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by Andy McInroy
Photograph Of The Month - July 2008

A Journey North

In late April I started a short project to photograph some of Ireland’s most northerly points. By the end of May I had the opportunity to stand on the deserted island of Inishtrahull, the most northerly island of Ireland. However, my story begins a little further south below the mighty cliffs of Benbane Head in County Antrim.

Below Benbane Head - 55° 15' 08'' North

We start the journey at very tip of the North Antrim coast. Many people will have stood atop the mighty Benbane Head on their walks along the Causeway Coast. However, if you look carefully down between the imposing cliffs you can see that there is still a little way to go to reach Northern Ireland’s most northerly point. Below the cliffs between Benbane and Bengore Head lies a narrow promontory of solidified lava which juts out into the sea. This can be reached by a scramble down a steep gully, although not many people venture down below these mighty ramparts. I was rewarded for my own efforts with a spectacular sunset behind the headland, but I still had some way to go on my journey.

Benbane Head - IR343


Banba's Crown - 55° 23' 00'' North

Surprisingly, Ireland’s most northerly mainland point is not in Northern Ireland at all. It is actually in the Republic of Ireland, or sometimes referred to as "The South"! My story continued as I travelled to Malin Head in Donegal to photograph Banba’s Crown, the northernmost tip of the mainland. While down at the water’s edge, at the very end of the land, a freak wave battered over the rock platform where I was stood. I was confronted with a wall of sea, translucent and beautiful as the setting sun filtered through it. Thankfully I stayed dry and still got the photograph, but I still had some way to go on my journey.

Banba's Crown - IR338


Inishtrahull Island55° 26' 08'' North

By late May I was headed northwards again, this time by boat, as I set sail for Inishtrahull island. Inishtrahull is Ireland’s most northerly island and has been deserted for over 80 years. It was once home to 100 hardy souls but now it is a quiet home to deer, seals and a huge variety of birdlife. Inishtrahull is no place to be during a winter storm but on this particular evening the island was in a state of magical peace. The warm spring light filtered over the ruined cottages and across the faint outlines of the old fields. There wasn’t a breath of wind and no sound could be heard except for the call of the seals in the bay. Inishtrahull was the perfect place to end my journey north.

Inishtrahull Island - IR349

However, perhaps I’m not quite there. My story is not quite complete.


The Tor Rocks - 55° 27' 03'' North

The classification of islands can be controversial talking point. Some definitions require an "island" to be able to support human habitation. Inishtrahull satisfies this requirement. However, another two kilometres north of Inishtrahull lie the remote Tor Rocks. These must claim to be Ireland’s most northerly landfall. Of these, Tor Beg is the furthest north and this rock can be seen on the right hand side of my photograph below. One day I hope to be able to stand on these rocks, but I suspect that may be one journey too far.

They opened the lighthouse door, and every gust of wind brought with it shrieks as if from men and women in despair. They also observed a light in the direction of the Tor rocks outside of Inistrahul. This light flickered for a very few minutes, and then disappeared, and soon all was silent.
Good Words, published 1873
Referring to the steamer, 'Cambria', which foundered
on the Tor Rocks with a loss of 183 lives.

With a bright light shining down on this cruel tip of Ireland, the story is almost told.

The Tor Rocks - IR354

But perhaps there is one final journey northwards....

Rockall - 57° 35' 48'' North

I’ll leave that contoversy for another day. Speaking as a Scotsman,
I have divided loyalties and might need to claim that one for my Scottish homeland!

J.A. Harvie-Brown & T.E. Buckley, 1889
A Vertebrate Fauna of the Outer Hebrides

My Journey North

Text and photos © Andy McInroy