After visiting St Colman's Monastery on Inishbofin, myself and José, a fellow enthusiast, took a pre-arranged boat trip to Inishshark (Irish: Inis Airc). Our day just seemed to be getting better and better. The last inhabitants evacuated the island in 1960, so apart from the sheep, we had the island completely to ourselves. St Leo is reputed to have built a monastery here in the 7th century. On a rocky outcrop, near the south east shore are the remains of an early ecclesiastical enclosure. Inside the oval enclosure/cashel is the small roofless oratory, pictured left, known as Clochan Leo.

The Oratory

Inscribed cross

The image above shows the northside of the enclosure perched on top of the outcrop. During, relatively recent, excavations a cross slab was discovered buried beneath the soil. The slab, which was not present on our visit, may have been re-buried. Archaeologists believe that Clochan Leo was the last stop on a fourteen station pilgrimage that took place on the island. On one of the stones inside the clochan is inscribed with a pilgrim cross, see image above. I just wished that we had more time here to find the leacht, bullaun stone and holy well that are also present on the island.

The 19th century St Leo's church is reputedly built on the site of the early monastery. The structure incorporates some stones from an earlier, 12th century, church that was also built on the site. Also present on the island is an early cemetery close to the slipway. Click here to view a video of the last inhabitants preparing to leave the island.

View from Inishshark with Inishbofin in the background, taken with a zoom lens.

Situated: The cemetery is on the north west side of the slipway. St Leo's Church can be seen to the north of the cemetery and Clochan Leo is the small rocky outcrop seen on the skyline WSW of the church.

Discovery Map 37: L 4968 6404. Last visit May 2017.

Longitude: 10° 16' 16" W

Latitude: 53° 36' 17" N

Google Map

Photos: Jim Dempsey.

Medieval grave.

Previous-----Home-----Next Page