Just off the shore of Lough Ree, the peaceful island of Inchcleraun. Known locally as “Quaker Island”, it is one of the largest (albeit only 1 mile / 1.5 km long!) and more historically interesting islands of the many on the lake. With the remains of seven churches, including monastic settlements, Inchcleraun is an example of how Ireland got its nickname of "the land of Saints and Scholars". In the middle ages, Inchcleraun was a place of pilgrimage and religious learning. Today, the island is something of a hidden gem, since very few locals, let alone tourists, have visited its shores. Between 800 and 1300 the island and its churches were repeatedly plundered and burned by invaders, so the buildings are in ruins today.
St. Diarmaid's Monastery
A monastery founded by St. Diarmaid in 540 AD is the most prominent ruin. St. Diarmaid (or Dermot) was the teacher of St. Ciaran, founder of the Ireland’s famous Clonmacnoise monastery in County Offaly.
One of the churches has an unusual feature called a clogas, or square bell tower, which is attached to the main building. Most churches of this era had round towers, separate from the main building – the other exception is the one in the aforementioned Clonmacnoise. The clogas is located on the north side of the island, and is visible from the shoreline.
The Curse of Templemurray
The smallest church on the island is called Templedermot, the largest being Templemurray. According an old (no longer held) local superstition, any woman who enters Templemurray will meet her death within twelve months!
How Inchcleraun Got Its Name
The island takes its name from the Gaelic Inis Clothrann, meaning the island of Clothra. An ancient Celtic figure, Clothra (also known as Clothru) was initially the most powerful among six daughters of Eochu Feidlech, then High King of Ireland. She became the Queen of Connacht after her father's death. Clothra infamously slept with each of her triplet brothers before they went into battle, so they they would not be left without heirs. The triplets were killed in battle but, according to the myth, Clotrha gave birth to a single son -- Lugaid Riab nDerg -- who was born with three strange red stripes on his body, indicating his three biological fathers. Luag would later become High King of Ireland. One of Clothra's rival sisters was called Maeve, who is today better known as Queen Maeve, the Warrior Queen. All of the sisters had been married (by their father) to Conchobar Mac Nessa, then king of Ulster, as an apology for Eochu killing Conchobar's father in battle. Maeve had originally been Conchobar's favourite, but she had grown tired of him, and took other lovers. She was intensely jealous that her father had granted the crown of Connacht to Clothra. When Clothra became pregnant with Conchobar's child, Maeve, in a rage, killed her -- but the unborn child was saved. He was given the name Furbaide Ferbend. Now Maeve became the Queen of Connacht and a rival to Conchobar, and she ruled fiercely for many years. When her husband killed her lover Fergus, Medb retired to the island today known as Inis Clothrann. Furbaide Ferbend seduced her there. Flattered by his interest, and his good looks, she accepted his offer to be her bodyguard. Ferbaide killed Mave in the cove where she bathed. The name "Quaker Island" is more recent, and owes to the island being owned, by a person (unknown) of the Quaker community. The island is today owned by the state.