You won’t find it listed in most Irish travel books and I have yet to see a travel website that mentions it. But in my book, Inishmurray Island is the greatest place in Ireland, perhaps on Earth. Because I always strive to be a traveler rather than a tourist on my rambles, most of my travel plans through Ireland were gleaned from the Irish history books on my shelves and stories from friends. Since I am particularly drawn to monastic sites, the small island of Inishmurray made my list. So on a chilly Sunday morning during our two-week Irish stay, my husband and I drove down to the bay and met the boat that was to take us out into Donegal Bay, joining four others to walk the island of St. Molaise’s monks. As the waves rocked and the spray hit my face, I felt only a rush of anticipation, as if my soul already knew it was going somewhere it would remember forever.
The story of Inishmurray, like all good Irish stories, is a beautiful one, tinged with the sacred and with lament. It is a story of men of great faith, of a hard-working and tight-knit community, of painful farewells, and of the sea. The island still holds the ancient monastery- its church open to the heavens and the weather, a beehive hut still snug and dry. It also contains more weathered remains- the cottages and cemetery of the community who lived and worked, danced and cried, were born and died there until the last survivors left in 1948.
Within minutes of climbing the rocks and walking the fields of the island, I felt in my bones that this was a land that still breathed its memories, protected its sacredness, and stood apart from time. In that way, it seemed to me the perfect embodiment of Ireland itself, a land of myth and memory, change and stillness.
Even now, years later and thousands of miles away, I often close my eyes and picture myself there, especially when I am hurried or overwhelmed. My husband felt the pull of the island as well, and even now we speak of it as if it is our own special secret. It comforts me to think of that secluded, secret place surrounded by Atlantic waters; to know that even though I am not there to see it, the sea still crashes against the rocks, the seagulls still circle overhead, and the sea pinks still bloom in the spring. It gives me peace and hope to imagine that, whether in 5 years or in 50, when we return to Inishmurray, I will still find the piece of myself I left behind there and recognize the woman I was in a place my soul felt at home.
~ Jill Fuller, www.pilgrimsoul22.blogspot.com