Heritage and History on Every Inch of Scattery Island

Killorglin native, Quin, Co. Clare resident, Michael Houlihan was our OPW guide on Scattery Island on Wednesday. ©Photograph: John Reidy

There’s a rapidly growing interest in the Scattery Island tour in West Clare and, having visited the ‘sacred ground’ on Wednesday, I can see why.

At the prompting of my travel advisor, Eamon Fleming we headed off from our own Island here before 9am for the ferry in Tarbert.

Criss-Crossed the Shannon

We criss-crossed the Shannon four times in the course of the most enjoyable day.

After an efficient and pleasant introduction by Martina Kenyon in the booking office on the pier at Kilrush, ‘pilgrims’ are ushered through the office and to the modern marina and onto the ferry.

This is no ordinary ferry. On catching the first glimpse of the catamaran we, as Kerry people, got our second nice land when we discovered that it was the just newly named An Breandán that would ferry us over on the twenty minute trip and in the safe hands of pilot, Darren McGibney and assistant, Evan Cline. The boat is named after Brendan Griffin who was born on the island.

Close to Heaven

If you’re looking to do penance, punishment or purgatory, Scattery Island is no place for you. It’s as peaceful and as tranquil as you’ll find – it’s as close as you’ll get to heaven on earth. There will be adequate opportunity and time to pray there – if that’s your wish.

And it has been uninhabited since only the late 1970s.

Sit down on any of the stone ditches there and listen to the silence. I’d swear I heard a butterfly landing on the flower of a thistle beside me at one point in our day there.

Guide from Killorglin

There was another very pleasant surprise ahead of us when we eventually discovered that our guide for the first half of the tour of the island is a Kerry man in exile in Quin, Co. Clare.

Michael Houlihan is a native of Killorglin and he educated his dozen or so strong touring party of the monastic and civilian history of the island with the insight of a native and with humour where it was appropriate and bi-bilingually – a mandatory requirement for OPW guides.

New Builds are Centuries Old

You’re on an island dedicated to St. Senan and where Teampall na Marabh – ‘The Church of the Dead’ is the most modern church building with a probable date from the late 14th or early 15th centuries.

There’s heritage and history in every square inch of the EU ‘Sustainable Tourism’ award winning island and the Vikings and the British both left considerable footprints there.

Patience of a Saint

There’s a lot to impart and a lot to take in and Michael fielded questions with the patience of a saint throughout the tour.

More Information….

And, with insider information, he set us off on our travels around the island with the only proviso that we should be back on the pier for the 4:30pm sailing if we wanted to go back to the mainland that evening.

If you intend to go out there this year you’d want to be doing something about it now as the season closes at the end of September.

Find out more for yourself with a click on the link here: http://scatteryislandtours.com

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