There are tourist boats regularly from the West Pier in Howth, and some take you around the island – like we did, and some take you to the island so you can go ashore and hike and explore the island. These boats operate during the summer months.
The most spectacular feature of Ireland’s Eye is the huge freestanding rock called “the Stack”, at the northeastern corner of the island, which plays host to a large variety of seabirds. Grey seals are abundant in the sea around the island.
The island does not really resemble an eye in shape, so to find the reason for the name we just might have to look to the ol’ Vikings again. The Celts called the island Eria’s Island. Eria was a woman’s name and this became confused with Erin, derived from Éireann, the Irish name for Ireland. Then came the Vikings and substituted the word Island with the Norse equivalent, Ey, thus it became known as Erin’s Ey – and ultimately Ireland’s Eye.
On the island you can clearly see the ruins of a Martello tower – a small circular defensive fort. These type of forts typically had a garrison of one officer and 15-25 men. Thick walls of solid masonry made them resistant to cannon fire, while their height made them an ideal platform for a single heavy artillery piece, reaching a complete 360° circle.
Right by the beach, there are also the ruins of an 8th-century church (the Church of the Three Sons of Nessan) – and it functioned as a parish church for Howth until recent centuries. Imagine having to row over in a boat for every service – in all sorts of weather, year round! I’d say you’d have to be rather passionate about your god to do that today. Due to this limitation it was eventually replaced by a church in the village. The church and the Martello tower are the only signs of previous habitation.
Naturally, this island has seen a lil’ action, with Celts, Vikings and Normans and in September 1852 it even saw murder: Sarah Maria Louisa Kirwan was killed on the island, and her husband, William Burke Kirwan, was convicted of the ill doing. Although later sources claim that Sarah had drowned accidentally as a result of a fit.
I will stop rambling now, and this post marks the end of my series from Dublin – a wonderful weekend with lots of fun and interesting sites, and quite a few exquisite views. Ireland comes highly recommended by me and Sir Nerdalot, and we do plan on returning for a longer stay. As tourists with an appetite for city life and the friendly pubs, rural views and historic sites, it becomes clear that Ireland is the island that keeps on giving.
If you are interested, make sure you see my previous posts from Dublin, Ireland, there are lots of pictures and quite a few historic facts: