A group of 14 hill-walkers visited Lambay with the object of climbing to the island's 127 metre summit. We were incredibly well-looked after by Eoin and Peter, who sped us across the four kilometre stretch of water from Rogerstown Harbour in two parties. Eoin, who has an amiable manner and keen sense of humour, guided us around Lambay. He also provided an information sheet about the island’s flora and fauna and some of its history which was very useful. The island, the largest on the east coast of Ireland, owned by the 7th Lord Revelstoke (of the Baring dynasty) and which has been in the family since 1904, was for many years inaccessible to the public. Indeed, it is only via Skerries Seatours that access there is permitted today. It is a haven of peace and tranquillity, and is of international significance as home to Ireland’s largest ‘mixed’ seabird colony. Here Cormorants, Common Guillemots, Kittiwakes, Razorbills, Fulmars, Manx Shearwaters, Puffins, Herring Gulls and Shags whirl above the steep and craggy cliffs, their shrill cries mingling in an aerial bedlam. Unbelievably, there is also a colony of wallabies that were introduced from Dublin Zoo back in the 1980s. They are thriving and you might be lucky to see them. We didn’t, but we did spot a herd of deer that are resident on the island.
The island has a rich and varied history, being the site of a monastery later raided by the Vikings; has served as a refuge for pirates; a prisoner of war camp and was known to Greek cartographer Ptolemy. It has a volcanic past, and two outcrops of andesite (dubbed Lambay porphyry) were quarried in the Neolithic. Of international importance, Lambay contains the only stone axe quarry in Britain and Ireland with evidence for all stages production, from quarrying to final polishing. Tayleur Bay on the east of the island, is named after the emigrant ship en route to Australia which foundered here in 1854 on its maiden voyage from Liverpool with a great loss of life. The wreck of the Tayleur was located in 1959 and some of its cargo salvaged.
A small number of people live permanently on the island helping to manage and operate the estate which includes an organic farm. They reside in a group of attractively renovated coastguard houses and the White House, surrounded by colourful echiums and hollyhocks, just above the small harbour. Here we were treated to a cuppa before tacking the summit and beginning our walk around the island. Close to the White House is a walled graveyard and bijou Catholic chapel with a Doric portico which we were permitted to enter. Still used by the local residents, the stained glass window above the altar is particularly attractive. There has been a castle on Lambay from at least the 16th century, with the present building designed by architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens, in the first decade of the 20th century in the Renassiance Gothic style. Beautiful gardens surround it and there is also a secluded walled garden boasting a variety of fruits and colourful sub-tropical plants which we strolled around. We had a fantastic tour, not at all rushed and although it is only 4 kilometres from the Fingal coast, we appreciated the tranquillity of this special island which felt far from the madding crowd indeed. I’d most certainly recommend this trip with Skerries Seatours which provides a unique opportunity to land on one of Ireland’s most scarcely visited islands.