In this forth article on the Donegal great outdoors, hidden gem series Ian Miller visited Umphin, a little known and rarely visited uninhabited island living far off the Gweedore coastline in Western Donegal.
Umphin Island Film
Living a shade over 3 kilometres out into the Atlantic Ocean from mainland Donegal and 1.5 kilometres from the seaward side of Inismeaine, Umphin Island sits in a very exposed nautical location just to the north of the much larger and better known, Gola Island.
Umphin Island is approx. 250 square meters in size and 42 meters high above sea level at its highest point, running though the eastern flank of the island is a deep tidal channel.
This channel separates Umphin mainland from the smaller outlaying Tornacolpagh Island.
This tidal channel provides the only sheltered landing spot on the island at the superb raised shingle beach on the Umphin side of the sea way.
Getting to the island is by far best savoured by sea kayak with Port Arthur providing the nearest public slip and easiest launch point.
Sea conditions need to be uber calm with minimal westerly motion as the mass of Umphin Island is not large enough to provide enough lee for a safe sea passage.
Another excellent and perhaps safer way for the less nautically minded to visit the island is by RiB (Rigid inflatable Boat) with Selkie Sailings providing island tours by RiB during the summer months.
Landing on Umphin and simply walking to its highest point is like making a visit to the land time forgot.
With no human inhabitants and with the western side of the island a carpet of over 1000 ground nesting sea birds it is a truly surreal experience to be in the company of such a rare glimpse of remaining wilderness.
A walk around the cliff tops on the seaward side of the island takes you around, over and through many of the islands sea sculptured blowholes, sea caves, cliffs and stacks.
The western side of the island is sheer with a continual band of 20 meter high granite sea cliffs protecting the rest of the island from the huge winter westerly seas.
It is on the tops of these sea cliffs that the hardier Guillemots and Gannets have made their homes.
Perhaps one of the more unusual sea birds calling the island home is the common Fulmar, get too close to its nest and it will spit a huge amount of semi-digested fish at you as its form of defence.
With this in mind it is probably not the best time to visit the Island during the nesting season.