A truly special looped walk around the beautiful island of Inishbofin

Walk for the Weekend: Westquarter Loop, Inishbofin Island, Co Galway

Inishbofin is easy to fall in love with. The beautiful island landscape is easy on the eye, the warmth and welcome of its people are easy on the heart, and its stories and wild spaces are easy on the spirit.

I took the 11.30am ferry out of Cleggan, on an early April day of sun and an east wind, intent on doing its western-most walk, the Westquarter Loop. The panel map and walk guidance at the end of the pier suggests that this 8km trek should occupy two to two-and-a -half hours of your time. However, my plan was to let the island tell me how long it would take for me to get the “feel” of the place. And in the end, the enthralling Westquarter Loop took me a good four hours – convincing me yet again that this special island deserves far more time than my quick visit.

I headed west along the harbour road, passing people painting walls and preparing hotels and B&Bs. This soon became the loveliest of green roads, bounded by stone walls and enlivened by sheep and newly born lambs and a multitude of rabbit warrens, and all the while the long line of Inishshark beckoned for another day.

Soon I was above gorgeous Trá Geal, which has to be one of the most beautiful, pristine little beaches in Ireland, and the first of the three real treats of the Loop that day. Though the descent was a bit tricky, this beach cries out to be walked, as I did that day along its edge of crystal-clear green and turquoise water.


Then I rounded the “corner” of the western end of the island, and into a wild elemental world, the second real treat of the Loop. Here Atlantic mega-storms have had their wicked way with the tough rock of the island for millennia, creating a wide flat wasteland of shattered rock and great fan-shaped sea-breaches where the thin skin of peat and grass has been peeled back and shredded. Away from the actively-eroding shore, I walked a cropped grassland littered with sea- and wind-lifted boulders and shards of stone.

And then onto the different world of my third treat, the “blowholes” of the north shore. This is well worth a look and even an exploration, as the tide and weather allowed me that day, of the furthest inland “blowhole”. This is actually the inland end of a tilting canyon/tunnel, walled and floored by the most beautifully coloured stone, and with water so clear that I ended up ankle-deep in pools between its perfect sea-shaped stones.

There are many other “treats” for the visitor on this beautiful island, but my 5pm ferry sailing called me out of my reverie, and told me that days or months or even a lifetime would be needed for Inishbofin to reveal them all.

Walk for the Weekend: Westquarter Loop, Inishbofin Island, Co Galway

Map: Sheet 37 or maps available in the Community Centre, 100m from the pier

Start/Finish: Inishbofin pier

Effort/Suitability: 2 to 4hrs, 80m of climbing, about 8km; care needs at high tides, near cliff edges especially in stormy weather