Little Island

Little Island II

We resume our walk along the straight Queen’s Channel. Our first stop is a tower painted in black and white bands that stands at the end of a drying mud spit and guards the dangerous entrance to the King’s Channel. At low tide, the depth here can be just 0.5 m because of the deposits of silt, however the tidal currents can be very strong. The western end of the King’s Channel is as dangerous, but it is very well marked.

Across the water from the beacon tower there is Faithlegg House hotel and golf course. Another lovely place to visit some day.

A look back to where we walked from – the river from one side and the golf course from the other.

And this is where we are heading now –  around the mudflat, towards the wood.

Some butterflies land on the path and fly away as we come closer – Peacock, Painted Lady and Comma.

Looking back you see the Belview Port on Kilkenny side of the river…

… and our familiar light tower with Sliabh Coillte hill in background.

I have read that the island is densely populated with badgers. It may be so but I have never seen any evidence – not even a tuft of badger hair somewhere in the brambles. The article was almost two decades old – perhaps most of the badgers have since been relocated or died from infections. According to the article, the island is divided into six territories. There are at least three badger latrines along this stretch of path – I had a map with me, yet didn’t see or smell anything.

Man-made ponds provide a safe home for swans, ducks and shy Little grebes.

This gorgeous heron couldn’t make up his mind about me. How dangerous could I be when standing on the other side of the pond? He got out of the water, took off, circled over me, assessed and returned back to the same place. Safe enough!

A short walk through the silent wood isn’t exactly peaceful – this place gives me the willies…

I don’t recall having any more pictures taken in the wood, and I always breathe a sigh of relief when I see the light again.

A picturesque barge makes a great prop. Her best days are behind her though.

The rest of the walk is lovely and peaceful. Some old, strangely shaped trees and winding ropes of ivy along the path look peculiar yet harmless.

Birds and insects provide a soundtrack.

Silver-washed fritillary – another beauty to add to our list of butterflies found in the Little Island.

We walk to the ferry point and back to the castle.

One more look around.

We drive downhill past the golf club and cottages. It was a great visit, something to remember.

I hope you enjoyed being transported back to a warmer season.

Hope to see you again in a couple of weeks.

  Have a wonderful weekend!

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.

https://eoceanic.com/sailing/harbours/27/little_island

https://irishwaterwayshistory.com/tag/little-island/

We resume our walk in two weeks

Have a wonderful weekend!