The Island’s of West Cork
The long West Cork coastline is dotted with islands
and rocks. Many islands were once inhabited but now abandoned, while others have
only a small number of residents today.
The seven inhabited
island in West Cork are
Whiddy Island (Bantry Bay),
Sherkin Island (Roaringwater Bay)
Dursey Island at the end of the
Islands no longer inhabited include
The Islands are fascinating to visit and most are easily
accessible by ferry nearby.
Hare (my favorite where my maternal grandmother came from) is a small island
located in the inner part of Roaringwater Bay and has around 20 inhabitants. The
ferryboat sails regularly from Turk head just down the road and Cunnamore Point
on the mainland to the island.
Sherkin Island lies just off Baltimore Harbour. It is about 5km in length from
east to west, 2km wide and has fewer than 100 inhabitants. In the past the
island was a stronghold of the O’Driscoll castle and a Franciscan monastery are
to be seen close to the pier. Silver Strand is one of the finest sandy beaches
in West Cork. The ferry boast to the island sails throughout the year from
Baltimore harbour and in summer and at times from Cunnamore Point and Schull.
Cape Clear lies 15km off the sailing and fishing village of Baltimore. It is the
only island in cork where the native inhabitants (over 100) still speak the
Irish language; many students go to Cape Clear every summer for Irish tuition.
Ferry boats sail from Baltimore throughout the year and from Schull in summer
Long Island lies off Schull Harbour in Roaringwater Bay. It is 3km long and 1km
wide and has fewer than 30 residents. It comprises of around 150acres of land.
It is very close to the mainland and does not have a regular ferry service.
Bear Island near the mouth of Bantry Bay is one of the largest offshore islands
in West Cork. It is 10km long by 4km wide and has a population of just over 200,
well below the 2,000 prior to the Great Famine in the mid 19th century.
Between the mainland and Bere Island is a stretch of water known as Berehaven
Sound. It is well sheltered and is a good deep-water anchorage for large ships.
Bere Island has a long association with the military, which commenced in 1797,
after the arrival of the French Fleet in Bantry Bay. The Government of the time
erected a signal tower, five Martello towers and a barracks for 150 men on Bere
Today the Island is still used by the Irish military. The ferryboat sails
regularly from the mainland at Castletownbere.
Situated in Bantry Bay, Whiddy Island has become well known through oil terminal
located there. It has fewer than 50 inhabitants and a regular ferryboat service
from Bantry pier.
Dursey Island lies off the western extreme of the Beara Peninsula. It is the
only Island in Ireland with a cable car connection to the mainland. The Island
is two and a half kilometers long and one kilometre wide and comprises some
1,500 acres of rugged terrain and pastureland. The Island has less than a dozen
residents. Between the island and the mainland is a narrow sound; through which
vessels pass and the cable car travels overhead.
Apart from the islands, West Cork has many offshore rocks such as Bull Rock, the
Stags and the Fastnet rock. Bull Rock lies off the Beara Peninsula and has a
lighthouse which is now unmanned but still in operation through automation. The
rock is home to many species of seabirds including Gannet, Guillemot, Razorbill
and Shag. It holds the second largest colony of nesting Gannets in Ireland. The
Stag Rocks lie of Toe Head and consists of a series of jagged rocks. Many
trawlers and large ships have foundered there over the years. The Kowloon Bridge
bulk carried sank in 1986 close to the Stags. Carrying iron ore from Canada to
Britain, it got into difficulties in the Atlantic Ocean. A buoy and light now
mark the spot to the west of the Stag Rocks. The Fastnet Rock with its
lighthouse is probably the vest known of all offshore rocks on the south coast.