A botanical survey of the island of Innisfallen on Killarney's lower lake is to be undertaken as part of a study to uncover the significance of its ancient ruins and its rich array of plants, flowers and trees.
The 23-acre island is reputedly where Brian Boru came to study and is where much of the annals of Innisfallen, one of the major sources of early Munster history, were composed. Its reputation as a medieval seat of learning gave its name to the surrounding Lough Léin, or "lake of learning".
However, apart from a brief period as a Victorian picnic spot, some cattle-grazing in the 1930s by local farmers, and an annual Mass, the island has lain undisturbed for centuries.
However, under new moves to improve the cultural heritage experience of visitors to Killarney, Innisfallen is now being targeted for preservation and promotion by a local interest group.
The island contains significant ruins at its northwestern tip, including those of an abbey established in AD 600. There are also the remains of an 11th century church and an Augustinian priory occupied by monks until the 17th century.
Part of Killarney National Park, the island is accessible from Ross Castle. It is managed by both the Office of Public Works (OPW) and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).
Senior architects from the OPW have assessed the ruins and repair work was carried out on the monuments last autumn.
The botanical survey will be conducted by an NPWS steering group set up to explore the island's riches. It will examine curiosities such as a quadruplet tree with holly, ash, hawthorn and ivy all seeming to grow from a single stem. The island is also thought to contain rare herbs, mosses and orchids.
© 2007 The Irish Times