The ever-increasing pressures in our day-to-day lives mean more of us are seeking out remote, isolated places to relax and recharge and allow our children rich, rugged experiences that don’t involve technology. Ireland has plenty of these rural spots and there are few places as remote as the islands off the west coast of Donegal, where freedom is paramount.

I’ve just spent a week on a little island off the coast of Gweedore, in north-west Donegal, which is enjoying a renaissance due to its beauty and our need to get away from it all.

Gola Island (Oileán Gabhla) has been uninhabited since the late 1960s when the closure of the national school in 1966 signaled the beginning of the end for the island.

At its peak, in 1911, it was home to around 170 people who earned a decent living from fishing and farming. But by 1971, as the islanders became attracted to the economic opportunities and ease of life offered by the mainland less than two miles away, Gola had become completely deserted of permanent residents.

I’m proud to say that Gola is a place I’ve known and loved since before I could walk. My granddad kept sheep on the island so he, my mum, dad and usually a cousin or two, would make regular trips in on the boat from Bunbeg during the 1980s for jobs such as shearing and dipping as well as day trips for a picnic on a warm summer day. Many friends of ours got to know the island down through the years; the fantastic rocks that are as dramatic to look at as to climb, the huge table-like rock just up from the pier that we would all gather round for a bite to eat. The saying still goes that the island’s fresh air makes you work up a bigger appetite than anywhere else.

Over the past 15 years, since the island was connected to mains electricity and running water, it has gained popularity with middle-class city dwellers looking for something different. For so many of the people I meet, they visit for the peace and quiet, the proximity to nature and ever-changing landscape, and for those with families, the over-arching reason for choosing to spend time on Gola is the abundance of freedom it offers. School age children can walk to the one shop on the island, Teach Beag, in small packs as an adult watches from the door of their house, listening to their excited chatter as it echoes through the clean air.

They can roam through open fields as they make their way to the many beaches without the hassle of loading up a car or the risks of crossing busy, congested roads.

The irony in all of this is that many of the reasons for the island becoming largely deserted are now the very reasons bringing people back in their droves. These days, the island even offers a summer camp for young children, giving them the experience of pier jumping, sea foraging and kayaking for a fraction of the price of less inspiring summer camps available in big towns and cities. I may be biased but given the choice between spending a week meeting new friends and snorkeling in the Atlantic ocean or playing games in a cramped community centre, I know which option I’d go for.

During our recent week there, my daughter even had the experience of making new friends with a family staying just a stones throw away from us. Every morning, as we heard a knock at the door and I watched as Aéla skipped off down the lane, hand-in-hand with her new playmate, I imagined and felt a sense of nostalgia for all those children who grew up on Gola and forged friendships with neighbours, only to be forced to leave it all behind for the promise of an easier, more prosperous life elsewhere. It’s safe to say that few of those families who stripped their houses and loaded their possessions onto their boats for the last time all those decades ago would have envisaged the island ever having such a resurgence and being home to new beginnings once again. It’s both poignant and positive and personally, it’s lovely to be a part of it.