Friday 15 December 2017

Islands in the Irish stream – an exciting journey along our stunning coastline

Nature Oileáin: The Irish Islands Guide David Walsh Pesda Press, pbk, €300, 292pages

Inishturk Island - which has been left without a nurse since September
Inishturk Island - which has been left without a nurse since September
David Walsh's Oileain

Frank Coughlan

On an exhilarating kayaking trip up the west coast, between Inisbofin and Inisturk, David Walsh and his travelling companion Fred Cooney found, to their disappointment, that they couldn't set down at Davillaun Island. It didn't spoil their day, but it did set David to thinking.

That was 1993, and 11 years later he produced Oileáin, his guide to over 300 islands and islets scattered far and wide along our little island's stunning coastline.

An invaluable aid to all types of seagoers and seafarers, it was a remarkable achievement for David, a Dublin solicitor in his other life, and all those who helped compile it.

Now Oileáin has been republished and this time it could, if inclined to boast, stamp the word 'comprehensive' on its cover too, as it name-checks an astonishing 570 islands, big and small, inhabited and uninhabited, appealing and dreary, and everything in between.

This is a reef-by-reef, rock-by-rock exploration of our coastline, concentrating on how and where to land with information on camping, drinking water, tides, history, climbing, wildlife and, as David adds in the introduction, "whales, dolphins, pirates, Armadas, legends and anything else".

Oileáin isn't just for kayakers, it is for yachties, divers, casual boaters and even landlubbers who find themselves away from the toil of terra firma for an afternoon.

He makes the point, as a former hillwalker, that there are few untrammeled routes in our forests, hill and mountains remaining, but that our islands are still largely neglected and undiscovered.

Writes David: "Oileáin is not about kayaking or seafaring. Oileáin is about places. These places are solid land but happen to be out beyond the surfline and unknown to even the vast majority of seagoers.''

The last frontier for the suburban explorer.

Oileáin is also a beautifully produced volume, with grid references for every landing point, spectacular photography to whet the appetite, historical briefings for context and myriad other side-orders of invaluable information.

It is also neat enough to pack discreetly in the mariner's backpack.

If this convinces you to wet your feet even once to explore our coastline, it will be worth the purchase.

And if, while paddling gently into some rocky curiosity, you see a man greatly resembling the Duke of Wales, and his Duchess, drifting by, you might not be seeing things.

On his state visit to Britain, President Higgins presented Oileáin to Prince Charles as one of his well chosen gifts. It's certainly a book fit for a king-in-waiting.

Available with free P&P on or by calling 091 709 350

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