Inishbofin reminds me of summers growing up in Canada, except that it’s unlike anywhere I’ve ever visited! It feels both familiar and unique at the same time!
Inishbofin is the most western island in all of Ireland. It’s also only one of only four inhabited islands in Connemara. It’s a very close-knit environmentally friendly community of 180 people. The islanders combined efforts have resulted in Inishbofin being the first island in Ireland to receive an Ecotourism award recognized by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council!
You get that rare feeling when meeting locals and visitors alike on Inishbofin that you’re reuniting with long lost friends – even though it’s your first time meeting. And that only deepens over your stay. Inishbofin attracts 40,000 tourists a year. Your visit plays an important role in preserving traditional island life and providing jobs to locals. Many nearby island that were once inhabited, like Inishark, have been abandoned, as islanders move to the mainland in search of jobs.
One of the reasons that Inishbofin was awarded the ecotourism award are the birdwatching breaks and wildlife photography courses offered through the Dolphin Hotel where I stayed. It’s a family run hotel – Pat and Jackie are incredible hosts, and the first hotel on an Irish island to receive a Silver Award for Ecotourism. Inishbofin is a great place for birdwatching, especially in the spring and fall where migratory birds can also be seen. Of particular interest to birders is the Corncrake. It’s an endangered bird that breeds on Inishbofin and is rarely seen in other parts of Ireland. But to be fair, you will likely hear it’s distinctive call, before you see it!
Besides birdwatching, you can also do one of the island’s three self-guided walks that show you the most spectacular parts of the island or rent bikes if that’s more your style.
This summer Inishbofin is also introducing paddle boarding. There’s also a dive shop for certified divers! Naturally, angling trips are also popular with both locals and tourists!
And you won’t believe the beaches! You’ll never believe you’re in Ireland! The beach at East End Bay has even received the Green Coast Award for 2016!
Considering what a fantastic beach it is, you may also see some rather unexpected visitors:
Who knew that cows had such great taste?
The other thing that makes Inishbofin really special are all the festivals. I was there in April for the Walking Festival which I loved! Despite, being an avid hiker, it was the first walking festival I had participated in. It attracts avid walkers from all over Ireland and even a couple of us from mainland Europe. It was a great warmup for the 7-day Wicklow Way walk which I would be doing after my visit to Inishbofin.
There are different themed walks and you pick and choose which ones you want to do. I did all of them on Saturday because they all looked so good, and thoroughly enjoyed all of them.
The visit to Cromwell’s Fort was a special highlight, which was built in the 1600s. You can either visit it by yourself – check the tide table first, or with storyteller and archaeologist Tommy Burke. He’s an expert on Inishbofin’s Bronze Age settlements, monastic sites, and Cromwell’s Fort and can be booked for private tours.
My favourite part of the Walking Festival was visiting the abandoned island of Inishark. This is the most haunting island I’ve ever visited…more coming soon!
Although I was by myself, I never felt alone. Irish walkers are a really friendly bunch, and I made a couple of friends on the first walk at 6:30 am! The Walking Festival is a great way to explore the island, meet people and get some exercise!
Besides the Walking Festival, you can find a wide range of festivals on Inishbofin from the Arts Festival, to the Island Conversations Festival, to the 10K & Half Marathon, to Creative Writing Holidays! Check out the Events page to see what’s happening, and if possible plan your visit around one.
While Inishbofin is a leader in eco-tourism, it’s also renown for its Irish music scene, with both unknown and famous musicians coming from all over Ireland to play at one of the Irish pubs! It’s a great way to end a leisurely day and exactly how I ended my Saturday night of the Walking Festival!
Inishbofin reminds me of summers growing up in Canada when I explored from sunup to sundown, riding my bike everywhere, swimming in the creek, listening to birds. It’s a place where you get back to nature. As a result leave more grounded and connected – both to nature and to other people. It’s also unlike any other place I’ve ever visited. It’s a unique place for travellers and one that has to be experienced to be understood. Let me know how your visit goes!
Tips for Getting the Most From Your Visit to Inishbofin:
- Travel in off season. The island is much quieter then and feels much different than it does in summer, when the majority of the 40,000 visitors come.
- Attend one of the festivals. This is a great way to get an inside perspective into what makes Inishbofin so unique and meet some fantastic people.
- Be outdoors from sunup to sundown. So what of makes Inishbofin special is being outside, whether than being going for a swim, or taking a leisurely walk.
- Leave No Trace. Support Inishbofin’s eco-friendly initiatives by following the 7 Leave No Trace principles.
- Relax. There’s an expression on the island, called Bofin time. On other island you may have heard it referred to as Island time. It’s the same thing.
- Learn more about Inishbofin’s eco-initiatives by watching this video.
How to Get to Inishbofin:
Inishbofin is located 1 1/2 hours west from Gallway City. In keeping with the island’s eco-friendly theme, I took the IrishCityLink bus from Dublin to Gallway, and from there to Cleggan. From Cleggan it’s only a 30-minute ferry ride.
Where to Stay:
I stayed at the Dolphin Hotel, which has received a Silver Award for Ecotourism. I thoroughly enjoyed my stay, Pat and Jackie were warm friendly hosts, and the food was incredible!
Where to Eat:
Inishbofin is a Fairtrade Island and each of the restaurants below tries to source food locally wherever possible. Each restaurant also offers live music – a staple on Inishbofin!
Dolphin Hotel & Restaurant: Pat and Jackie’s enthusiasm for life permeates your soul. You’ll leave feeling happy after a delicious meal. It’s also a great spot for bird watching – right from the restaurant!
The Beach Day’s Bar & Restaurant: Located right on the beach and a stone’s throw away from the sea. The owner Adrian has a background in hotel management and his love of wine is evidenced by an extensive wine list!
Doonmore Hotel & Restaurant: This establishment has been owned and run by the Murray family for three generations! Murray’s Bar is famous for its Irish music scene. The crab I had was some of the best I’ve ever had anywhere!
Inishbofin House Hotel & Marine Spa: A mix of modern luxury and warm island hospitality. You’ll enjoy a harbour view while noshing on traditional Irish food! If you want to pamper yourself afterwards, head over to the luxurious spa!
For more details on where to eat in Inishbofin, click here.
Note: Thank you to Inishbofin Tourism, Ecotourism Ireland and Tourism Ireland for making my visit possible. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.