You may never have heard of it - but Inis Rath, the Hare Krishna Island, is one of the most unique and rewarding stops when visiting County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland. If you find yourself south of Enniskillen, just across the border from County Cavan, you can literally take a ferry into a different world. The physical journey may be a short one but the spiritual residents hope that the trip will open your eyes to a new realm of possibility and self realization.
Inis Rath (also nicknamed and signposted as Hare Krishna Island) is a small island in Lough Erne. The island was once a place where rich landowners and their guests enjoyed target practice and shooting expeditions, but these days the local pursuits are much more peaceful. That is because the Hares have taken over - though put any thoughts of long-earred bunnies right out of your head. Owned by ISKCON, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (better known as the Hare Krishna movement to most people), little Inis Rath 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 totally simple but it is possible if you manage to time your visit along with the ferry schedule. To get there, follow the A509 and turn onto the Ballyconnell Road at Derrylin. From there, keep following the signs over quite rustic roads, until you reach a small car park at the very end of the road, next to Lough Erne. You will know that you are in the right place when you see the 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. However, the last part of the journey requires catching a fairly slow boat. The ferry runs at set times on Sundays, and you'll find yourself within minutes in seemingly total isolation, free to do what you like. On other days you'll have to ring the bell or call ahead (+442867723878 or +447827504332 from your mobile or a Northern Irish landline, 048-6772-3878 from a landline in the Republic of Ireland) in order to arrange a visit.
The welcoming Hare Krishnas of Inis Rath invite visitors to explore the island as they like. Being free to do what you like has, however, its limits and since 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). The temple is a spot of worship for the "Western" devotees from the Hare Krishna movement to use, but also many practicing Hindu Indian residents in Ireland. The overall feeling is multi-cultural, friendly, and extremely 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 ask you to leave of step aside if do 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. There is nothing to purchase on the island so be sure to bring a few snacks (but avoid anything non-vegetarian, please. This means no deli meat sandwiches), and some water or similar drinks (definitely no alcohol), if you plan to spend time here. Everything you will need, you should carry with you. In fact, apart from the eco-friendly toilets, 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 also a great playground between the temple and the old boathouse (which, by the way, and should be off-limits for unsupervised children due to how close it is to the water).
Why to Visit Hare Krishna Island
A visit to Inis Rath offers the chance to join a welcoming group of devotees in worship.
Even if you don't have a religious reason for visiting, the natural setting is lovely. 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