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Sunday 3 December 2023 Dublin: 0°C
Hidden Ireland

David Walsh has been to 503 islands off Ireland's coast. He's now written a book.

“The tide can be flooding past the rock so you only get one shot,” Walsh explains.

imageThe view looking out from North Iniskea Island.

IF YOU’VE EVER taken a boat out to one of the Aran Islands in Galway Bay, Tory Island off the northwest coast or even Ireland’s Eye off Dublin, you may be forgiven for thinking that Ireland’s islands are mostly easily accessible.

But that’s certainly not the case and a new book by sea kayaker David Walsh aims to give people advice about how to get out to them and what they’ll find out there.

Walsh has personally landed on 503 of the 574 islands featured in his book, “Oileáin – a guide to Ireland’s islands”, and says that this revised edition is as much for armchair travellers as hardcore kayaking enthusiasts.

Walsh says that he visited some of the islands in his youth but started taking sea kayaking more seriously in 1990 when he saw two kayakers rowing between icebergs while on a trip to the Arctic.

From then on he explains that it “switched on the lights” for him and it became a keen interest, eventually leading him helping to found the the Irish Sea Kayaking Association in 1995.

Walsh explained to that landing on Ireland’s islands can often be challenging, especially in strong tidal areas.

imageA boat wreck on Roancarrigbeg Island.

He says that some of the most challenging islands to land on are Fastnet Rock or the Bull Rock which is a mile out from Dursey Island off the Cork coast

“The most challenging ones are the ones where the tides make it difficult. You have to go with the tide and they’re so strong in the south-east,” he explains.

“The tide can be flooding past the rock so you only get one shot.”

Living on an island

Walsh’s book was fist published in 2004 but 10 years later it has been updated with 200 more islands and a greater focus for holiday makers, who may just be curious about the islands they are looking at off the coast.

imageThe second edition of David Walsh’s guide to the Irish islands.

The author, a solicitor by profession,  says that his own personal enjoyment comes from the challenge of reaching the islands and the isolation there, but has no specific desire to ever live on an island himself:

People don’t go to offshore islands to look for legal advice so it’s not for me. I have too many weaknesses. I love the wilderness feeling. There’s so little going on below the watermark, you just meet no one and nothing.

Oileáin is available in Dublin from Great Outdoors, Viking Marine and Western Marine, and in Cork from Union Chandlery, or online directly from the author’s website.

All pics by David Walsh/

Read: Hidden Ireland: Were these giant tombs a big show of oneupmanship? >

Read: Hidden Ireland: From the Boyne flows the story of Ireland >

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