ireland ‘punches above its weight’; however when it comes majestical landscape, it is admirably true. For a small island on the periphery of Europe, Ireland’s geographical range belies its size of just roughly 84,000 km2, and its necklace of islands that differ, not just at the four compass points, but sometimes in sight of one another.

review oileain

'Oileáin is about places,' writes David Walsh, in this second edition (first published in 2004) dedicated guide to almost every Irish coastal island. Most of the ‘newbies’ are close to shore, or satellites of larger offshore islands with a central theme of being ‘islands up the heads of bays, well sheltered’.

Armchair tour

The guide is comprehensive, describing over 570 islands ‘big and small, far out to sea and close in by the shore, inhabited and uninhabited, worth the trouble visiting or not.’ Accompanying photos, one more appealing than the next taken by sea kayaker Seán Pierce, set the visual scene and enable a virtual armchair tour ahead of any passage planning.

Oileáin advises on access, and offers tips on local tides; camping facilities; flora and fauna; wildlife; walking and climbing; culture and history― all to whet the appetite of anyone with a passion for adventure. Getting to these islands will be a testament of individual skill and experience. The author’s choice is kayak; others will arrive by rigid inflatable boats (RIBs) and some will sail to anchorages but will need a dinghy to make landfall.

And there are other less conventional modes of transport. ‘These days there are Stand Up Boards, Sit on Tops, didgeridoos, ferries, whatever, so that even boatless folk will take something out of Oileáin.’

So, how does a Dublin solicitor and Notary Public come to compile this comprehensive guide that has but one fault, of unveiling many unknown but starkly beautiful places so that choosing a destination will cause personal turmoil? On a sailing/climbing trip to Spitsbergen in 1990 he saw sea kayaks glide between icebergs in the remote frozen Magdalena Fjord and was ‘blown away’.

The next part of his life began immediately. Then on a kayaking trip in 1993 up the west coast accompanied by Fred Cooney, and passaging Inisbofin to Inishturk they failed to land at Davillaun Island. The ‘why’ of that was the catalyst for Oileáin.

‘The disappointment that there wasn’t available such simple information as landing half way along SE side drove the whole project over the following 20 years.’

Oileáin is the essential companion for anyone with a grá for seeking and exploring our lesser and unknown islands.

Published by Pesda Press

ISBN: 978-1-906095-37-6 

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