Fire burns on historic High Island off Galway coast

Island with centuries-old monastic settlement is on sale for €1.25 million

High Island or Ardoilean lies off the west coast of Connemara, close to Claddaghduff and Inishbofin.

A fire has been burning on a historic island off the coast of Co Galway which is currently for sale for €1.25 million.

Eyewitnesses saw a pale of white smoke rising on Sunday afternoon from High Island which is 3.5 kilometres from Inishbofin in Connemara.

The fire was still burning late into the night, according to photographs taken from the mainland.

Neil Stewart, who owns a holiday home on Inishbofin said it was clear from binoculars that the bogs on the 80 acre island are on fire following a recent dry spell.


The Met Éireann station in Athenry has recorded just 10.4mm of rain so far this month, significantly less than this time last year.

The island is inaccessible to fire crews as it is surrounded by high cliffs and can only be accessed using a rope.

High Island is home to a monastic settlement and an intact stone beehive hut.

The island was offered for sale in February by Stewart auctioneers in Galway with an asking price of €1.25 million.

It used to be owned by the poet Richard Murphy who was attracted to its remoteness, but chaffed at the logistics of trying to live in such an exposed location. "I am neither a saint nor a hermit," he concluded.

Mr Murphy eventually sold it to a friend of his who is now trying to offload it to the highest bidder.

High Island measures 1.2 kms by 0.4 kms and was once a monastic site similar to the Skellings in the 7th century.

It includes the remains of a monastery and a completely intact beehive hut located directly to the east of the church. Detailed excavations of the site reveal that it was a monastic settlement between the 8th and 13th centuries.

It was last populated in the 19th century when there was a period of copper mining in the area.

The auctioneers believe there is scope for somebody to build an exclusive home on the property, but they would need a helicopter to guarantee access to the location.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times