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24 July 2014
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Antrim Armagh Down Fermanagh Londonderry Tyrone
Cuilcagh Mountains Lower Lough Erne Boa Island to Lough Derg
Lough Beg to Lough Derg clipWatch Video Lough Beg to Lough Derg map

Script

Key Points

Boa Island, the long stretch of land we can see below, contains one of the hidden gems of Lower Lough Erne. On its western flank is Caldragh, an ancient Christian churchyard featuring pagan idols. The largest is 72 centimetres, or two and a half feet, tall. It's a Janus statue, meaning it has two faces. One is that of a calm warrior, while the other has an anguished look. The statue figures in Seamus Heaney's poem January God.

A similar figure was brought here from nearby Lusty More island in 1939.

Both Lusty More and Lusty Beg, which you can also see from here, were cultivated by monks. Evidence of this includes the ruins of a corn kiln. The two islands were once connected by a causeway, and you can still wade across when the water is low.

The people below us are pilgrims on the islet known as Station Island in Lough Derg. It's better known as St Patrick's Purgatory, and has been a place of pilgrimage since at least the 12th century.

Those who come here are allowed only one meal a day, consisting of tea or coffee without milk and a piece of dry toast. They walk barefoot around the stone remains of what were once the cells of a monastery.

The island's official name derives from the Latin statio, meaning a halting place or military guard post.

The buildings on the island include churches and a retreat centre. The lough in which it sits takes its name from the Irish 'dearg', meaning red, referring to the blood of the last great serpent which St Patrick is reputed to have killed here. Other scholars read the name as meaning the lake of the cave. In fact, a cave was the focal point of the pilgrimage here until 1790, when a chapel replaced it.

People come from all over the world to this tiny fragment of land. On the eve of the great famine in 1846, 30,000 people made their way here from every corner of Ireland.

Boa Island contains Caldragh, an ancient Christian churchyard featuring pagan idols.

Lusty More and Lusty Beg were cultivated by monks. Evidence of this includes the ruins of a corn kiln.

Station Island in Lough Derg has been a place of pilgrimage since at least the 12th century. It's better known as St Patrick's Purgatory.



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