Take a Mile
… or several. Driving over the causeway which links Inch Island to the mainland, the mainland being an aqueous bulge of land itself (Inishowen Peninsula), we are faced with one of life’s merrier dilemmas. “Strand 2 kilometres” to the left and “Pier 4 kilometres” to the right. We do both: the full breadth of the afternoon lies before us. The journey to Inch Pier is infinitely longer than suggested by the signpost (Irish miles?) even if it does end rather abruptly. Clinging to the hill, the road ascends and narrows to one car width. Then almost drops off a precipice. The last leg of the journey is a slippery slope slithering straight into the mini harbour. Best travelled by foot. Gingerly. The things we do for a few decent snaps.
A distractingly beautiful house stands close to the road somewhere between the causeway and the pier. Inch House is surprisingly low profile. It gets a passing mention here and there in literature about Buncrana Castle. The houses, or at least their final versions, are of a similar age and ilk: early 18th century austere neoclassicism. Inch House is seven bays wide, the central three bays set in the slimmest of breakfronts. A “missing” window either side of the pedimented doorcase adds to its spare charm.
The Ordnance Survey Memoirs of Ireland, Parishes of Donegal I, 1833 to 1835, record: “The Isle of Inch lies directly north of the Isle of Burt and the north of Inch lies beyond Fahan Channel nearly west of Fahan Churchtown. It is about eight and a half miles in circumference. About two and a half from the southeast extreme of Carrickanee, north westward to the point of Binnault or Bheinaalt at the Hawk’s Nest; and but little more than two miles from the ruins of Inch Castle at south to Carrignahaa Point in middle Grange at north.”
The Memoirs list the townlands of the island: “In Grange, which norths the island, are comprised the townlands of Greddy, Grange, Strachack and Fergans. Moress has no subdemoninations, lies northeast. Carrickanee comprises near or north Carrickanee and far or south Carrickanee at east. Byletts has no sub denominations, at south east. Ballymakernaghan, Upper and Lower, in the interior of the island. Castle Quarter, no sub denominations, lies at south. Bohullian comprises Bohillian, Glaak and the Milltown of Inch. Ballynakillue is the westmost quarterland and comprises Bhinaalt, Drum, Mullnadee, Cloghglass and Boarran.”
Inch Island is drenched in history. English ships sailed to Lough Swilly and landed on the island during the Siege of Derry. The event wasn’t just part of Irish history. This small city and its environs on the edge of Europe was for 105 days (straddling 1688 to 1689) the hinge on which the history of the continent swung. It had ramifications not only for the Second British Civil War but also the broader struggle for the domination of Europe. The defeat of the Jacobite forces helped shape the continent for centuries to follow. And Inch played its part. Not that you’d ever guess today. The freshening lace of lapping water is the only sound of the sound. And then there is the sunlight, as efficacious as a prayer.