Irish monasticism developed independently of the Benedictine tradition, although it seems that the two merged later in their history. The Celtic peoples sprang from a different stock and their way of living the radical Christian life was...radical.
Apparently derived from contact with the monastery of St. Martin of Tours in Gaul and the tradition of wandering holy men, proper to the Irish people, the monastic life of Ireland served for the conversion of the people and their growth in secular knowledge.
St. Ninian founded the first monastery in the isles. Tradition has it that he was trained in Rome and served in St. Martin's monastery before returning to his home in modern day Scotland. There he built the first Christian Church north of Hadrian's Wall and founded a monastery destined to influence Irish and Scotch religious life forever.
The Celtic people's spiritual heritage included pilgrimage, learning, severe asceticism and the direction of spiritual mentor. The monasteries grew up as centers of learning and holiness as monks and nuns strove to hand themselves entirely over to Christ and to serve his people.