A British couple have miraculously managed to dodge the entire coronavirus pandemic – by becoming the only inhabitants of a tiny island with no electricity, gas or running water.
Adventurous Luke and Sarah Flanagan moved to far-flung Owey Island off the west coast of County Donegal in Ireland on March 14, just two days before the UK went into lockdown.
The pair had no idea about the impending pandemic and say the purpose of their stay on the 300 acre rocky chunk of land was simply to take 12 months out to enjoy a slower pace of life.
While taking scenic walks, going fishing and tending to homegrown crops, Luke, 34, and Sarah, 36, have easily managed to remain isolated and keep themselves clear of Covid-19.
Luke, a joiner by trade, said: “It’s been really weird and strange hearing about everything that’s happening while being isolated on this little island.
“As you can imagine, we haven’t had to worry about social distancing.”
He added: “The experience as a whole has been incredible.
“The pace of life is so slow but it’s lovely, we spend our days out walking with the dogs, growing our own food and learning new skills.
“It’s not for everyone but we have loved it.”
Owey Island is a small patch of land off the coast of Donegal containing a handful of properties with no schools or shops and only two narrow roads going through it.
Luke and Sarah are living in a small cottage using coal fires to keep warm, a tank to collect rainwater, gas bottles to cook and solar panels to charge their electrical items.
They use the collected water as well as water from a well to wash themselves and clean their clothes while growing their own food for sustenance, raising hens for eggs and even braving the seas for fish.
Luke said he started as a “rubbish” fisherman and that he “isn’t much better now” but added he has been able to learn how to catch pollock, the most common type of fish in the area.
Due to their living conditions he also learned the old fashioned preparation technique of salting his catch so that it can be stored and remain edible for months on end.
The couple’s only way off the island is via dinghy around three quarters of a mile to another island, which is connected to the mainland by a bridge.
While there are some houses on Owey they are only inhabited in the summer months and, according to local history books, the last time anyone spent the winter there was 1974.
Luke and Sarah are originally from Leeds, West Yorks., but were enjoying life living in the Scottish Highlands when the chance to move to Ireland presented itself.
They noticed an advert online offering the opportunity to become the tenants of a small cottage there and decided the chance was too good to pass up so decided to take a year off from work.
According to Luke, the homeowner wanted to prove it’s possible to spend an entire winter season on Owey in a bid to encourage others to do the same in the future.
Luke said other residents started arriving on the island as summer 2020 approached and that many helped them by teaching them about how to survive the conditions.
He added: “Over the summer the community feeling here is great.
“But as soon as autumn started coming in everyone left and we were left on our own, luckily we were well prepared to cope thanks to the help of other people.”
Luke said him and wife Sarah pass the time in Owey by tending to the property, reading and playing with their two rescue dogs, both staffies, which they took with them.
Luckily, thanks to nearby shipping lanes, the couple are able to get good signal on their phones, which means they can speak to their families back in Leeds and keep up to date with the news.
Sarah, a social worker, said: “My overall thoughts about our time on the island are how incredibly lucky we are to be here.
“We have both learned so much and had experiences I would never have even imagined.
“From learning about the sea, fishing and boats, to raising our own animals, things I’ve never had anything to do with before.
“It’s been so cool to learn how much material stuff you actually don’t need, and as I suppose people would have done in years gone by, making use of what you have rather than buying what you want.”