Inishbiggle (Inis Bigil in Irish) is a small island (just under 3km2) that lies between Achill Island and the mainland off the west coast of Ireland. We had the opportunity to visit the island a couple of weeks ago. The journey, just takes a few minutes in a small boat from the mainland.
The island has only very small roads and with hardly any cars, is the perfect place to walk and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
One of the oldest building on the island is the church, a small pretty building on the eastern side of the island.
The island was only first inhabited in 1834. At it’s peak the island had a population of 171 and throughout the early 20th Century the population remained about one hundred. By 2006 the population had dropped to just 24. Today, there are just ten households occupied throughout the year and only 14 people living on the island permanently. The majority of inhabitants are over 50 years of age. The ferry man told us there was no longer any children living on the island.
In the past, farming and fishing would have been the main occupations but today only a couple of landowners continue to farm (sheep and cattle). Tuft is still being cut in some places.
The island has a magical quality to it. It is so peaceful, the views are stunning and the light is special.
But at the same time there is a sadness, a feeling that humans time here is coming to an end. The men who took us across on their boat were very conscious of the changing climate. They could already see the impact on their community, with rising sea levels and increasing strengths of storms. They showed us at how extra stones cages have had to be installed at the pier to protect it and how the floating platform needed and extra 30cm added to the top to deal with higher tides and storm surges. We often think of sea rise as only affecting tropical islands but for these islanders it was very real too.a
The island’s isolation is both it’s magical charm and it’s potential ruin.