Tory Island Walks – The Legend of Balor of the Evil Eye

“Walking is a man’s best medicine.”


Leabhar Gabhala Eireann

Leabhar Gabhala Eireann ( The Book of the Taking of Ireland) suggests that Tory was first occupied by settlers from Turkey called Nemedians. A group of pirates from Carthage called The Fomorians banished the Nemedians.

Conan who was a Fomorian king, built a tower from whence Tory is believed to have gotten its name Tor Ri – tower of the king.

Conan was ousted by the Nemedians, but the island was later regained by the Fomorians, led by Balor of the Evil Eye Balor na Suile Nimhe.

The Fomorians waged battles along the mainland, defeating their opponents at the Battle of Moy Tura Magh Tuireadh in Co. Sligo.

Irish History

Irish history was largely passed down by word of mouth and these stories are now viewed as myths rather than facts, but perhaps they are based on real events.

Buoyed by a love of the mystical, I just had to visit the east of Tory Island including the highest point on the north east known as Balor’s Fort Dun Bhaloir.

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The view towards the mainland

The weather Gods were incredibly generous, as I walked along the sheltered south side of Tory, before travelling through East Town An Baile Thoir.


East Town An Baile Thoir

I travelled onward with not another walker in sight!


Looking back on deserted roads towards East Town An Baile Thoir


The approach to Balor’s Fort Dun Bhaloir

The north east corner of Tory is quite stunning, which compelled me to take rather a lot of photographs!


The harbour at Port an Duin

Once past the harbour at Port an Duin, I crossed an isthmus onto Dun Bhaloir. The path grew somewhat narrower and steeper; Dun Bhaloir is surrounded by cliffs on three sides – the perfect position for a fort.


Climbing higher on Dun Bhaloir


Looking back towards East Town An Baile Thoir from Dun Bhaloir


My only walking companions


Balor’s Prison Priosun Bhaloir

Balor’s Prison Priosun Bhaloir is a rocky cleft, where Balor is reputed to have thrown his prisoners…


Looking westwards across the island from Dun Bhaloir

I continued my climb, enjoying views along the length of the island. You can just glimpse the lighthouse in the far distance.


Balor’s Soldiers Saighdiuiri Bhaloir – part of The Big Key An Eochair Mor

On the east of Dun Bhaloir is a long rocky peninsula called The Big Key An Eochair Mor, which ends in The Big Rock Tor Mor.

Balor and Lugh

A Druid prophecy foretold that Balor would be killed by his grandson. Eithne, Balor’s only child was thus imprisoned in a stone tower on Tor Mor. Twelve women kept Eithne company, and were warned that they should never speak of a man and Eithne should never see a man.

Balor’s demise unfolds with the stealing of a cow belonging to a swordsman called Gaibhidin from the mainland tribe, the Tuatha De Danaan.

Cian, a Tuatha De Danaan chieftain was sent to find and return the cow to the mainland.

Miraculously, with the aid of a Druid woman called Birog, Cian entered the tower and fell in love with Eithne, who delivered triplets some time after Cian’s visit.

Balor fell into a rage, beheaded Cian and threw the poor triplets into the sea. However, one of the triplets was rescued by Birog and christened Lugh.

Lugh eventually made his home in a fort at Dunlewey Dun Luiche at the bottom of Errigal Mountain.

Some years later, Balor paid a visit to Gaibhidin’s forge, and bragged of killing Cian and the triplets. Unaware that Lugh had survived, Balor succumbed to the prophecy, when his grandson plunged a fiery rod from the furnace into his head and out through his eye!

Another version of the story has Lugh leading the Tuatha De Danaan at the second battle of Moy Tura, and killing Balor with a slingshot that sends Balor’s eye shooting out of the back of his head!

In any event, The Poisoned Glen Gleann Nimhe near Dunlewey is named after the poison that flowed from Balor’s Evil Eye.

Unfortunately, I succumbed to vertigo when positioning myself for the best photo opportunity of An Eochair Mor.  I could only catch a little of its length; Tor Mor is therefore missing from my photograph.

The rocky points on The Big Key An Eochair Mor are known as Balor’s Soldiers Saighdiuiri Bhaloir.


A welcome bench with Dun Bhaloir in the background

Rest and Reflection

Returning over the isthmus, I felt in need of a rest, and returned to Planet Earth on a bench facing East Town An Baile Thoir. 

I reflected on my short visit to Tory Island. I had walked a good distance over the two days, enjoyed stunning scenery and great weather, stayed in incredible bed and breakfast accommodation, met so many kind people including a king…

I know I shall return.

If you wish to read more about Lugh, Balor and the legends of Tory Island, you might enjoy “Lugh na Bua – Lugh the Deliverer” by Sean O’Gaoithin and Cathal O’Searcaigh with beautiful illustrations by Sean Fitzgerald.

If you enjoyed this post you might also like:

The Wild Atlantic Way-Tory Island

Tory Island Walks

Derek Hill and Tory Island’s Artists

Tory Island and Saint Colm Cille





  1. I adore myths and legends and the Irish have some crackers. This is a gem and your pictures of this magical place are so beguiling. I must mention the sheep .. …. just because I love sheep 🐑

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Brigid, you lulled me into a false sense of security…I was admiring the landscape, thinking I don’t blame you for indulging in a spot of photography, smiling at your sheep companions and then…wow! The final of the legends- somehow I could picture Balor and Lugh and the drama, tragedy and violence. Great post as always! 😀❤️

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you Bernadette. The Irish have so many legends I have yet to explore. The last time I visited Tory there were no benches. They were such a welcome addition for sitting and admiring the view. Benches seem to be springing up everywhere. Donegal is attracting more and more walkers with the tourist initiative The Wild Atlantic Way. 🌼

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Dear Brigid this is a wonderful article.
    There is so much of the full mythology I didn’t know such as Lugh being Balor’s grandson. It was brilliant to finally see locations in the stories.
    This side of Tory Island is how I imagined it to look and without your other earlier posts showing the whole place in all its glory I would never have had this rounded view of such a magical and significant mythological place.
    You have done a wonderful and beautifully illustrated job.And I am sure I am not the only one who is indebted to you for this thrilling visit to a legendary, almost otherworldly island.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve really enjoyed reading your Tory series of posts – a wonderful mix of people when you wanted people and peace when you wanted to enjoy the scenery and atmosphere. I think all myths and legends are based on facts. Someone tells a story; others pass it on, usually with embellishments, and way down the line someone who built a brick wall becomes someone who built a great castle. Two people become a great army and so on. But it makes life so much more interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Such a windswept – some might say “desolate” landscape. However, the more photos you shared, the more compelling they became, incorporating sea, sky, rocks, and architecture into the landscape – and knowing the underlying mythology of the land pushed it over the top. Thank you for sharing this series.
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD/EFD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to educate a world!”

    Liked by 1 person

  6. so culture rich and the red bench was a cool shot –
    also – read some of the comments and “I have a sheep brooch and sheep earrings”
    well my mother’s friend Susan used to collect sheep – stuffed animals and a few kitchen things and i have to say – they have a joyful impact – sweetness I say!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I felt like I was revisiting a place I have never been before. My sister travels to Ireland every other year and she has sent me copies of the photos she takes there. Yours are almost like copies of hers, hitting all of the interesting sites — including the sheep! I’m in the process at the moment of making her a memory quilt with some of her Ireland photos that I printed out on cloth worked into the quilt. Lovely post! 😇💖

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Yikes, Balor sounds like an arse! And a very angry one, beheading Cian and throwing the triplets into the ocean. Interesting that Lugh survived and that the story veers off from there with different outcomes. You’ve got great photos, even of An Eochair Mor despite missing Tor More because of vertigo (I’d probably have felt the same at that point!) Fascinating historical insights in your post and I love the photos!
    Caz xx

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Brigid, what stunning photos and you were walking the entire length of it as well. So beautiful is the Irish coast and so romantic. I can imagine what it was like so long ago. Thank you for sharing. Just beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

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