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‘Treasure Island’ off the coast of northwest Donegal


Treasure chests almost 500 years old filled with priceless gold coins may lie hidden under the sea off the coast of Donegal – and participants at our first-ever travel writing retreat in mid-March will learn chilling tales about this intriguing unsolved mystery.


Author James Barr from Scotland has agreed to be a special guest speaker at the retreat to tell the tragic story of how thousands of Spanish sailors drowned as the galleons they were manning sank to the bottom of the ocean in what is considered to be one of the biggest maritime disasters in history.

On their way to invade England in May 1588, a fleet of 130 ships of the Spanish Armada, under the command of the Duke of Medina Sidonia were hit by ferocious westerly gales, with many crashing into Ireland’s rocky Atlantic coastline.


This extraordinary event hundreds of years ago may have inspired novelist and travel writer, Robert Louis Stevenson, to write his classic adventure tale ‘Treasure Island.’ It is believed that while visiting relatives in west Donegal from his Edinburgh home, the young writer, who also penned ‘Kidnapped’ and the Gothic novella, ‘Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde,’ learned about the catastrophe and the chests full of gold doubloons, as well as an island called ‘Gola Island,’ which he may have mistook for ‘Gold Island’ behind which Spanish ships sank.


Based on years of research into the subject, James will entertain participants with illuminating stories from the High Seas and a strange place known as Skull Island, which lies very close to where the travel retreat is actually taking place.

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