Inchagoill Island


Of all the 365 islands on Lough Corrib Inchagoill is the most famous and most visited. The name Inchagoill comes from 3 Irish words "Inis An Ghaill" meaning the Island of the stranger. Situated approximately half way between Cong Co. Mayo and Oughterard Co. Galway (4.5 miles from each) this special island is home to a number of ancient monastic ruins, some dating back to the 5th Century. In order of size Inchagoill measuring 104 acres is the forth largest island in size. To-day Inchagoill is owned by the state and its national monuments are protected by "Duchas" in the Department of the Environment.
Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness purchased this Island as part of the Ashford Castle estate in 1852. At that time there were four families living on the Island and these families were tenants on this estate. Some family names included O' Sullivan's Kineavy's and Conway's. In older times there were as many as six families living on the Island with other names including Murphy's, Lydons, and Butlers. These families farmed 80 acres of land in the centre of the Island with 50 acres of high trees as shelter all around. By about 1935 there was only one inhabitant on the Island, a man called Thomas Nevin.


Thomas Nevin was employed by the Guinness family as a caretaker on the Island about 1931. In his early years Tommie fought in World War 1 in Guillipi and contracted malaria during his time there. About every 2 weeks Tommie would row a small fishing boat to Cong or Oughterard and sometimes return to the Island in the dark using the lights of Ashford Castle as his compass. Apart from meeting visiting fishermen who used lunch on the Island, Tommie led quiet a lonesome life with only his dog as company. The Guinness family furnished Tommie with a dry battery radio, a very rare commodity at the time which gave Tommie great company during his years on the Island. In 1938 County Galway and County Kerry were to play in the All Ireland football final, and as this was only one of the few radios in the area, at least 100 people gathered in his house on the Island to listen to this National Event. Tommie Nevin was to live on the Island alone up until 1948 in which year he moved in to live in the village of Cong where he died in 1964.


When one walks up the little pathway from the Pier on the Island the first building that comes into view is "Teampall Na Naoimh" translated as the "Church of the Saints". It is believed that this church was built by the Agustian Monks of Cong circa 1180 A.D. At that time between monks and lay scholars there were about 3,000 people in the monestary of Cong. For this reason the monks needed a place of peace and quiet to pray and meditate and so the Church of the Saints was built.
The Church is built of sandstone and their decorative doorways reflect at least 3 different European cultures. The archway of the doorway is Romanesque in style and it depects the 10 heads of the ten saints of Lough Corrib. On the outer and inner tiers of the doorway, at shoulder height are heads with platted beards, believed to be of Greek influence while the centre tiers display carving of French design. Just inside the doorway on the right hand side one sees a Byzantane cross carved out on the wall. This cross was to be the inspiration for the Celtic cross that we know so well to-day. This proves to us that many monks and scholars came from abroad to study in our monasteries here. The alter of the Church is situated at the Eastern End of the building and there is an interesting reason for this. Many centuries before in the 5th Century, Ireland was a pagan country. The early Christians that were trying to convert these pagans found that they worshiped the rising sun.
By placing their alters to the East the pagans who were still facing the rising sun became easier to convert to Christianity.
From time to time baptisms are carried out in this Church to-day. In 1862 the doorway of this Church was in very bad condition and Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness commissioned its repair.


Muirgeas O' Nioc was an archbishop of Tuam in the 12th Century. There is no information available connecting this man to Inchagoill Island except that he was buried here in 1128. A big square stone structure to the North of Teampall Na Naoimh
Markes his burial place to-day.


The stone of Lugnad and St.Patrick's church are situated quiet close to each other, about 100 meters west of Teampall Na Naoimh. More that any other monument on the Island the stone of Lugnad has captured the attention of the most renowned archaeologists. The 5th century inscription on the stone which is still legible to-day reads "Lia Lugnaedon Macc Lmenueh".
This is written in old Gaelic and translates as follows - "The standing stone of Lugnad Son of Limanin"
It is believed that St Patrick and his nephew (who was also his navigator) came to Cong in the middle of the 5th Century to spread the Christian faith. The Pagan druids who were very powerful people at the time had St. Patrick and his nephew banished to Inchagoill Island. This is how the Island got its name - Inis an Ghaill (the Island of the Stranger)
While building their church Lugnad died and was buried on the Island. It is interesting to note that the stone has the shape of a boats rudder tying in with the theory that Lugnad was St. Patrick's navigator. We believe that Limanin was St. Patrick's sister.
Many archologists claim that this inscription is the oldest Christian inscription in Europe apart from one found in the Catacombs of Rome.

Other Info

Cruises to Inchagoill Island:

Depart Ashford Castle Cong 11.00 a.m and 2.45 p.m.
Lisloughrey Pier Cong 11.15 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Oughterard - Cong departs 11.00 and 2.45 p.m.
these run from April to October.
click here for location no.31a

St. Patrick's Nephew's Grave, Inchagaoill Isl.