Little Island I

If you are looking for a unique place to stay in Waterford, you might think about the Waterford Castle hotel and Golf Club on the Little Island. I borrowed this aerial view image from the Golf Open Competitions website – you can also click on the image to view the page. It is a very good site, covering all the golf events in the country.

I put three marks on the map: the ferry point, the castle, and the guide beacon – a tower standing on the sand spit. We will walk the perimeter of the island – it will only take an hour of brisk walk and two blog posts 🙂

This is a Google map with the same marks.

Little Island is located on River Suir just 2 miles from the estuary, and encircled by the Queens and Kings Channels. The strategic position of the island has always attracted settlers. The island changed hands several times. First came the monks, then the Vikings, and finally the Normans.  The FitzGerald family being the cousins of Strongbow were awarded this land for their part in the Norman Invasion. They built a Norman keep around which the rest of the current castle was built over the centuries. The island was connected to the mainland by wooden boats, but the residents would also use the stepping stones to cross the north channel ( then called the Ford) to attend the mass. Obviously, the channel wasn’t navigable as there was a depth of only two feet at low tide. In the first quarter of the 19th century, the channel was cleaned and deepened.

The FitzGeralds owned the ‘Lytle Yland’ for almost eight centuries. The land was farmed by the lord and rented out to tenants to be used as pasture, and to grow crops. Pay and conditions were good. By the 20th century, the island developed into the self contained community. If you are interested, here is a link to an absolutely fascinating article by Tom Dooley on the history of the Little Island, found on the page #49.

The Little Island was first leased and sold in 1958. After that it changed owners another couple of times. The castle was turned into hotel in 1988, and 48 three-and four-bedroom garden lodges were added in 2007. I won’t share any reviews. I only help you discover the island and have a pleasant time walking around. Isolation and ambiance of the island are worth the money – you can also book a whole lodge for the price of a room in the castle if you travel with your family and want to save a little. By the way, they say you might see ghosts in the castle and fields. Is it why I never met another walker in the remote part of the island?

Mary Fitzgerald‘ ferry takes us across the King’s Channel which is the old natural bed of the river Suir. One-way winding road goes up the hill to the castle car park through the green canopy full of wildlife. We won’t see the castle until the last minute – it is hidden in the high trees.

We drive past grazing deer.

This one is very inquisitive.

A young song thrush tries his voice.

A red squirrel with a white tail and white ear tufts is digging in the grass at the side of the road.

Suddenly the main entrance of the castle appears on the left.

When we are done with our walk, come in and ask for a cup of tea and a cake. Even if you are not a resident and didn’t make a reservation, there is a good chance you will be served.

You can walk around the castle and count the cute gargoyles.

A tiny garden offers tranquility and mystery.

To follow our plan, we take a trail that starts at the car park, and walk through the patch of trees. Some lucky residents have seen badgers and hedgehogs around the castle, but this happens early in the morning or late at night. We just see more deer 🙂

A grey squirrel resides in this part of the island – there is enough food for both species.

These pictures were taken in August – the Butterfly Month in Ireland.

Our path reaches the river. There is a patch of thistles, a favorite spot for butterflies. Let’s have a look.

This is a brand new Peacock butterfly, the most spectacular of the Irish butterflies. It will overwinter in a tree trunk or another dark place, and resume activity in March.

Small tortoiseshell is a very common butterfly also known for its hibernating habits. Every February-March I find one or more in my kitchen where they overwinter somewhere behind the cabinets.

Meadow brown female is not as hairy as her colorful cousins.

This is Red admiral, a beautiful migrant from Southern Europe.

Red admirals are not shy. One lands on my shoulder, stays there for a couple of minutes and then returns to the thistles.

Butterflies have a variety of predators. This one has been in a fight for his life 🙂

After admiring the butterflies, we walk west towards the Islands Edge. Little Island is a nesting place for herons, and you will see many of them at the water edge and in the fields.

A group of Godwits inspect the muddy riverbed.

Various waders can be seen picking lugworms : Curlew, Godwit and two almost identical Lapwings.

We walk past the castle and enter a wooded area.

We walk to the point where the path merges with the road that brought us to the castle. As we are not leaving the island yet, let’s walk back to the castle, have a cup of tea by the fireplace in the Great Hall, and get ready for our next adventure..

Here are two links to my favorite websites where you can read more about history and sailing specifics of the Little Island.

We resume our walk in two weeks

Have a wonderful weekend!



    1. Thank you Rosaliene! I don’t have a garden, but the butterflies sneak into my kitchen and sleep there until the spring comes 🙂

  1. ‘Tis akin to being in the waiting room, bored senseless, then stumbling upon that one magazine that saves the day…that catches my interest. As ever Inese, you afford us all with stupendous photographic art and a worthy trip down ‘history lane’. Splendid work indeed.

      1. How lovely to hear from you. As things stand on this island these days oh that one could relocate across the sea…you never know. More importantly, so good to hear from you. All the best wishes, Mike otherwise know as The Old Fool, a tag I’ve come to rather like.

  2. Inese, a delight to join you on your walk around Little Island! The ferry to it reminds me of the little ferry to my grandparent’s island before they built a bridge – just doesn’t feel the same! I love all the deer and wow, the butterflies are stunning! A lovely start to my week, reminding me of the beauty and warmth of summer! Thank you so much for letting us tag along! 😀

  3. What is not to love about your post. I am always entertained by the photos of the flora and fauna you provided. The beauty of the castle with a gargoyle bursting out of its side and the girl statue are nice jewels to the castle. Happy New Year Inese. Nice to see you back. Hope all is well my beautiful friend.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind comment, Joseph. What a challenging year it was. It seems that I won’t go home just yet 🙂 I will know for sure in March though. I even started to read again, and look forward to reading your new book. Thankfully, I have a couple of blog posts in drafts to keep this blog afloat. Thank you again for reading. Happy New Year my friend! Happy everything!

  4. Love the blog Inese! Those butterflies are beautiful! I love to photograph butterflies but I have never seen any like yours. What a great place to visit!

    1. Thank you Syd! Sorry for the late reply. There were more than seventy butterflies on that thistle patch, mostly Small tortoiseshells and Peacocks, and some 9-10 Admirals. Admirals and Painted ladies are migratory species. It is amazing the way they cross the seas.

  5. That looks like a wonderful place to stay, Inese. I love the wildlife, especially your inquisitive deer. 🙂 We don’t have castles in the US. And a place 800 years old is astonishing to us. Someday I want to visit Waterford… so who knows. 😀

    1. Thank you so much, Diana! Sorry for being absent… Can’t get back on track yet.
      Just a little fraction of castles and ‘big houses’ survived. Most of them you will find in beautiful ruins throughout the country.
      Hope all is well ❤

  6. That is an intriguing place. You have invoked the history as well as the present state of the island in a picturesque narration. Could it be one of those squirrels was an unrequited spirit hoping for company of the fleshed beings?

    1. Thank you Uma. Sorry for the late reply…
      The history of the island is absolutely fascinating, and it is a lovely place to visit. I was there with a friend just a couple of weeks ago. Their daffodils were all in bloom! So unusual.

  7. Inese your photographs paint a lovely picture of this beautiful place. I particularly wanted to stroll down that pathway in the forest. The animals and birds are spectacular. Thank you.

    1. Thank you Barbara! There is a lot to explore, and the golf course is a great bonus. I didn’t take photos of the golf course, but it adds to the beautiful image of the island.

    1. Thank you! So sorry for the late reply.
      The cottages are very modern and comfortable, great for staying with family. The Castle rooms are reasonably expensive, and it is a cool place.

    1. Thank you! The deer are large indeed. Look stunning in the sunshine, on green grass. They say there are badgers and hedgehogs on the island too. I have never seen any badger droppings, but I could smell hedgehogs. Don’t know how all of them got to the island 🙂

  8. A fascinating place, thank you for taking us on such a beautiful tour! We have the gray squirrels but I’ve never seen anything like the red squirrel.

    1. Thank you! ❤ The red ones are our native species. Their tails are often darker than body, but I have never seen a white-tailed squirrel before. Only in the books.

  9. This is an incredible post, Inese!
    The photography is only overshadowed by the beauty of this islands animal residents.
    That red squirrel with white tail must be animal royalty. I’ve never seen a red squirrel, to start with.
    The deer are… well, dear! The curious one is the bee’s knees!
    I am 100% assuming that there is NO HUNTING on the island.
    Thank you, Inese, and I wish you a wonderful 2020!
    Resa xo

    1. Resa, thank you! Sorry for being absent lately. Life can be challenging.
      When I saw the squirrel, I thought about the White Toronto Squirrels straight away, then realised it was a different species. Then I saw an European grey and decided to add a link for the readers to compare the species. I have never seen an albino Grey though. They are your unique treasure 🙂 xx

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