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Displaying items by tag: Skellig Michael

A recent Atlantic storm has washed away a large crane worth thousands of euros which had been hired for construction work on Skellig Michael.

As The Sunday Independent reports, the temporary crane, shipped out several months ago to the UNESCO world heritage site, has vanished from the main pier on Skellig Michael.

Local fishermen in south Kerry were the first to spot the disappearance after several days of gales.

Although the crane was bolted onto the pier and into rock, it is believed the machinery was engulfed by waves, broken up and swept away.

The crane, owned by a Kerry-based contractor, was being used to lift vehicles, steel and other materials onto the rock, below the internationally known sixth-century monastic site.

The Office of Public Works (OPW) had commissioned the construction of several heavy-duty shelters to protect visitors at the western end of the island, after a rockfall in early June of this year led to a temporary closure of the national monument.

The UNESCO world heritage site is an internationally important habitat for seabirds.

It is home to some of the world’s largest breeding populations of Manx shearwater and storm petrel. Puffins, fulmars, kittiwakes and guillemots also nest on high cliffs and ledges.

Birdwatch Ireland wrote to the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) in mid-June, raising its concerns about the potential impacts of the rock “sweeping” on sensitive nesting sites and asking for details of “safeguards” which had been put in place to protect breeding birds.

The OPW has confirmed that the crane is “no longer in position”, which is “most likely due to the impact of the sea swell on the structure”.

Read more in The Sunday Independent here

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Skellig Michael has reopened to visitors after the recent rockfall forced a temporary suspension of visitors to the UNESCO world heritage site off the Kerry coast.

This year’s season on the island 12 km off the Kerry coast began on May 15th, but the island was closed on June 13th after the rockfall that day. No one was injured in the incident.

The OPW said it sent specialist teams to assess the site and remove debris, and ensure safety of both visitors and guiding staff.

The closure hit local ferry operators in Kerry who are still hoping for a good season after the Covid-19 closure in 2020, and shortened visitor season last year.

After the rockfall, which the OPW described as "minor", Birdwatch Ireland expressed concern about the potential impacts of safety measures being taken on sensitive bird sites on the island.

The independent bird conservation organisation said last month it had not been consulted about “sweeping operations” on Skellig Michael, designed to remove any loose rock material, in advance of the OPW measures.

The sixth-century monastic site is an internationally important habitat for seabirds and is home to some of the largest breeding populations of Manx shearwater and storm petrel in the world. Its high cliffs and ledges also support nesting sites for puffins, fulmars, kittiwakes and guillemots.

It was used as a set for two Star Wars films, which also caused some concern about the impact on such a sensitive habitat.

Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan had said that OPW staff, “supported by experts and colleagues in the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) in the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage” would take “all necessary steps to enable a safe return of visitors within the shortest possible turnaround time”.

He said they would be “strictly adhering to any environmental and other legal obligations imposed at this UNESCO World Heritage Site that is, at the same time, a sanctuary for breeding sea birds”.

The NPWS said it “has been liaising with the National Monuments Service and the OPW in relation to the recent rockfall on Skelligs, and follow up work, including ‘sweeping’ of the area concerned and possible further health and safety responses”.

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Kerry’s Skellig Michael may re-open to visitors on July 2nd, after a minor rockfall forced a temporary closure of the UNESCO world heritage site.

The Office of Public Works (OPW) told RTÉ News that specialist teams assessed the site and have removed debris, and cautioned that re-opening in a week’s time is subject to weather conditions.

 "Our staff, supported by experts and colleagues in the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) in the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, are currently on site and are taking all necessary steps to enable a safe return of visitors within the shortest possible turnaround time while strictly adhering to any environmental and other legal obligations imposed at this UNESCO World Heritage Site that is, at the same time, a sanctuary for breeding sea birds,”Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan said.

This year’s season on the island 12 km off the Kerry coast began on May 15th, but the island was closed on June 13th after the rockfall that day. No one was injured in the incident, the OPW said.

However, earlier this week Birdwatch Ireland expressed concern about the potential impacts of safety measures being taken on Skellig Michael, following the recent rockfall.

The independent bird conservation organisation said it had not been consulted to date about “sweeping operations” on Skellig Michael, designed to remove any loose rock material.

Birdwatch Ireland said it was concerned about the negative impact of such “sweeping” on sensitive nesting birds on the island.

The sixth-century monastic site is an internationally important habitat for seabirds and is home to some of the largest breeding populations of Manx shearwater and storm petrel in the world. Its high cliffs and ledges also support nesting sites for puffins, fulmars, kittiwakes and guillemots.

It was used as a set for Star Wars, which also caused some concern about the impact on such a sensitive habitat.

Last February The Irish Examiner reported that Grellan Rourke the former site manager at Skellig Michael who worked on the island for more than 40 years, had described filming scenes for two Star Wars episodes there as “inappropriate”.

Rourke claimed many visitors to the world heritage site were now more interested in its Hollywood depiction rather than its ancient history.

Skellig Michael was used for filming scenes for both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi.

The NPWS said it “has been liaising with the National Monuments Service and the OPW in relation to the recent rockfall on Skelligs, and follow up work, including ‘sweeping’ of the area concerned and possible further Health and Safety responses”.

“This work, including assessments and monitoring in relation to the bird populations, is ongoing,” the NPWS parent department – Housing – said.

Read more on RTÉ News here

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Birdwatch Ireland has expressed concern about the potential impacts of safety measures being taken on Skellig Michael, following last week’s rockfall which led to the temporary closure of the UNESCO world heritage site.

The independent bird conservation organisation said it had not been consulted to date about “sweeping operations” on Skellig Michael, designed to remove any loose rock material.

Birdwatch Ireland says it is concerned about the negative impact of such “sweeping” on sensitive nesting birds on the island, lying 12 km west of the Kerry coast.

The sixth-century monastic site is an internationally important habitat for seabirds and is home to some of the largest breeding populations of Manx shearwater and storm petrel in the world. Its high cliffs and ledges also support nesting sites for puffins, fulmars, kittiwakes and guillemots.

The Office of Public Works (OPW) said on June 13th that it was closing the island temporarily to visitors, due to a “ minor rockfall event” at around 1 pm that day. No casualties occurred, it confirmed.

It said an OPW works crew, accompanied by specialist contractors, would visit the island this week to carry out this work “with a view to re-opening the island to visitors as soon as possible”.

However, BirdWatch Ireland spokesman Niall Hatch said it had not been consulted about the “sweeping operations” planned by the OPW to make the island safe for visitors.

“Once we learned of what was being proposed, my colleague Oonagh Duggan, who is our head of policy and advocacy, wrote to the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) on June 15th to raise our concerns about the potential impacts of the sweeping on the sensitive nesting birds on the island,” Mr Hatch said.

He said Ms Duggan specifically requested “details of the safeguards that are being put in place to protect breeding birds at and around the site of the rockfall and to ensure that legal protections for the nesting birds are guaranteed”.

“She also stressed that, despite the undoubted significant pressure for OPW to open the island back up for visitors, it is vitally important that the legal protections for the breeding birds under the Wildlife Acts and the EU Birds Directive are adhered to,”Mr Hatch said.

He said the organisation was informed that evening that NPWS was “seeking further information from OPW with regard to their proposed plans”, and it hoped to revert with more detail in the near future.

“We have not received any further communications from either NPWS or OPW about this matter since then,” Mr Hatch said.

A local artist and community worker in Kerry, who did not wish to be named, also appealed for care.

"I really understand the importance of Skellig Michael for the local economy, but can I please remind everyone involved about the extraordinary beauty and vulnerability of the island at this time of year, with thousands of North Atlantic seabirds nesting there - it is important that all interventions are done without any harm to them,” she said.

“As the island is a wild location it should always be understood and presented as such. It is usually part of the essence of such a location that safety for human visitors can't be fully guaranteed, and that has to be accepted and acceptable to all concerned,” she said.

“In the meantime, there is a need for very extensive oversight and scrutiny for all works planned at such a location,” the artist added.

The Department of Housing said its NPWS staff were working closely with OPW staff and contractors in “monitoring the situation”, and said, “they have been consulted at all stages”.

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Kerry’s Skellig Michael has been closed to visitors due to a rockfall, the Office of Public Works (OPW) has confirmed.

No one was injured, but the UNESCO world heritage site will remain closed “until further notice”, the OPW says.

A full examination of the site and clearance of the debris is due to take place this week.

It is the third significant rockfall in recent years. In 2015, a large boulder broke free from a slope and landed in the middle of Lighthouse road, used by visitors, while rocks and debris also fell from the upper slopes in 2017.

The visitor season for the 6th-century monastic site 12 km off the Kerry coast had opened on May 15th this year and is due to run until the end of September.

Skellig Michael was closed throughout the 2020 season due to the Covid-19 pandemic and had a later visitor opening last year.

It is expected that a detailed examination will assess if there is any imminent danger of further landslides or rockfalls which could threaten the safety of visitors and staff on the island.

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Living on a small island in a cabin with no electricity or running water for five months of the year may not be for everyone, but Skellig Michael's Catherine Merrigan wouldn’t miss a season since she began working as a guide there in the year 2000.

On her first night, she decided she had made a big mistake and would leave next morning. However, a storm blew up, she couldn’t leave for five days and fell in love with the rock and its birdlife.

She learned that there are up to 10,000 breeding pairs of puffins, and that puffins often like to take a break from their partners...which means the relationship thrives.

A Skellig Michael PuffinA Skellig Michael Puffin

“Watching their antics, their playfulness...I never get tired,” she says. She is enthralled by the kittiwakes, guillemots, razorbills, gannets, rock pipits and even a golden eagle spent time there.

Over the two decades, she began taking notes and photographs, and the result is a beautifully illustrated paperback which she spoke to Wavelengths about.

Living Among the Puffins on Skellig Michael by Catherine Merrigan, published by Rebel Press, is available in the Dingle Bookshop, Co Kerry and on Amazon at £12.99 sterling or 15 euro.Living Among the Puffins on Skellig Michael by Catherine Merrigan, published by Rebel Press, is available in the Dingle Bookshop, Co Kerry and on Amazon at £12.99 sterling or 15 euro.

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Skellig Michael's re-opening to visitors has been deferred to July 1st due to weather and sea conditions, the Office of Public Works (OPW) has said.

The OPW had set a target date of June 21st for the 2021 season, but says that this has been put back "owing to recent poor weather and sea conditions off the south west coast.

"This target date was dependent on favourable weather conditions, allowing preparatory safety works to progress in a timely manner prior to opening," the OPW said today.

"Unfortunately, due to periods of poor weather conditions hampering the progress of work on-site, the re-opening of Skellig Michael has now been postponed,"it said.

Subject to weather, the opening will take place on July 1st.

OPW guides sought urgent talks several weeks ago about the re-opening date, as the announcement was made when consultations were still underway on health and safety issues related to Covid-19.

The pandemic and a serious rockfall last summer meant that the UNESCO world heritage site was closed to visitors throughout 2020.

Donal McCrohan, chairman of the Skellig Boatmen’s Association, said that the 15 licensed operators serving Skellig Michael have been informed they can take their maximum of 12 passengers.

McCrohan, who runs Skellig Coast Adventures, said that bookings were brisk but there was still good availability.

The OPW had advised visitors watch a safety video to prepare for a trip to Skellig Michael, which is on www.heritageireland.ie

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Guides on Skellig Michael are concerned about lack of consultation over the decision to re-open to visitors from June 21st.

As The Times Ireland edition reports, guides employed by the Office of Public Works (OPW) are concerned about the manner in which the re-opening was announced.

They also fear the OPW has not taken adequate steps to limit visitor numbers in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Unesco world heritage site was closed to all visitors last year due to the health and safety considerations linked to Covid-19, and the fact that a serious rockfall occurred last July near the guide accommodation – in which no one was injured.

Early last week, Minister of State with responsibility for the OPW Patrick O’Donovan confirmed a target date of June 21st for this season’s re-opening.

He said it would be subject to weather conditions, and completion of preparatory health and safety works by OPW crews.

However, guides understood that health and safety consultations with management were still taking place when he made his announcement.

"It’s not at all safe,” a source close to the guides confirmed.

“There was no guide representative involved or consulted before they made the decision to open, and critical agreements were made with boatmen - although it is the guides who have the job of managing visitor safety and being first responders in the complex circumstances of this season,” the source said.

“The whole industry around the Skellig depends on the role of the guides in the front line of the island, and the lack of consideration for both guides and visitors is unforgivable," the source added.

Donal McCrohan, chairman of the Skellig Boatmen’s Association, said that the 15 licensed operators serving Skellig Michael have been informed they can take their maximum of 12 passengers.

He said the fleet based mainly in Portmagee and several other Kerry harbours has been preparing its own safety protocols in conjunction with an industry professional.

McCrohan, who runs Skellig Coast Adventures, said that ferry trips were outdoors where the ventilation rate would be “exceptional”.

He said that passengers would be required to complete a Covid-19 questionnaire.

McCrohan said that though bookings were brisk, there was still very good availability, and prices for his trips were retained at 2019 levels.

The OPW said it had “set a target date of June 21st to reopen Skellig Michael to visitors, and this is subject to all preparatory works on the site being completed in time”.

“A health and safety plan for reopening is not yet complete and engagement with all concerned parties is currently under way,” it said.

“ OPW has also advised the local boatmen who carry visitors to the island of the target date. While the boatmen are licensed to land on the island, health and safety arrangements on the boats are entirely a matter for the boat operators,” the OPW added.

Read The Times here

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Skellig Michael may re-open to visitors from June 21st, according to Minister of State for the Office of Public Works (OPW) Patrick O’Donovan.

The midsummer opening for the UNESCO world heritage site off Kerry will be subject to weather conditions, and completion of preparatory health and safety works by OPW crews, Donovan said today.

As Afloat reported last month, the 15 licensed ferry operators for Skellig Michael were told that visits would be permitted this season within Covid-19 guidelines.

The sixth-century monastic site was closed to all visitors last year due to the health and safety considerations linked to the pandemic, and a serious rockfall last July near the guide accommodation – in which no one was injured.

The OPW has been reopening heritage and cultural sites this season under the Government’s road map.

It advises that intending visitors should consult HeritageIreland.ie for updates ahead of planning their visit.

“I am very pleased to be able to share this much-anticipated good news with holidaymakers eager to visit Skellig Michael this summer and with the rural communities who rely on tourism to the island,” Donovan said.

“I myself look forward to visiting this unique UNESCO World Heritage Site soon and I hope that weather conditions will allow OPW staff to complete the required preparatory works so the reopening can go ahead on June 21st,”he said.

“Thanks to the progress we have made on the path to recovery, we will have the opportunity to discover and enjoy national treasures such as these over the coming months,”he added.

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Skellig Michael ferry operators are hoping that the UNESCO world heritage site may re-open to visitors from mid-June.

As The Times Ireland edition reports, the sixth-century monastic site off the Kerry coast was closed to all visitors last year due to Covid-19 health and safety considerations.

Donal McCrohan, chairman of the Skellig Boatmen’s Association, told The Times Ireland that the re-opening in June is “provisional”, but the 15 licensed operators are optimistic that visits will be permitted.

Last year’s closure by the Office of Public Works (OPW) was extended for the entire summer season after a serious rockfall last July near the guide accommodation – in which no one was injured.

The OPW has been reopening heritage and cultural sites this season under the Government’s road map, but has not made an announcement to date on Skellig Michael.

However, McCrohan said that the 15 licensed ferry operators running trips to the rock 12km off the Kerry coast were told at a meeting last Friday that mid-June was being examined..

McCrohan said he would be accepting provisional bookings for visits from later this week.

Ferry operator John O’Shea, who runs trips to and around Skellig Michael from Caherdaniel, Co Kerry, said that he and his colleagues had been told they would be given a more definite date by late May.

O’Shea said he is taking bookings from mid-June and will offer a refund for landing trips if the island is closed.

O’Shea is one of several operators who will still run “non-landing” trips around Skellig Michael and Little Skellig this season, which work out at half the cost of landing trips.

It is understood OPW staff have not been given any date as yet for return.

McCrohan said the logistics on visits had not been discussed in detail last week, but he said the boatmen’s association is preparing its own risk assessment for the sea trip and landing.

Last year, ferry operators had proposed a protocol that would involve checking passengers for symptoms, requiring use of face masks and reduced numbers to meet social distancing requirements.

However, the OPW believed the need for cleaning and sanitisation and social distancing on ferries in rough weather – and on the island - would prove too challenging.

The OPW was unable to comment.

Read The Times Ireland here

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Ireland's offshore islands

Around 30 of Ireland's offshore islands are inhabited and hold a wealth of cultural heritage.

A central Government objective is to ensure that sustainable vibrant communities continue to live on the islands.

Irish offshore islands FAQs

Technically, it is Ireland itself, as the third largest island in Europe.

Ireland is surrounded by approximately 80 islands of significant size, of which only about 20 are inhabited.

Achill island is the largest of the Irish isles with a coastline of almost 80 miles and has a population of 2,569.

The smallest inhabited offshore island is Inishfree, off Donegal.

The total voting population in the Republic's inhabited islands is just over 2,600 people, according to the Department of Housing.

Starting with west Cork, and giving voting register numbers as of 2020, here you go - Bere island (177), Cape Clear island (131),Dursey island (6), Hare island (29), Whiddy island (26), Long island, Schull (16), Sherkin island (95). The Galway islands are Inis Mór (675), Inis Meáin (148), Inis Oírr (210), Inishbofin (183). The Donegal islands are Arranmore (513), Gola (30), Inishboffin (63), Inishfree (4), Tory (140). The Mayo islands, apart from Achill which is connected by a bridge, are Clare island (116), Inishbiggle (25) and Inishturk (52).

No, the Gaeltacht islands are the Donegal islands, three of the four Galway islands (Inishbofin, like Clifden, is English-speaking primarily), and Cape Clear or Oileán Chléire in west Cork.

Lack of a pier was one of the main factors in the evacuation of a number of islands, the best known being the Blasket islands off Kerry, which were evacuated in November 1953. There are now three cottages available to rent on the Great Blasket island.

In the early 20th century, scholars visited the Great Blasket to learn Irish and to collect folklore and they encouraged the islanders to record their life stories in their native tongue. The three best known island books are An tOileánach (The Islandman) by Tomás Ó Criomhthain, Peig by Peig Sayers, and Fiche Blian ag Fás (Twenty Years A-Growing) by Muiris Ó Súilleabháin. Former taoiseach Charles J Haughey also kept a residence on his island, Inishvickillaune, which is one of the smaller and less accessible Blasket islands.

Charles J Haughey, as above, or late Beatle musician, John Lennon. Lennon bought Dorinish island in Clew Bay, south Mayo, in 1967 for a reported £1,700 sterling. Vendor was Westport Harbour Board which had used it for marine pilots. Lennon reportedly planned to spend his retirement there, and The Guardian newspaper quoted local estate agent Andrew Crowley as saying he was "besotted with the place by all accounts". He did lodge a planning application for a house, but never built on the 19 acres. He offered it to Sid Rawle, founder of the Digger Action Movement and known as the "King of the Hippies". Rawle and 30 others lived there until 1972 when their tents were burned by an oil lamp. Lennon and Yoko Ono visited it once more before his death in 1980. Ono sold the island for £30,000 in 1984, and it is widely reported that she donated the proceeds of the sale to an Irish orphanage

 

Yes, Rathlin island, off Co Antrim's Causeway Coast, is Ireland's most northerly inhabited island. As a special area of conservation, it is home to tens of thousands of sea birds, including puffins, kittiwakes, razorbills and guillemots. It is known for its Rathlin golden hare. It is almost famous for the fact that Robert the Bruce, King of Scots, retreated after being defeated by the English at Perth and hid in a sea cave where he was so inspired by a spider's tenacity that he returned to defeat his enemy.

No. The Aran islands have a regular ferry and plane service, with ferries from Ros-a-Mhíl, south Connemara all year round and from Doolin, Co Clare in the tourist season. The plane service flies from Indreabhán to all three islands. Inishbofin is connected by ferry from Cleggan, Co Galway, while Clare island and Inishturk are connected from Roonagh pier, outside Louisburgh. The Donegal islands of Arranmore and Tory island also have ferry services, as has Bere island, Cape Clear and Sherkin off Cork. How are the island transport services financed? The Government subsidises transport services to and from the islands. The Irish Coast Guard carries out medical evacuations, as to the RNLI lifeboats. Former Fianna Fáíl minister Éamon Ó Cuív is widely credited with improving transport services to and from offshore islands, earning his department the nickname "Craggy island".

Craggy Island is an bleak, isolated community located of the west coast, inhabited by Irish, a Chinese community and one Maori. Three priests and housekeeper Mrs Doyle live in a parochial house There is a pub, a very small golf course, a McDonald's fast food restaurant and a Chinatown... Actually, that is all fiction. Craggy island is a figment of the imagination of the Father Ted series writers Graham Linehan and Arthur Mathews, for the highly successful Channel 4 television series, and the Georgian style parochial house on the "island" is actually Glenquin House in Co Clare.

Yes, that is of the Plassey, a freighter which was washed up on Inis Oírr in bad weather in 1960.

There are some small privately owned islands,and islands like Inishlyre in Co Mayo with only a small number of residents providing their own transport. Several Connemara islands such as Turbot and Inishturk South have a growing summer population, with some residents extending their stay during Covid-19. Turbot island off Eyrephort is one such example – the island, which was first spotted by Alcock and Brown as they approached Ireland during their epic transatlantic flight in 1919, was evacuated in 1978, four years after three of its fishermen drowned on the way home from watching an All Ireland final in Clifden. However, it is slowly being repopulated

Responsibility for the islands was taking over by the Department of Rural and Community Development . It was previously with the Gaeltacht section in the Department of Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht.

It is a periodic bone of contention, as Ireland does not have the same approach to its islands as Norway, which believes in right of access. However, many improvements were made during Fianna Fáíl Galway West TD Éamon Ó Cuív's time as minister. The Irish Island Federation, Comdháil Oileáin na hÉireann, represents island issues at national and international level.

The 12 offshore islands with registered voters have long argued that having to cast their vote early puts them at a disadvantage – especially as improved transport links mean that ballot boxes can be transported to the mainland in most weather conditions, bar the winter months. Legislation allowing them to vote on the same day as the rest of the State wasn't passed in time for the February 2020 general election.

Yes, but check tide tables ! Omey island off north Connemara is accessible at low tide and also runs a summer race meeting on the strand. In Sligo, 14 pillars mark the way to Coney island – one of several islands bearing this name off the Irish coast.

Cape Clear or Oileán Chléire is the country's most southerly inhabited island, eight miles off the west Cork coast, and within sight of the Fastnet Rock lighthouse, also known as the "teardrop of Ireland".
Skellig Michael off the Kerry coast, which has a monastic site dating from the 6th century. It is accessible by boat – prebooking essential – from Portmagee, Co Kerry. However, due to Covid-19 restrictions, it was not open to visitors in 2020.
All islands have bird life, but puffins and gannets and kittiwakes are synonymous with Skellig Michael and Little Skellig. Rathlin island off Antrim and Cape Clear off west Cork have bird observatories. The Saltee islands off the Wexford coast are privately owned by the O'Neill family, but day visitors are permitted access to the Great Saltee during certain hours. The Saltees have gannets, gulls, puffins and Manx shearwaters.
Vikings used Dublin as a European slaving capital, and one of their bases was on Dalkey island, which can be viewed from Killiney's Vico road. Boat trips available from Coliemore harbour in Dalkey. Birdwatch Ireland has set up nestboxes here for roseate terns. Keep an eye out also for feral goats.
Plenty! There are regular boat trips in summer to Inchagoill island on Lough Corrib, while the best known Irish inshore island might be the lake isle of Innisfree on Sligo's Lough Gill, immortalised by WB Yeats in his poem of the same name. Roscommon's Lough Key has several islands, the most prominent being the privately-owned Castle Island. Trinity island is more accessible to the public - it was once occupied by Cistercian monks from Boyle Abbey.

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