Bishops Island

Title

Bishops Island

Description

The 6th century monastic settlement on Bishop’s Island gives the island its name. This unique seastack was separated from the mainland over the last thousand years.

Creator

ActiveMe Heritage Services

Publisher

Clare County Council
The Heritage Council
Fáilte Ireland

Date

October 2014

Contributor

Martin McKeown,
Deirdre McCarthy

Rights

Rull rights, See signed release form.

Identifier

WAW001_LH_0012

GPS Location

52.673327, -9.687392

Short Interpretive Text

The 6th century monastic settlement on Bishop’s Island gives the island its name. This unique sea stack was separated from the mainland over the last thousand years.

Medium Interpretive Text

Bishop’s Island is an example of a sea stack, which is a geological landform consisting of a steep, often vertical column of rock in the sea near the coast. Sometime in the last thousand years Bishop’s Island was connected to the mainland. Over the years, the force of the water has weakened cracks in the headland, causing them to collapse forming this free-standing seastack, 215 feet high. What makes this site unique is that there are the remains of a church, a clochaun (beehive hut) and the ruins of 3-4 other buildings on the sea stack. This monastic settlement is possible connected to St. Senan or his followers who founded a prominent monastery at Scattery on the opposite side of Loop Head in the 6th century. The monastic remains give the seastack its name, Bishop’s Island.

Long Interpretive Text

The spectacular rugged coastline is dotted with a number of small islands and sea stacks. Bishop’s Island is an example of a sea stack, a geological landform consisting of a steep, often vertical column of rock in the sea near the coast. Sometime in the last thousand years Bishop’s Island was connected to the mainland. Over the years, the force of the water has weakened cracks in the headland, causing them to collapse forming this free-standing sea stack, measuring 180m x 90m and 40m high. What makes this site unique is that there are the remains of a church, a clochaun (beehive hut) and the ruins of 3-4 other buildings on the sea stack.

 

The remains of the church indicate that it was a dry stone church of Gallarus type. This building type takes its name from the famous Gallarus church located in Dingle, Co. Kerry and its design has been compared to that of an upturned boat because of its sloping side walls with stones cut on every side that fit perfectly together. The smoothly finished outside facings follow the slant of the wall. The Bishop’s Island church was small, with an area of only 9m², designed to only accommodate the small resident isolated community. The clochaun, or beehive hut was constructed in a similar style to the church. This monastic settlement is possible connected to St. Senan or his followers who founded a prominent monastery at Scattery on the opposite side of Loop Head in the 6th century.

 

There is a local legend relating to the name Bishop’s Island. A bishop, apparently attempting to escape the Irish famine, brought food to the island. He became trapped on the sea stack and starved to death. The sea stack was subsequently named Oilean an Easpoig Gortaigh, the island of the hungry bishop.

Site Recommendations and Observations

 

 

This existing car parking area is ideally placed to take advantage of the spectacular scenery overlooking the Kilkee Cliffs and islands. However, there is only space to cater for approx. 8 parked cars.

It is recommended that additional parking should be considered during the peak season and parking counts should confirm and quantify additional parking requirements. It is also recommended that the car park be upgraded, resurfaced and relined.

As visitors cannot get to the island, it is recommended that appropriately located and suitable site interpretation measures be considered to bring the island to the visitor and let them experience the site it either visually or physically. The Interpretation should help the visitor orientate themselves, locate the island and view what Island looked like in the past while reading the interpretative text.

It is recommended that cycle parking be considered at this site. 

It is recommended that consideration be given to extending the Kilkee Cliff Walk as far as Bishops Island and onto Dunlicky Castle.

The following three statements apply to all site recommendations:

  • ‘All proposals must comply with all planning, local authority and other statutory requirements.’
  • ‘All proposals for development within, adjacent to or with the potential to affect a Natura 2000 site will be subject to an Appropriate Assessment Screening. To ensure that a Habitat Directive Assessment is carried out to assess the likely impacts on Natura 2000 sites in order to comply with Article 6(3) of the Habitat Directive and in accordance with the requirements of the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011.’
  • ‘All projects must be undertaken in accordance with the Wild Atlantic Way Discovery Points Remedial Works Guidelines, including the Ecological Method Statement.’

Sources of Information

1) Interview with Martin McKeown

2) Archaeology Ireland article Spring 2005

3) Online Research

  • www.loophead.ie
  • www.loopheadclare.com
  • www.clare.ie
  • www.npws.ie
  • www.clarelibrary.ie
  • www.clarebirdwatching.com

Other Research and Facts

Bishop’s Island Archaeology- http://www.academia.edu/774602/A_Flying_Visit_to_Bishops_Island_Co._Clare_Archaeology_Ireland_19.1_2005

Geology- Parkes, M., McAteer, C., & Engering, S., The Geological Heritage of Clare: An audit of County Geological Sites in Clare (2005). http://www.gsi.ie/NR/rdonlyres/A6A0DE5E-DE94-448E-922C-0E352BB91A65/0/Clare_section1.pdf

Extract from From A Hand-book of Irish Antiquities by William F. Wakeman, published 1848.

 'A fine and hitherto unnoticed example occurs upon the rock called Bishop's Island, near Kilkee, upon the coast of Clare: it measures in circumference 115 feet. The exterior face of the wall, at four different heights, recedes to the depth of about one foot, a peculiarity not found in any other structure of the kind, and which was probably introduced with the view of lessening the weight of the dome-shaped roof, which was formed, not on the principle of the arch, but, as usual, by the gradual approximation of the stones as the wall ascended.

The annexed engraving represents the oratory adjoining, the erection of which is traditionally ascribed to Saint Senan, who lived in the sixth century, and whose chief establishment was upon Inis Cathaigh, or Scattery Island, the Iona of the more southern part of Ireland. It measures eighteen feet by twelve; the walls are in thickness two feet seven inches. The doorway, which occupies an unusual position, in the south side, immediately adjoining the west end wall, is six feet in height, one foot ten inches wide at the top, and two feet four inches at the bottom. The east window splays externally, and in this respect is probably unique in Ireland. Several large monumental pillar stones stand at a short distance from the church, in an easterly direction, but they bear no inscriptions or symbols.

The ancient recluses, or anchorites, appear to have selected the wildest and most dreary spots as their places of abode. Bishop's Island, or as it is styled in Irish, "Oileán-an-Easpoig-gortaigh" i. e. the Island of the hungry or starving Bishop, is a barren precipitous rock, environed with perpendicular or overhanging cliffs, about 250 feet in height. It contains about three-quarters of an acre of surface, to which access is most difficult, and only to be effected by a skilful climber, and after a long continuance of calm weather'.

Site Ownership

[no text]

Cycle Parking

No

Category

Historical
Archaeological

Sub-Category

Monastery

County

Clare

Nearest Town

Kilkee

Toilet Facilities

No

Accessible Toilet

No

Accessible Access

No

Parking

The are only 8no. end on parking spaces provided for this site. It is recommended to consider extend this parking area or create a new car park to accommodate expected traffic

Map Number

63

Heritage Designation

Protected Structure

Category of Interest

Historical, Natural, Archaeological

Travel Information

There is public access to the lands overlooking the site.

Website

[no text]

Opening Times

Open at all times.

Entrance Fee

Free

Contact Number

[no text]

Email Address

[no text]

Site Location Summary

This site is located on the coastal road between Cross and Kilkee.

Geolocation

Citation

ActiveMe Heritage Services, “Bishops Island,” Wild Atlantic Way Heritage Trails, accessed September 21, 2020, https://wildatlanticway.omeka.net/items/show/14.