South East Ireland Tourism
Travel guide to Ireland's south east
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The Saltee Islands

The Saltee Islands, comprising of the Great and Little Saltee, are located approximately 5 kilometers off the coast of Kilmore Quay, Co Wexford. The larger of the two islands, Great Saltee, is perhaps the best known bird sanctuary in Ireland, and is very popular with both day-trippers and bird watchers alike. The islands are privately owned but have been very generously made available to all for many many years. The Saltees are a haven for sea birds, supporting a broad array of species from gannets and puffins, to gulls and Manx shearwaters. Thriving populations of guillemots and razorbills pack the island’s cliff ledges, and create an incessant din from morning to night. The population of fulmars, too, play their part in all of this avian splendor.  In the early evening the sight of puffins congregating in large groups by their nests presents an extraordinary sight. The Saltee Islands lie on an important avian migratory route, and provide a vital stopping-off point for many thousands of spring and autumn migrants.

All of this activity is not lost on Wexford’s seal population too, and the islands have developed a population of approximately 120 grey seals, producing some 20 seal pups every year. The pups learn to fish in and around the islands, and poach any tiny chicks which fall from the overpopulated cliff-face nests above. But the most fascinating part of The Saltee Islands is, for us, the story of Prince Michael the First, the self declared King of the Saltees. He was a fascinating character who bought the islands back in 1943 and declared himself King. Luckily the Irish government did not take too much offence at his declaration, or indeed decide to re-take the islands with overwhelming force, or we might have had our own Falklands Islands incident. Instead Michael went on to build a throne and several monuments on the island, but he always offered them generously to anyone who wished to visit. The heavy stone throne of Prince Michael the First can still be seen on the Great Saltee to this day, and its inscription reads, “This chair is erected in memory of my mother to whom I made a vow when I was ten years old, that one day I would own The Saltee Islands, and become the first Prince of the Saltees. Henceforth my heirs and successors can only proclaim themselves Prince of these Islands by sitting on this chair fully garbed in the robes and crown of the islands, and take the Oath of Succession”.

Courtesy of Michael’s family, The Saltee Islands are freely open to visitors to this day, and local boats make the 5km journey over and back to Kilmore Quay throughout the summer months, and indeed for much of the winter months too.

How to get to The Saltee Islands

A number of charter boats run scheduled day-trips to the Saltees from Kilmore Quay during the summer months. Access is infrequent out of season, but day-trips are organized on public holidays or periods of moderate weather.

Explore more

The Saltees lie immediately off Kilmore Quay which is itself surrounded by beautiful coastal towns. Don't miss Fethard and Slade if you are travelling west, and don't miss Rosslare, and Wexford, if you are travelling east.

Where to Stay

There is no accommodation on the Saltees. Visitors are asked to vacate the islands before darkness.

Things to do in The Saltee Islands.

  1. Large colonies of puffins, guillemots, razorbills, Manx shearwaters, and fulmars.
  2. Large numbers of grey seals.
  3. Whale and dolphin watching at certain times of the year.
  4. The throne of Prince Michael the First of the Saltees.
  5. Saltees Monument and Inscriptions.
  6. Well deserved chips and battered sausage in the “Saltee Chipper” on your return to the mainland.

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