From North to South, Dublin’s islands are:
Rockabill (Carraig Dá Bheola – “Two Lips Rock”) comprises two granite islands, The Rock (strictly Lighthouse Island) and The Bill, separated by a channel about 20m wide and connected at low spring tides. About 6 km northeast of Skerries, they have a total area of 0.9ha above the high water mark.
Rockabill is owned by the Commissioners of Irish Lights. On the Rock there is a lighthouse, built in 1855-1860, rebuilt in 1900 and automated in 1989. Several walls and outbuildings have enabled a build-up of soil and the establishment of vegetation, which provides nesting cover for birds. The smaller Bill has very little vegetation.
Rockabill has a large population of Black Guillemots, Black-legged Kittiwakes, Common Terns and other seabirds, and is a Statutory Refuge for Fauna under the Wildlife Act 1976 and a Special Protection Area under the European Union Birds Directive.
Since 1989, when the protection afforded by the lighthouse keepers ceased, the islands have been managed by BirdWatch Ireland, whose Conservation Project for Roseate Terns, an endangered species, is one of their greatest success stories. With the largest colony in Europe (over 600 pairs in 2003), 90% of Ireland’s Roseates breed here, representing 35% of the European total. So the island really is off limits in season, i.e. in spring and early summer. Resident wardens enforce the restrictions.
Rockabill can be reached from the harbour at Skerries.
These inshore islands (“skerries”) off the coast near Skerries do not have a name in common. Three are listed as Areas of Scientific Interest:
Shenick Island is the most southerly of the inshore group, and has been a Birdwatch Ireland reserve since May 1987. The island has both a geological and natural history interest. There are breeding Fulmar, Oystercatcher and Shelduck, while in winter the numbers of Brent Goose, Curlew, Purple Sandpiper, Ringed Plover and Short-eared Owl make the island a nationally important site. It is dominated by a Martello Tower at its northern end.
The passage between Shenick Island and the mainland virtually dries out at low tide.
Colt Island is a small, low-lying island lying just off the point at Skerries, and has extensive reefs and breakers.
Saint Patrick’s Island / Church Island is a small island beyond Colt.
Whether Saint Patrick ever landed here is a source of some debate. The ruined early Christian church towards the eastern tip is well worth a visit. It is known that the small monastery dates back to Viking times. It was important enough to host a Synod in 1148 attended by fifteen bishops, two hundred priests, and several other clergy.
St Patrick’s Island has an internationally important breeding population of Cormorants (2001 Census) of 550 pairs. There are breeding gulls, Shags and Fulmars in summer, while geese, ducks and waders provide winter interest. There is a colony of 70-80 Grey Seals, especially during winter.