Devenish Island is one of those lovely places that somehow don’t see many visitors. Yet, I thoroughly enjoyed my visit. Was it my love for history? Was it the misty cold weather that added a sense of mystery? Or was it simply the beauty of the landscape? Whatever it was, it was inscribed in my mind as a place worth a visit. This is most scenic monastery Ireland has.
Early Irish Monasteries
Devenish is a small, treeless, hilly island on Lough Erne, one of 154 in the lake. Lough Erne is made up of the lower and upper parts of the lake joined together by a river with the town of Enniskillen situated between the two.
The Island was home to an Irish Monastery from as early as the 6th century AD, one of the finest of many Irish monasteries established when Christianity came to Ireland. Folklore would actually want to push this date even further back, claiming that none else than the prophet Jeremiah himself established it in the 6th century BC when he arrived here after the destruction of Jerusalem. There is even a tomb associated with him. Folklore aside, the earliest monastic community appears to have been created by Saint Molaise (died AD 570). The monastery flourished for a while as a centre of learning until it was destroyed in a Viking raid in AD 837. It later served as a parish church. Eventually it fell into disuse and disrepair.
The most visible and noteworthy of the remains is a well preserved round tower rising 30 meters high and dating from the 12th century. Visitors can climb to the top of the tower using and internal ladder and enjoy the view from the top. There are also ruins of two other buildings. The first, the Teampull Mor situated on the lower part of the island, was a church and dates from the 13th century. It most impressive feature is a beautifully molded window facing south. A better preserved building higher on the hill is St. Mary’s Augustinian Priory and dates from the 15 century. In the graveyard of the priory stands an unusual cross with intricate carvings and dating also from the 15th century. Scattered masonry stones indicate the existence of a third church with beautiful decorations which, unfortunately, no longer exists.
How to Get There
To get to Devenish Island you need to take the small boat that leaves from Trory point just outside Enniskillen. The boat runs from Good Friday to September. For more information click here.
Return from Devenish Island to Northern Ireland Travel