Inis Cealtra

Inis Cealtra (Holy Island), Mountshannon, County Clare

St. Colum Mac Cremthainn came to the island in the 6th century to live life in solitude as a hermit. In this time it was a great centre of learning. His reputation attracted followers so he organised a monastic community on the island.

The name Inis Cealtra is derived from Innis meaning Island and Celtair which is old Irish for a holy place. This suggests the island was of significance to pagans long before the birth of Christ.

From the 7th century the island was repeatedly attached by the Vikings, who burned it down in 836 and again in 922. Brian Boru’s (Bryan Boru) brother, Macran was Abbot of Holy Island and Bishop of Killaloe, he died in 1009. Brian rebuilt the monastery after such attacks during the time his brother was Abbot.

Holy Island as it is commonly known is located on Lough Derg on the river Shannon is one of the most famous monastic sites in Ireland. Among its attractions include a well-preserved Round Tower, the ruins of six churches, a holy well, Bullaun Stones, a graveyard with slabs dating back to the eight century, a cell like structure, a “Bargaining” stone where many a marriage was carried out.

The sheltered position has allowed them to survive in a superb state of preservation.The island is accessible by boat only; boats can be rented in the Mountshannon or Killaloe areas.