This 1-mile walk in place video covers the ancient pilgrimage route of Lady's Island as part of the Trek Ireland in South Weford Coast guided virtual walking tour series.
In 150AD, Greek cartographer Caludius Ptolemaeus created his first world atlas and, although very little was known of Ireland at that time, he marked one place in Ireland as Hieron Akroterion—in Greek—or 'Sacred Cape' on his map. This place is now known as Carnsore Point, where a male drudic settlement was thought to be located and, nearby on a secluded lake island, was another pre-Christian place of female druidic worship called Lady's Island.
So, our walk in place video brings you on a gentle, circular grassland route around this ancient pilgrimage site. Beginning at the Marian statue, dedicated to Our Lady, the pilgrimage skirts the water's edge, where swans and terns greet you with wide, expansive views over Lady's Island Lake and Tacumshin Lake.
Halfway along the virtual walking tour, local guide and naturalist Jim Hurley provides an excellent account of the etymology of the lake island before continuing your indoor walking workout towards the Norman castle and finish point.
Lady's Island Lake guided virtual tour audio transcript of local guide and naturalist Jim Hurley
[00:11:29] Lady's Island Lake
We're now about half way around the pilgrimage route at Lady's Island Lake. The lake has an area of about 350 hectares. It's about 3.5km long, 1km wide and maybe 2-3 metres deep.
The place name is rather interesting, why it's called Lady's Island. Back around the year 150 AD Claudius Ptolemaeus, Ptolemy the Greek, was working in the Great Library in Alexandria and he set out to compile the first atlas of the world. The 'world', of course, at the time, meant the Roman Empire and the Romans never came to Ireland, they invaded Britain in the spring of 55 AD but they didn't come here to Ireland so, he had very little in his atlas about Ireland. But one place he did mention was a headland he called, in Greek, hieron akroterion, in Latin, sacrum promentorium, both translating as Sacred Cape, and we now know this cape is what we call Carnsore Point.
The question arose then why was it sacred? or how was it known to be sacred when the Romans weren't here? So, it was assumed that since Alexandria was an important sea port, that the information was coming from sea captains who were trading to British ports and they could see something from the sea on Carnsore Point and the long established local tradition is that it was a Druidic settlement, a temple of sun worshipping pagan priests.
Now it was an exclusively male settlement and there was a corresponding female settlement and the Druidesses or women priests were into well-worshipping and they were based here and because they were based here it became known as the Lady’s Island–the island that the ladies were on. Saint Aedan came along in the 5th century and he banished the pagan Druidesses from here and the question about the area being called Lady’s Island didn't please him so, he dedicated the site to the mother of Jesus, Mary, and he called it Our Lady's Island and it became a place of Marian pilgrimage. That was back in the 5th century and it has been a place of Marian pilgrimage ever since.
We're now at a point called the Head of the Island with the statue here and the lake, in the classification of lakes, the lake is known as a lagoon. A lagoon is a body of water where the water is a mixture of partly salt water and partly fresh water - it's brackish and it supports plants and animals known as lagoonal specialists and because of that the area here is an important area and the habitat is a protected one. The area is also of interest because of the very large number of wintering water birds that come here and in summer we have breeding birds, particularly terns, on the island in front of me.
The island in front of me there is called Inish - inish being the Irish for island. It's the island with the lone tree on it, the tree is a Monterey Pine and it supports the biggest mixed tern colony in Ireland. We'd have about 3,500 pairs of breeding terns, 4 species: Sandwich Terns, Common Terns, Arctic Terns and over 100 pairs of Roseate Terns, one of the rarest breeding seabirds in Europe. It also holds about 2,500 pairs of breeding black-headed gulls and about 70 or so Mediterranean gulls.
The colony is managed and wardened by our National Parks and Wildlife Service and sounds you can hear are the calls of the terns and the black-headed gulls. Now our walk continues around the island and it finishes at the Norman tower.
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