Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Scattery Island proposed as retreat centre by council

The ancient monastic site at Scattery Island in the Shannon estuary could be at the core of a major religious tourism initiative if suggestions from local politicians in County Clare gather momentum.

Members of Kilrush Town Council have called for the island, which contains one of Ireland’s highest round towers and several monastic ruins, to be developed as a pilgrimage and retreat centre.  

The mayor of Kilrush, Mr Ian Lynch, called on Clare County Council, the Bishop of Killaloe, Kieran O’Reilly, and the Office of Public Works, to carry out a feasibility study into the proposal.

Cllr Lynch said the retreat centre could become something similar to St Patrick’s Purgatory on Lough Derg. 

Clare County Council has indicated that it already has proposals, less ambitious than those of Kilrush Town Council, for a 80km series of pilgrim walks linking places connected with St Senan, who founded a monastery on Scattery in 534AD and who is buried there.  

This pilgrimage would take four days, take in the island itself, and include holy wells and St Senan’s Altar.

Clare County Council also advocates having the floors and stairs on the 30m high round tower, which would offer visitors panoramic views of the Shannon Estuary.  

Such a development would, the council said, make the tower, “one of a few round towers in the country that could be climbed by the public.”

The council said that attractions of a religious significance on the island could be augmented with other interesting buildings on the island, such as the Napoleonic Battery and lighthouse.

It also said that a tearoom would be needed on the island if visitor numbers were to be increased and that the one and a half hour visit that a local ferry service currently offers would need to be extended to allow pilgrims, tourists, scouting, and student groups a full day to see all of the worthwhile sites.

Seats, shelters, benches and a picnic area would be needed and more events, such as a recent musical boat trip organised as part of a traditional music festival, could be organised.

Scattery Island has a diverse range of wildlife habitats including a lagoon, a salt marsh and a freshwater lake.

St. Senan, who died in 544, is believed to be buried in Temple Senan on the island and tradition links his grave to miraculous cures.  Stones from St. Senan's Bed are regarded as relics, and a protection against diseases and drowning.

The early Christian manuscript, the Book of Lismore, states that St Senan went to Rome and Tours in France (then a huge monastic establishment) before returning to Ireland and setting up a monastery at Inniscarra, on the River Lee and Scattery Island.  

 Last year, a Church of Ireland minister suggested that a Camino-style pilgrimage through County Clare could be modelled on ancient pilgrimage walks.

Canon Bob Hanna said such a pilgrimage could be modelled on the story of another saint, Saint Fachtna, who made a journey from Cork to Clare.  

He said it would open up the Clare landscape for visitors and could be a way for people to reconnect with their own spirituality.

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