Cape Clear is a beautiful hilly island, 5km by 2km with two harbours. North and South Harbour. North Harbour is the safest and is the location for the ferries from Baltimore, Schull and the islands while the South Harbour is used mainly for berthing yachts. On the island by the North Harbour there is a shop, youth hostels, a heritage centre, B&B’s, pubs and places for the visitors and locals to eat out. As well as B&B’s and selfcatering cottages Cape Clear also offer the visitor to the island places to pitch their tent inland for an overnight stay and inland there are many special tents and camping areas especially built for people to stay in overnight.
The island has a permanent population of c.140 persons and the island is an official Gaeltacht (Irish speaking) area with a Gaelscoil catering to secondary students catching up on their studies in the early summer months, so for a chance to learn and hear some spoken Irish Cape Clear is a good option. And with the hustle and bustle of the students there is also music and craic to avail of in the pubs and area.
The island is busiest in the months of April through to September/October with the summer students and the various activities of the island to partake in.
Cape Clear island holds two festivals the Walking- Talking festival in May and the International Storytelling Festival in September. Of the two the international storytelling festival is the most well known. Here guests come to see real seanchais (Irish for storytellers) from around the world in action in relaxed and sociable settings with music and craic. The festival in its 16th year running is becoming world renowned offering a mix of international fame and multicultural diversity, suitable for all ages and nationalities.
Cape Clear is rich with scenery and wildlife and at certain times of the year April and October is home to scores of migratory birds making Cape Clear a must see for ornithologists. Because of this the Cape Clear Bird Observatory next to the harbour which was established in 1959 with a resident bird warden employed on the Island. For those interested the Cape Clear Bird Observatory runs wildlife courses ranging from weekend to five day courses where one can learn about the migration of Seabirds, and learn to observe and identify the islands birds and fauna. With most courses and services available on the island it is best to book them before heading to the island.
Other than partaking in these courses one can learn oneself through talking to some of the locals who often share some of their local knowledge of the area and its wildlife with people who express an interest.
As well as birds there are frequent sightings of whales, dolphins, basking sharks, sunfish and massive leatherback turtles. With this in mind there are many boat tours particularly the Whale and Dolphin tours to take advantage of while on the island so one can get a better view of the wildlife along the sea and the coastline.
Like most islands and Baltimore, Cape Clear Island also offers plenty of watersports for those craving a bit of adrenaline, with opportunities to go snorkelling, kayaking, sea and rock fishing among other water sports. There are also diving opportunities around the shoreline with a chance to explore underwater the many uwrecks surrounding the island.
Inlands on the island itself there are many walks and scenic areas to take note of on your visit to the island and the main scenic area is the still lake and the old lighthouse. Many unusual flora and fauna and species of wildlife and butterflies and a few farms can be seen along the way around the island. The roads around the area can be steep and hilly and require a bit of effort and exercise but the views at every step are well worth the effort for the scenery available of the land, the rugged coastline and great views of Sherkin and Long islands.
For those interested in history and culture Cape Clear is also rich in archaeology with amazing stone walls, ancient standing stones and bronze age monuments scattered throughout its landscape. There is a Napoleonic Signal tower, a 5000 year-old passage grave, a 12th century Church, a 14th century O’Driscoll castle and the historic lighthouse. Saint Ciarán, the island’s patron saint is allegedly the earliest of Ireland’s four pre-Patrician saints.
Overall Cape Clear has a range of many scenic views, facilities, activities, festivals and wildlife to interest many people and is well worth the visit if only to get a chance to hear some Irish (Gaelic) being spoken. So if one just wants to visit for the day or stay for a few days there are opportunities around.