High Island or Ardoilean is an island located approximately 3 kms off the west coast of Connemara, close to Claddaghduff and Inishbofin. The island extends to approximately 32 hectares (80 acres) of mostly island grazing with the benefit of two natural fresh water lakes and some of the most stunning scenery in the west of Ireland. The island measures 1.2 kms by 0.4 kms and rises to a maximum height of 63.3 meters above sea level.
There is an abundance of birdlife on the island with many types of gulls, fulmars, Manx shearwaters, petrels and oyster catchers and even a pair of peregrine falcons breeding each spring. In the autumn, barnacle geese arrive from mainland Europe and winter on the island.
The history of High Island is steeped in archeological facts and it is believed that some of the ruins and artefacts date back to 300 BC and with evidence from pollen samples dating occupation back after 1,000 BC. What is known is that some of the flooring found in the church directly correlates to an early Iron Age settlement between 300 BC and 20AD.
The foundation of the monastery on High Island is credited to Saint Féichín who is believed to have died in 665 during the yellow plague. It is believed that the monastery was originally constructed in the seventh century and there were between 50 and 70 people living on the island.
The monastery is located in a sheltered valley to the South Western edge of the island and located directly to the North of the larger of the two fresh water lakes. This undoubtedly was an attributing factor when looking at the location of the monastery all of those years ago. To the East and West the lands are elevated giving shelter from the winter winds and most violent sea storms.
Currently the remains of the monastery consist of the church and altar itself and a completely intact beehive hut located directly to the east of the church. There are the collapsed remains of three similar beehive huts to the West of the monastic enclosure. The church wall enclosure is, in majority intact with several openings or entrances and the main en ...