Oileán Ruaidh (Island Roy) is a lowlying, gravel-based eminence of 100 acres. It has green fields, rocky shores with abundant growth of seaweed – used for healthy bathing – and the landscape has breathtaking views of Rossapenna’s sand-dunes, the surrounding Mulroy coastline and the Donegal hills.
It is situated some three and a half miles from the mainland villages of Downings and Carrigart. It was formerly known as Oileán na Bhráighe, meaning ‘island of the prisoners,’ which is its official name.
It formerly had links with Doe Castle on Rosapenna, so this probably explains the origin of that name.
The present name, Oileán Ruaidh, means ‘red island,’ so called for the vibrant rusty colour of the vegetation in winter.
There has been continuous settlement here for several hundred if not thousands of years, and most of the island’s residents are descended from original settlers.
The island faced desertion in the early 1800s when Lord Leitrim sought to banish his tenants and put the island’s green pastures to use solely for cattle grazing. His plans were thwarted by a female resident who held a 99-year lease on her land, and so all the tenants were allowed to remain and the island was saved for its people.
Farming, shellfish-rearing and tourism are the main ways of life of the islanders.
They have invested in new infrastructure to cater for the burgeoning visitor demand.
Walking, birdwatching, beachcombing
The island’s unspoilt natural beauty makes it an ideal place for visitors to relax and unwind from the pressures of today’s bustling life.
The island has an abundance of wildlife and birds and is an ideal location for walking, birdwatching and beachcombing – children take a delight in the freedom of space.
By car: Oileán Ruaidh is negotiable by car at times of low tide. The tidal causeway leads from Rannach to the islet of Carraig an Ghóilín and from there to the island itself.
Phone to find out the best times for crossing the causeway. T: +353 (0)74 915 5535