Little Island, Waterford

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Little Island is an island on the eastern outskirts of Waterford City in Ireland. Islands are rare within the city and county of Waterford, although it is encircled by the River Suir and Kings Channel rather than the Atlantic Ocean. It is 420 acres in extent.

Waterford city at night



According to tradition a Monastic settlement existed on the island sometime between the sixth and eighth centuries, and two "finds" on the land have lent substance to this: A Winged Angel dating from the 8th century and the crude carving of a Monk's head, dating from the 6th century. (The latter is now prominently displayed over the main entrance to the current castle.) During the Viking era, between the 9th and 11th centuries, the island was referred to as Dane's Island or Island Vryk. The Vikings built two fortifications guarding the river at the north and the south.

The first family to live on the Island were the FitzGerald Family, who were cousins to Strongbow. They were awarded the land for their part in the Norman invasion of 1170. During the 15th and 16th centuries the FitzGeralds were Kings of Ireland in all but name and hosted many feasts and banquets on the island.

The first structure to be built on the island was a Norman keep. By the 15th century, the ruins of the keep were no longer habitable. A tower, the centre part of the present Castle, was then constructed on the site of the old keep. Initially it was relatively modest in size but over the years was enlarged, firstly in 1849 by John Fitzgerald and subsequently in 1875 and 1895 when the east and west wings were added. Built entirely out of stone, these additions are now indistinguishable from the older structure.

The island and the castle remained in the FitzGerald name for almost eight centuries, until 1958, when the Igoe family bought the property and installed a 5-acre (20,000 m2) complex of glass houses from which they produced fruits and flowers. A chain link ferry between the island and the mainland was installed around this time.

From 1973 to 1974, the island served as one of the shooting locations for Stanley Kubrick's film Barry Lyndon.

Michael Farren from Dublin, a horticultural engineer, renovated and developed the Island from 1974 to 1982.

In 1982, the island was rented to a local pedigree dairy farmer, who later bought it.

The castle became a luxury hotel in 1988 and the island became its grounds. Much of the land has since been converted into a golf course.

The Igoe's[edit]

The head of the family, Bill Igoe, was from Nenagh, while his forbears came from near Bonniconlon in County Mayo. He did however have investments in Rhodesia. He bought Little Island because of its horticultural potential, the Suir estuary having a micro climate with similar attributes to those of the Channel Islands. Access was by way of a "prong" or heavy rowing boat. with a very old barge powered by an ancient two stroke motor for moving crops and produce upstream to Waterford City. As time passed this was replaced first by a World War II DUKW (an amphibious two ton truck), then by another World War II vessel, a Landing Craft which could and did transport vehicles as large as oil tankers; and eventually by a purpose built chain ferry constructed by Verolme shipyards in Cork. Horticulture consisted of 5 acres (20,000 m2) of modern glasshouses growing flowers for the export market, and outdoor crops such as salads, daffodils, raspberries and asparagus. During this period from 1965, some 30 people were employed on Little Island Comment: Much of the above is erroneous: There is no mention of the Williams family, who rented the Island from 1956 until 1966, and ran it as a mixed dairy and grain farm.


Today the island, castle and grounds, continue to comprise a (19 bedroom) luxury hotel and golf course, Waterford Castle. The island is linked to the mainland by a private ferry which operates across Kings Channel between Ballinakill and the island's west side.

The island is considered a significant site for bird watching [1]. The main species are the Grey Heron (breeding), Little Egret, Wigeon, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper and commoner waders, Kingfisher and Jay.

In the 1950s/1960s the sloblands were home to large flocks of wild geese.


  1. ^ history