Step back in time with a visit to Holy Island or Inis Cealtra on Lough Derg – one of the most famous monastic sites in Ireland. Here you’ll discover fascinating ruins that bring to life a time when holy men lived in solitude and simplicity – hoping, in vain, to evade marauding Norsemen invaders.
The 50-acre island is dominated by a restored 80-foot tall round tower surrounded by the remains of several churches, early monastic cells, a Holy well and ancient graveyard with dozens of marked graves. Many bullun stones – rocks cut with deep hemispherical depressions – dot the island, and though their function is widely disputed, it’s clear they were associated with water, and date back to megalithic times.
Brian Bor – a member of the Dalcassians who rose to the status of High King of Ireland and led the defeat of the Vikings at Clontarf in 1014 – is said to have been responsible for the building of the round tower and repairs to St. Caimin’s Church.
Marcn, the brother of Brian Bor, was appointed the Bishop-Abbot of Inis Cealtra until his death in 1003AD.
St. Caimin’s Church is the chief building on the island, with a nave that may date back to the late 10th century. In the late 12th century a Romanesque doorway was added to the west wall. In the church interior there are also a great variety of crosses, monuments, gravestones and a sundial.