The Saltee Islands, located 5 kilometres off Kilmore Quay in Wexford, are a wonderful place to get close to nature. The 120-acre Great Saltee Island, is home to thousands of seabirds including Puffins, Manx Shearwaters and Gannets. Great Saltee Island is privately owned by the Neale family, who inherited it after their father, the self-declared Prince Michael the First died in 1998. The family are kind enough to welcome visitors on day-trips, to experience the breathtakingly beautiful scenery and the wealth of natural heritage.
Our visit in July 2020 came after months of lockdown, and it was the very best place to shake off such a long spell of being stuck indoors. On the trip out on the ferry it felt like the first time I could fully breathe again, and the sense of freedom was helped by a beautiful sunny day with calm seas. Near the island, we transferred to a small dinghy to be brought ashore below a flight of stone steps. The island is stunningly beautiful, and made colourful by bluebells in the early summer, though they were long gone when we arrived in July. Instead we were treated to bright purple loosestrife, or clusters of delicate sea spurrey and sea campion but it is predominately covered either by a thin sward of grass grazed near to the bone by rabbits, or dense bracken that has swallowed much of the island.
One of the tales that is commonly told about the Saltee Islands is that they are anywhere between 650 million and 2 billion years old. However, it appears that the islands are largely made up of the pink-coloured Saltees Granite that formed as molten rock around 480 million years old, pushing into the more ancient gneiss of the Rosslare Formation that is located close to Kilmore Quay.
A glacial ridge of stone and gravel known as ‘St. Patrick’s Bridge’ forms a natural causeway that connected Little Saltee with Kilmore Quay at low tide, and has posed a threat to shipping over the centuries.
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