Red squirrel

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!

 

The last butler of Curraghmore house

Last weekend I went for a walk along the river Clodiagh in the Curraghmore estate to take pictures for this blog dedicated to the last butler of Curraghmore and his lovely wife who finally retired and left for Portugal this summer.

Who says you cannot change your career and your whole life at the age of 50+? “Born and raised” in Transvaal, South Africa”, Basil Croeser moved to Ireland in 1998 and got a job as butler to 8th Marquess of Waterford. Good old times when the notorious “work experience” was not required: there were no butlers in South Africa, not at that time anyway.

Curraghmore

Basil served as butler for 12 years. Some of his duties included “seeing to His Lordship’s general well being; preparing and serving light meals; maintaining stock and equipment; maintaining and winding 17 antique clocks”. When His Lordship’s health started to deteriorate, Basil retired from his butler’s duties, and a new, younger butler was hired. Basil was offered the role of a tour guide in the Curraghmore estate.

Old Lord Waterford passed away in 2015, and is remembered as a good and kindly neighbor. Current Lord Waterford doesn’t have a butler. That era is gone.

I have been in the House before, and I know the script, but that was a special day, and sadness was in the air as the last butler took us on his farewell tour.

Curraghmore

Basil’s tours and his unique knowledge will be missed.

The bags were already packed, as well as twenty years of memories. I wish them both a long and happy retirement!


These photographs I took for Basil and Colleen with a huge thank you for all they have done! 🙂 I came there early, less than an hour after the sunrise last Sunday, and parked outside the gate. The air was crisp and the sun just showed up from behind the forest.

Curraghmore

Suddenly the mist started to rise, first from the river, then from just about everything!

Curraghmore

In front of my eyes, the rippling steam rose from the grass. It was so thick that the sun rays couldn’t get through it.

The tree branches covered with moss started steaming too!

The sun rose higher and lit the tree tops.

What a magnificent morning!

Curraghmore

I crossed the bridge and walked along the river. A strange object caught my eye. It’s a tail! I quickly checked my settings.

squirrel

Red squirrel run too far and too high from me, but I noticed a big sweet chestnut in his mouth. I only know one such tree nearby, but it is on the other side of the river. What a brave little fella.

squirrel

Young pheasants are having a double date. There are hundreds of them in the woods.

pheasants

This one started to walk towards me – for a treat or for a fight?

pheasant

He stood just a few steps away, looking at me with one eye then the other before slowly walking away across the road.

pheasant

I walked across the bridge again to see the sweet chestnut tree ( and may be another squirrel) and visit the House. The other side of the river looked warm and welcoming.

Curraghmore

The pale yellow Ferns seem so fragile.

ferns

ferns

The sweet chestnut tree provided me with a lot of entertainment and some fifty pictures of its cute fruits. No squirrels though.

Sweet chestnut

sweet chestnut

The House is closed for public tours until the Easter 2019, but you can try to make an appointment.

Curraghmore

I turn to the road that would take me to the King John’s bridge. I still don’t give up hope to get a picture of Kingfisher, but apparently not today as a young couple with an off-leash dog turns into the same road. I let them pass, and dive into the dark side path that takes me in the opposite direction. A natural arrangement of sun-lit leaves in the puddle draws my attention. When I look at the picture, I am very pleased to see a hovering tiny bonus Syrphid fly and its shadow.

The path is quite dark, and I am not surprised that the only sunny spot is occupied. Young pheasant female doesn’t consider me a threat and makes herself cozy in the sun.

pheasant hen

No Kingfisher in sight, but a plump Dipper with a bright white bib looks over his shoulder at me with disapproval. Sorry, pal, my camera does make loud noises.

Dipper

The next stretch is a bamboo ‘forest’. After I finally emerge from the greenery, I step on my favorite ‘fairy path’ 🙂 It is all for today.

Curraghmore

Hope you all enjoyed the morning in Curraghmore as much as I did.

Here are more links to the Curraghmore stories : The Stag and the Dragon I ; The Stag and the Dragon II  ; The Tower  ;  Lady Florence ; Clonegam  There are many other related stories in this blog.

 Have a wonderful weekend!