in Bantry Bay & West Cork
Bantry Bay is home to several beautiful islands which all offer something different and present their own unique way of Irish island life. There are eight islands in West Cork and three of these are in Bantry Bay. All the islands are easily accessible from Bantry and are a worthwhile visit while in the Bantry area.
Whiddy Island lies in beautiful Bantry Bay, just a short ferry crossing from Bantry pier, making it a popular spot for day trippers. Truly an island paradise, though only 3 miles long x 1.5 miles wide, and nestled in the sheltered heart of the bay.
The island’s climate is influenced by the Gulf Stream creating a unique ecology and a wealth of wildlife. Beautiful red and purple fuchsia is abundant on the island throughout the Summer and Autumn and the common Butterwort is also found here – one of the few ‘insect eating’ plants found in Ireland.
Whiddy is a haven of peace and tranquillity. It’s easy to spend a quiet afternoon rambling the roads or fields, bird watching at the island’s two lakes or enjoying a guided historical walk exploring Whiddy’s rich naval history or historical ruins. It’s also a place to sit and relax, to enjoy stunning views out over Bantry Bay with refreshments from the only pub on the island, Bank House. Watch the children play on the beach, in rock pools or fish for crabs off the jetty.
Garinish Island (Ilnacullin, Garinish or Garnish) is located in the sheltered harbour of Glengarriff in Bantry Bay. The Gardens are the result of the creative partnership of Annan Bryce and Harold Peto, architect and garden designer. The island was bequeathed to the Irish people in 1953, and was subsequently entrusted to the care of the Office of Public Works.
The Garnish Island Ferry departs from Glengarriff Pier and the trip includes a wonderful visit to Seal Island where you will visit the very tame seal colony. Garinish is world renowned for its breathtaking gardens which are laid out in beautiful walks and feature stunning specimen plants which are rare in this climate. It is a photographers paradise!
The island also boasts a Martello tower on its southern shores which has been restored by the OPW. There is an amazing view of Bantry Bay from the battlements of the tower.
Bere Island has a vibrant community providing a wide and varied range of events and activities for islanders and visitors. It lies at the entrance to the magnificent Bantry Bay and guards the deep water harbour of Berehaven. The island is just 2kms offshore from the town of Castletownbere. The Slieve Miskish and Caha Mountain ranges of the Beara Peninsula tower over the island providing a dramatic backdrop. The island is roughly 11kms x 5kms in size with a population of just over 200.
The island is rich in archaeological sites dating from the Bronze Age, including ring forts, standing stones, wedge tombs and burial sites. Dating from the 19th Century are Martello towers, a signal tower, military barracks and a fortification which hosts two six inch guns, all of which can be seen today.
Despite its proximity to the mainland, Bere retains that distinct, easy charm of rural places distant from cities and crowds. It’s a quiet paradise, of a size that is manageable for walkers and cyclists. Bird watchers and plant lovers will delight at the many species to be found on land and at the water’s edge. Other attractions not to be missed include detailed exhibitions at the Heritage Centre; dining on local Bantry Bay produce; or just enjoying the ambience of one of Bere’s pubs or restaurants.
Dursey Island (Irish: Oileán Baoi – Yellow Island) is situated at the western tip of the Beara Peninsula and is 6.5 km long and 1.5 km wide. The island is separated from the mainland by a narrow stretch of water called the Dursey Sound which has a very strong tidal race, with a reef of rocks in the centre of the channel which is submerged at high tides. This peaceful island, with only a handful of permanent residents, is connected to the mainland by Ireland’s only cable car.
Originally opened in 1969, the Dursey Island cable car remains the most used method of transport across the turbulent waters of the Dursey Sound and offers a truly singular experience. Ireland’s only cable car, and one of the very few cable cars that traverses seawater in all of Europe, it is one of the great attractions of the island and people travel from far and wide to give it a go! The Cable Car runs all year round, weather permitting.
Dolphins and whales are regular visitors to the rich waters that surround Dursey, in addition to a wide range of different types of seabirds and butterflies. Tours are available to explore the island and vist the three rocks off the island, The Bull (pictured), The Calf and The Cow. Dursey has no shops, pubs or restaurants, so visitors are advised to bring food and water if they plan to go for a walk.
Bull Rock, Dursey Island
Just five minutes by boat from nearby Schull village, Long Island is the perfect tonic to take a step back and unwind. Pleasant walks, shingle beaches, and abundant wildlife combine with beautiful south-western scenery here to create a real offshore treat.
Inis Fada, as it is known in Irish, gets its name from its shape. This is a low-lying island stretching almost 5km in length, but barely a kilometre wide. A surfaced road services about half the length of the island, with a rough, unkempt routes extending to the Beacon lighthouse and an old copper mine in the east and to the cliffs at the west.
Walkers, bird-watchers and boaters will be in their element here – enjoying an afternoon whilst keeping an eye out for otters, seals, dolphin, whales, and even the occasional basking shark.
For more information visit West Cork Islands
Sherkin Island is a pleasant 10 minute ferry ride from the village of nearby Baltimore. You will find yourself in a totally unspoilt setting offering ideal surroundings for a pleasant walk and some safe sandy beaches for swimming. It has an abundance of flora and fauna that attract many nature lovers and birdwatchers.
Sherkin has its own special character. A West Cork anecdote has it that Sherkin’s residents live off their art: island craft, paintings and book writing all inspired by Sherkin’s 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.
Cape Clear Island
Cape Clear Island
Ireland’s southernmost inhabited Gaeltacht island, 3 miles long by 1 mile wide, lies 8 miles off the coast of West Cork. 3 miles west of the island stands the solitary Fastnet Rock. Saint Ciarán, the island’s patron saint, allegedly the earliest of Ireland’s four pre-Patrician saints, was born on Cape Clear. Saint Ciarán’s well is one of the first features you encounter on arrival at Trá Chiaráin where the Islanders gather each year on the 5 March to celebrate his feast day.
To the northwest stretches Mizen Head, the mainland’s most southerly point. Cape Clear’s wild romantic scenery, its sparkling harbours, its cliffs, bogs and lake, all contribute to the island’s unspoilt charm. Heather, gorse and wild flowers cover the rugged hills.
Myriad stonewalls have a patchwork effect on the varied landscape. Megalithic standing stones, a 5,000 year-old passage grave, a 12th century church ruin, the 14th century O’Driscoll castle, (cannonaded in the early 1600’s), all relate to times past. Cape Clear’s remote island location, coupled with its proximity to the continental shelf, makes it the foremost centre for bird watching in Ireland. Whales, leatherback turtles, sun fish, dolphins and sharks are spotted regularly every year. Most of the 120 inhabitants speak Irish and English. Removed from the hustle and bustle of mainland life, Cape Clear offers relaxation, nature and peace. It is an excellent setting for Cape’s two Irish summer colleges.
For more information visit West Cork Islands
Heir Island (also known as Hare Island or Inis Uí Drisceoil) is a great place to visit and is only a four-minute ferry from Cunnamore Pier, approx 30mins drive from Bantry. The island cottages, which were built at the beginning of the last century, have been beautifully preserved and are dotted around the landscape.
Offering the visitor stunning views, walks, sandy beaches, a profusion of wildflowers and bird life, the island also hosts many events such as theatre, music, cookery courses, sailing, kayaking, yoga and more. With its wonderful scenic beauty and diverse range of activities it has also become a natural place of home and work for many renowned artists.