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The Islands

The Islands

As well as exploring the below listed Islands and taking advantage of the daily ferry trips to Cape Clear, Sherkin and Heir Island, there are also many more activities to be sampled and things to do in West Cork





Sherkin Island

Only 10 minutes ferry crossing from Baltimore. The islands offers tranquil beauty with breathtaking landscapes and stunning clean golden beaches. Leisure walks past Francisacn Abbey, O'Driscoll Castle ruin, old Light House and art dislpays

Sherkin a small , lightly populated island located just off Ireland's southwest coast in West Cork directly opposite Baltimore, Ireland. There are ferries daily from Baltimore (15 minute crossing). Baltimore Harbour is a large, well sheltered natural harbour and is very popular with sailors. A pleasant relaxing day could be spent here. The island is busiest during the summer months. The Ferry to Sherkin sails from Baltimore on the mainland. This island is a tourist destination. The journey to the neighbouring Gaeltacht island Cape Clear takes on average approximately 40 minutes.

Sherkin has its own special character. Many of Sherkin's residents are active in the fields ofart: island craft, paintings and book writing, all inspired by Sherkins tranquil lifestyle.

The busiest season starts with school summer holidays when people with young families visit the island. The busiest day of the year is a celebration of Sherkin Regatta, usually held on the 3rd weekend in July, but which is postponed to August if weather does not allow. On this day the island is crowded with sea rowers and their fans. Children's activities, music and food stalls are all part of this Sherkin fair.

Taking just 10 minutes on the ferry from Baltimore Sherkin Island (from the Irish Inis Earcáin) is one of number of islands in Roaringwater Bay. It has an average population of 100 people and measures 3 miles long by 1.5 miles wide (5 km by 3 km). The island has a primary school, two pubs with a hotel, B&B, community centre and a church. 

The island plays host to a number of visiting migratory birds such as the a number of Terns and several breeds of Gull and around Roaring Water Bay there is a collection of Black Guillemot Puffins to be seen. Onland otters are to be found in the wetland areas and near rivers, streams and lakes as well as the sea. As well as birds and otters the surrounding waters play host to a number of species of dolphins, whales, sharks, turtles, various sea life and of course seals which can be seen on the island and which calve on the nearby appropriately named Calf and Carthy islands. The Whale and Dolphin ecotours provided on the island and inland in Baltimore give ample opportunity to try and observe these creatures in their natural inhabitants.

Sherkin is home to a number of artists of all genres and its residents are involved in the island ecology, farming and food producing trades to name a few. This means that there is Art exhibited in the craft centre by the Jolly Roger Tavern and in the Abbey around Sherkin that highlight the best of the resident artists open from May to September. In the summer season the island is at its busiest with people of all ages visiting. The busiest day of the year is the Sherkin Regatta, usually held on the 3rd weekend in July, weather permitting. On this day the island is crowded with sea rowers and their fans and there are a range of children's activities, music and food stalls in this Sherkin fair. 

Also on the island there are a few things to observe mainly the Abbey or Friary which hosts art and photographic exhibitions throughout the summer months  and offers views of the island surrounds. Inland there are also various opportunities to take part in a range of activities such as kayaking (renting kayaks from the mainland), surfing particularly off Cows Strand on the island and sailing with an Islanders Rest Marina and some sailing courses available through Glenan’s Sailing Club and Baltimore Sailing Club. There is also opportunity to take advantage of Sherkins less hilly landscape and cycle around the island to various spots. There are also a number of beaches to note including Silver Strand and Cows Strand where one can sunbathe and relax or go swimming or surfing. Also provided one tidies up there is amble space to camp around the beaches of Silver Strand and the Horshoe Harbour and if the mood takes you you can set up a barbeque on the beach. 

For some food and drink try the local tavern the Jolly Roger for drinks and home grown dinner and the Islanders Island Hotel for drink and bar snacks. Both have beer gardens where you can eat and drink while taking in the views of the harbour with the Baltimore harbour in the distance and on certain times of the year especially on a Sunday there can be music heard in the Jolly Roger. There is also a takeaway, the Tigin Takeaway, for a quick bite to eat on the way to the beach.

Cape Clear

The journey from Baltimore West Cork to the Irish speaking island of Cape Clear takes just forty five minutes on The Cailin Or Ferry or Cape Clear Ferry (New Website) and is a spectacularly beautiful one on a clear day. Here you will receive a warm welcomefrom the people who live at the most southerly tip of Ireland apartfrom the Fastnet lighthouse which lies six miles to the South-West.Places of interest include, the heritage centre, the ornithologicalcentre and St. Kieran’s church. The island also has shops, pubs,accommodation and a restaurant.

Wild romantic scenery with heather, gorse and wild flowers covering steep rugged hills, sparkling harrbours and spectacular cliffs, all contributing to the island's unspoilt charm. Many historic sites and a birdwatchers paradise.

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.

The Fastnet Lighthouse

situated in the Atlantic Ocean and marking Ireland’s most southerly point the Fastnet Lighthouse - also  known as the teardrop of Ireland - was the last piece of the country emigrants saw as they parted for their new life in America.

Just six miles from Cape Clear and seven from Crookhaven it is often referred to by it’s Irish name, Carraig Aonar meaning the lonely rock. The first lighthouse built on the rock - finished in 1854 - was made of cast iron but was not thought to be able to withstand the weather after part of the rock had been swept away by the fierce Atlantic waves in 1865, so, in 1896 granite blocks were shipped over from Cornwall to build a new one. However, this was not completed until 1906 and while under construction the foreman in charge - James Cavanagh - sometimes stayed there for a year at a time.

As well as being an invaluable mark for both large and small ships alike the Fastnet is also useful to the many locals, some of whom judge the weather according to the rock’s visibility. Image courtesy of Failte Ireland.

Heir Island

A little piece of haven, tucked away in a corner of Roaringwater Bay. An idyllic location for family picnic on a necklace of wonderful, sheltered sandy beaches. Heir island can be accessed throughout the year on the MV Thresher Ferry departing from Cunnamore Pier near Baltimore. 

With a population of just 10 to 25 year round residents with up to 150 in the summer, a pier, a fine sandy beach, a shop and a restaurant, Heir island is a popular destination for those who want a bit of peace and quiet away from the hustle and bustle of life on the mainland. Although having no pub Heir island is populated by a number of self catering cottages, B&B’s, a shop and a restaurant, the Island Cottage. The Island Cottage restaurant is an up and coming restaurant of some renown. As well as fine food and dining, the restaurant also provides an opportunity for visitors to avail of some cookery courses while staying on the island. From April to November this restaurant has a range of cookery courses the most popular being a two day cookery course for groups of two people where they spend the night on the Island and in between cooking lessons can enjoy the rest of what the island offers.

For the intrepid explorer and would be ecologist the centre of the island has an extensive marsh with a vibrant reed bed where you'll find many unusual birds and over 200 varieties of wild flowers, and it thus is an ideal spot to rent a bike and cycle around or walk along the many trails taking in the views it provides of the coast, the sea and the panorama of surrounding islands and the mainland of Baltimore. As well as being remote and quiet and thus providing a welcome break for some, it is also paradise for those who want to take advantage of its coastline and seafaring activities and opportunities. Heir islands’ coastline and its safe sailing waters is perfect for many watersports and activities.  

Heir Island has seven silver sandy beaches with the most well known being the Reen beach making them ideal spots for some swimming and sunbathing while taking in the rays of the sun during the summer months. With the Atlantic waters pure and unpolluted and being of a reasonably consistent temperature throughout the year it is a good place all year for a variety of water activities including swimming, kayaking, angling, sailing, windsurfing, surfing and diving.  The many caves, sea arches and creeks around Heir Island can be easily explored on a kayak around the island and the island provides lessons and opportunities to learn and enjoy this activity. And for those interested in sailing there is a Sailing School situated on the island that catering to a teaching and accommodating up to 18 mixed ability sailors at one time.

Heir Island provides for a number of different visitors being simultaneously suitable for those wanting a quiet break and the waters and facilities also providing for those who want to make the most of the waters and beaches around. 

Loved our stay here, beautiful beers brewed on site as well. The food was fantastic, with the breakfast being a big highlight, I'll be dreaming of those scones for a while to come ��

Eoin Lynch -

Just back from a wonder 2night stay at Casey's of Baltimore! Everything about Casey's was wonderful from the moment we stepped through the door to leaving!! Room was spotlessly clean, bathroom looked brand new & spacious. Breakfast both mornings was 10 out of 10. Ate dinner both nights in the hotel fish(haddock)& chips with side salad absolutely gorgeous so much so I had it again on the second night. Staff were very attentive polite & very efficient. Highly recommended staying here!! Thanks to you all at Casey's hopefully we'll be back again!

Olga Gardner -

Absolutely a lovely family run hotel. Have stayed here twice in the past six and both great experiences. I very much enjoyed the breakfast. Fresh orange juice, cheeses + ham and smoked mackerel, very tasty. They also have a mirror brewery and the 'Sherkin Lass' is ��

Brian C -

We love this place, it’s the nicest to stay in the area. We had a room in the lodge which was spacious, bright, like new , very quiet and absolutely spotless. The food is fantastic- from the complimentary scones and huge breakfast to the top notch sea food options for lunch and dinner. The staff is super friendly and welcoming. It’s just great to spend the evening in the bar and chat to the locals. The in-house brewery is worth a tour and Terra is a very passionate and knowledgeable brewer who will answer all your questions. We also got to try the different beers. Overall a fantastic stay and we can’t wait to come back again soon!

D E -

We had a terrific meal here on a visit to Baltimore. The food was fresh and tasted home made. The fish pie was fantastic and the stew was wonderful. The staff were very nice, friendly and personable.

Aisling O'Callaghan -

Stayed there with two friends on the 3rd May, beautiful room, amazing staff and an amazing breakfast, the best I have ever had, hot food, hot plates, will definitely be going back.

Noirin Buckley -

Whether it's a contemporary wedding, blessings or a civil ceremony, you can relax in the knowledge that your wedding will run smoothly.

Alex Rey - Cork

Thank you all so much for a wonderful stay! It couldn't have been more fantastic. The rooms, food and accommodations were lovely. We are planning our O'Driscoll family stay for next year with you!

Paul o’Driscoll - Mayo, Ireland

Stayed a night, it was so good we stayed another. The place is fantastic, cosy, warm. And the staff are great, welcoming and helpful. Food is some of the best food we have tasted on our trip so far. 

Paul C -

Walking home after our meal and sampling the home brew from the on-site West Cork Brewery was just what we needed as we were comfortably stuffed with the large, delicious portions of the freshest seafood around, not to mention the home brew..

Mary B -

Crab and prawn starter was very tasty and four of us had tempura of prawn starter as a main course. This was generous in size and really well cooked. 

Mark W -

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