You may never have heard of it - but Inis Rath, the Hare Krishna Island, might be a rewarding stop when visiting County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland, south of Enniskillen, just across the border from County Cavan. You'll literally take a ferry into a different world. And you'll be made very welcome there as well.
Inis Rath (also nicknamed and signposted as Hare Krishna Island) is a small island in Lough Erne.
Where once rich landowners and their guests enjoyed shooting, these days pursuits are much more peaceful. Because while the Stags are still there at times, the Hares have taken over - not the long-eared, furry ones, though. Owned by ISKCON, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (better known as the Hare Krishna movement to most people), it is a center for the Hindu faith, a nature reserve, an educational center, and a retreat.
Taking the Ferry to the Temple
Getting to Inis Rath is not that easy - from the A509 at Derrylin you'll have to take the Ballyconnell Road, following the signs over at times quite rustic roads, until you reach a small car park at the very end of the road, next to Lough Erne. With signs that tell you that you are welcome to visit Inis Rath, even if simply to enjoy nature – there are woodland walks around the island and wide swathes of sensibly landscaped gardens.
But you'll have to take the slow boat ... a ferry runs at set times on Sundays, and you'll find yourself within minutes in a seemingly total isolation, free to do what you like. On other days you'll have to ring the bell or to ring ahead (+442867723878 or +447827504332 from your mobile or a Northern Irish landline, 048-6772-3878 from a landline in the Republic of Ireland).
Being free to do what you like has, however, its limits - as Inis Rath is a private island, you will have to observe certain rules here. These include no smoking, no drinking of alcohol, and no eating of meat, all of which are clearly signposted. These rules also apply to those cruising on Lough Erne and using Inis Rath's jetty as a stop.
Apart from its natural attractions, Inis Rath houses a Hindu temple in the main building (which is the old hunting lodge, a charming Victorian relic in its own right) – not only "Western" devotees from the Hare Krishna movement use it, but also many Indians resident in Ireland. The overall feeling is multi-cultural, friendly, and overall welcoming - visitors will experience acceptance, may be drawn into conversation, but will never be pressured into joining any religious ceremonies. On the other hand ... no-one will throw you out if you want to experience the ceremonies, as long as you behave respectfully.
Amenities on the Hare Krishna Island
Visitors to Inis Rath should come prepared, and bring a few things of their own – take a few snacks (but avoid anything non-vegetarian, please ... so no beef jerky) and some water or similar drinks (definitely no alcohol), if you plan to spend time here.
There is no shop on the island. In fact, apart from the eco-friendly toilet block, amenities you can rely on are almost zero. You'll get a refreshing drink of water in the scullery, but that is all you can reliably count upon.
If you bring kids ... there is a great playground between the temple and the old boathouse (which, along with the jetty, should be off limits for unsupervised children).
Why Would One Visit the Hare Krishna Island
Apart from the obvious answer, namely to join the devotees in worship?
The first answer that comes to mind is ... nature. Though (or maybe because) only partly landscaped, and partly given over to untamed wildness, Inis Rath is a joy to explore. There are walks around the island dotted with life-size illustrations from Hindu mythology, leading you to aged woods, to the waterside, and through shrubbery that is simply great in bloom.
If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life or need a break from the usual tourist trail, head for Inis Rath. No strings attached.
Inis Rath Essentials:
Address - Hare Krishna Temple, Krishna Island, Derrylin, County Fermanagh, BT92 9GN
Telephone - 028-67723878 (business hours are given as daily between 4:30 am and 8:30 pm on the website)
Website - www.krishnaisland.com
Navigation - for GPS or satellite navigation systems, the coordinates to the Govindadwipa Ferry to Inis Rath are N 54° 11.482´ - W 007° 29.409´ - you can also use the UK Postcode BT92 9GN