Entirely off-grid and unattached to the mainland by so much as a cable or pipe, Lambay is partially run on energy generated by solar panels and a wind turbine that are rigged up to a complex battery system. While the turbine and panels produce more than enough energy to run the entire island, we are thwarted by the storage system, which is unable to hold all the energy produced.
Throughout 2015 and 2016 we revamped the entire energy system, allowing it to extend to more buildings on the island. The ultimate goal is to get it to a level where it will generate and store enough power to sustain the entire island, and to then move to entirely renewable energy sources including eco-friendly fuel for fires and stoves.
Lambay also has its very own natural spring, the Trinity Well, which provides us with beautifully fresh volcanic spring water the year round for drinking, washing, cooking and bathing. This is now also used to create our very own Lambay Whiskey.
Lambay Farm: Sustainable & Organic Practices
The farm on Lambay has been running since before Cecil and Maude bought the island in 1904, but the only information we currently have on record is of that from the family. Daphne reminisces in I Remember, I Remember about her mother Maude churning the fresh milk into butter and making "island cheese" with Kathleen Cashman, who came from Killarney to work on Lambay as a dairymaid, housemaid and cook and whose striking portrait by Maude still hangs in the Castle hallway outside the kitchen.
At some point during Rupert's "reign", there was a conversion from dairy to beef cattle and the "Lambay black face" sheep were removed as the number of staff on the island dwindled throughout the late 20th Century. By the time of Rupert's death in 1994, Lambay's farming activity was greatly reduced. Two members of staff, however, set their eyes and hearts on the protection of Lambay and settled in for the duration.
Today our head farmer, who shall remain unnamed in respect of his privacy, has been on Lambay for over 40 years and has seen several changes of the guard, the most recent being the reinstating of Rupert's grandson Alex as the estate director and manager, in 2012. Since then the farm has seen a revival, with the return of our sheep flock along with a Lambay shepherd!
Our Aberdeen Angus beef cattle as well as the sheep are bred for their meat, and we take pride in practising farming as organically as possible. Both sheep and cattle have a free range life, eating the fresh grass and natural meadow vegetation across the island, with home grown hay and silage to subsidise this in the winter months.
Our farm meat, along side venison from the island's fallow deer and even the occasional wallaby, is distributed through a local meat company in County Dublin, and can be found in some of the area's Michelin star restaurants, as well as having featured on AerLingus' first class in-flight menu.
On the island we keep aside a small portion of the meats (yes, including fresh wallaby - as they have no natural predators on the island, we have to cull them annually) for the family and special guests, including members of our Island Club. This is often complemented perfectly with delicious natural produce foraged from the shoreline, the gardens and further afield.
By its very nature as an island, Lambay has a unique eco-system and microclimate that remains independent of the mainland. Visitors and guests are quick to note the proliferation of bees and butterflies of all shapes and colours, who thrive thanks to a lack of pollution, disturbance and an abundance of flora and natural habitat.
The Barings are committed to protecting and maintaining this precious eco-system not only for the flora and fauna, but also as a place where sustainable living and sustainable practices are prevalent, reminding us to slow down and live in a responsible and healthy manner.
From production through to waste, island life requires more thought to go into our behaviour when it comes to consumption. Starting on the production level, we practise organic farming on Lambay for the cattle and sheep - ensuring they have a natural free-range lifestyle and with minimum medical intervention unless strictly required.
Island dwellers put in a food order once a week to come over on the boat, so planning and imagination is required to ensure there is minimal waste without then running out of food by the end of the week! Where time permits we make our own bread and we use home grown herbs in our cooking.
Over the coming years we aim to get the walled vegetable garden back to a level where we can grow the majority of our own fresh produce, saving unnecessary packaging being brought over from the mainland. We already use much of the naturally growing ingredients in our cooking, with our top foodies and caterers Monica Wilde, The Edible Flower and Lottie Brook choosing to forage for what they need - be it herbs, garnishes, flowers and fruit; seaweeds, wild mussels and clams; or fresh wallaby meat for stews and mince!
Another plan on the horizon will be to set up some bee hives and one day have our own Lambay honey.
COMPOST & RECYCLING
Another reason for limiting what we bring over from the mainland is the packaging - everything on Lambay must be recycled or composted, and there is limited space for storage. What cannot be recycled must eventually be returned to the mainland, so we keep this to a minimum.
Throughout 2016 we invested in a glass crusher and another for plastics and metals. Each kitchen on Lambay has an organised waste system, with separate compartments for Tins/Cans, Plastics, Glass, Paper/Card and Skip Waste. For food we have Compost and Cooked Waste, the former going onto our composting heaps and the latter going to the birds and the lobsters (assuming there is any left after our island husky Echo gets her treat!).
The first wine turbine was installed on Lambay as far back as the 1980's. We have since added solar panels and in 2016 we updated the equipment to a far more efficient system which now powers the Castle hot water and heating, as well as the entire island's electricity.
Off-grid living requires a responsible attitude towards energy consumption; what cannot be provided by the wine turbine and solar panels must be shipped over from the mainland at great expense and requiring complex logistics and manpower. While we already generate enough renewable energy to power the whole island, our current system has a limit on how much energy it can store. As a result, we are still reliant on oil burners and coal to heat some of the shoreline buildings until such a time that we can upgrade the entire system to a more powerful one.
We must also be conscientious with our water consumption; while there is an unlimited supply during the winter months, a particularly dry summer can cause our spring levels to drop considerably.
There are few places left in the modern world that provide a community with an environment which requires it to think carefully and responsibly about sustainable practices on a day-to-day basis. Here on Lambay, we consider it a blessing as it reminds us to be grateful for everything we have, and to be imaginative with the resources available to us. Sometimes that may mean concocting an unusual meal with whatever is left in the cupboard the night before the next food order is due to arrive; or rigging a lighting system that will ensure lights are not left on unnecessarily; or planning the washing loads to use minimal off-grid power. Other times it means putting down the phones, the iPads and the laptops to read a book by the fire, play a game or simply enjoy the freedom of a long walk in the unspoiled natural habitat of the island.
Lambay's Island Club has been created to share this unique world with the bold and the bright who find themselves going at full speed while immersed in city life. The aim is to remind these successful and driven individuals that slowing down for a short time can enhance their productivity no end; by immersing them in a shared experience that taps into a different part of their brains, we allow these brilliant people to form Sustainable friendships and business relationships that lead to new and exciting projects, based on a truer sense of a responsible and sustainable lifestyle going forwards.
What To Do & What To See
There is Croquet, Ping-Pong, Bocce and also the Billiards room if staying in the Castle. We also have a substantial collection of board games, puzzles and family games for indoor entertainment. In the coming year we will be reviving the Real Tennis Court and eventually reinstating the regular tennis court in its original location by the Walled Garden.
For those of you with a penchant for more: with advance warning, we can assist in arranging a variety of extra activities, including sea fishing expeditions; a tour around the island by boat; pheasant or clay pigeon shooting; scuba diving (the Tayleur wreckage lies 20m below sea level at the back of the island). There is also the opportunity to arrange more intense activities through OrangeWorks.ie such as axe-throwing, kayaking, archery and Bear Grylls challenges.
Monica Wilde, a dear friend of Lambay's and a professional forager with astounding depths of knowledge, offers relaxed and informal day trips for small groups for a limited time during each season: she will take you foraging around the island, teaching you how to forage safely and sustainably while also informing you of the health benefits of your finds. And then she will show you how to cook delicious and nutritious meals with the spoils of your expedition! Please contact for further information.
Lambay is internationally important (and a Natura 2000 site) for its breeding seabirds and is home to the largest breeding colony of Atlantic Great Grey Seals on the east coast of Ireland. It also holds a remarkable place in European natural history as the site of a pioneering biological investigation undertaken by the naturalist Robert Lloyd Praeger in 1906. They even found some entirely new species!
There is plenty to do on Lambay: the island offers delightful walks with impressive views, the chance of a wallaby or seal spot (!) and at low tide, the shore around the harbour reveals a large sandy beach, rock pools and a swimming area.
What To See On Lambay
1. Lambay Castle (C16th fort, 1910 Lutyens)
2. Real Tennis court
3. Harbour with sandy
4. Site of Bronze Age
finds and Hiberno-
5. Chapel extended by
6. Fosse of Norman fort
7. Coastguard cottages,
Bothy (Club House)
and White House
9. Shags, cormorants
11. Promontory fort
12. Promontory fort
13. Guillemots, fulmars,
14. Neolithic tumulus
15. Axe-head site
19. Kittiwakes, fulmars,
21. Tayleur Bay, scene
of the wreck of RMS
22. Kittiwakes, razorbills,
Painted by Patrick Pollen, the original art decorates the White House mantlepiece.
THE REAL TENNIS COURT
In 1921, at the request of Cecil Baring, Lutyens designed and built the Real Tennis Court on the sea front, forming the striking white facade with arches which greets passing sailors today. The court is currently in a state of disrepair but it is alleged to be one of just two outdoor courts left in the world, so plans are in place to renovate the court to its former glory and one day hold the Lambay Cup Championships here on the island.
Lutyens did not omit to improve the Chapel throughout his Lambay reign. Originally a 19th Century structure with white wash walls, Lutyens extended it and stripped it back to its Lambay porphyry base, allowing more light to enter and adding a beautiful stained glass window above the altar which was designed and made by Patrick Pollen (son of Daphne & Arthur and grandson of Cecil and Maude). He also added a portico of Doric columns over the entrance, adding a sense of occasion to the building as a whole.
Beyond the architecture there is yet more to discover. The White House beach boasts white sands and clear waters with delightful rock pools full of creatures and seaweeds. An early evening walk along the shoreline will often invoke the curiosity of the island's seals, who delight in inspecting us and our guests. There are various coves and beaches around the West coast where the seals can be found basking in the sun, often with their fluffy white newborn pups.
The summit, known as Knockbane, is 127 metres above sea level and marked by an Ordnance Survey pillar atop what is believed to be a Neolithic burial mound. It offers a breathtaking view of the island and surrounding sea, with the mainland in the distance giving you an unparalleled sense of seclusion, peace and privacy.
THE NOSE & TAYLEUR BAY
From Knockbane, a walk to the very nose of Lambay takes approximately one hour and will take you past Tayleur Bay, where the R.M.S Tayleur infamously sank in 1854 after hitting Lambay in thick fog, just two hours into her maiden voyage from Liverpool to Melbourne, Australia. Over 300 passengers perished, with just three survivors. One of them was a chef of African-American origin; the story goes that when he finally reached the Coastguard Cottages in search of help, the island occupants had never before seen a person with dark skin and were too afraid to open their doors to him!
Over the back of the island there is much to explore; Lambay is a Natura 2000 site and protected bird sanctuary - home to puffins, razorbills, kittiwakes, cormorants and black-backed gulls among others - take care not to tread on the eggs during Spring! Then of course, there are the fallow deer and our famous mob of island wallabies. Stealth is required to get close to them as they are shy creatures, but there are over 100 and they can often be spotted sunbathing or hopping along the horizon and through the fields, particularly at dusk.