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 West Cork > Features > West Cork Islands

West Cork Islands

The Barony of Carbery covers much of West Cork and the title "Carbery's Hundred Isles" is given to an assortment of islands scattered in the aptly-named "Roaringwater Bay". A panoramic view of these islands can be got from the top of the hill near Lough Hyne. This can be a very pleasant climb on a summer's day, along well-maintained paths.
Carbery's Hundred Isles vary in size. The two main islands are Sherkin and Cape Clear. Among the rest are Hare Island (which has a small population and a restaurant with a growing reputation), Skeams, Goat Island, Calf Islands, Castle Island and Long Island (not as long as its twin in the U.S.A.!)

 

Sherkin Island:
Sherkin Island is the secong largest of Carbery's Hundred Isles and is only about 10 minutes journey by ferry from Baltimore. The snow-white beacon you see as you make the crossing is referred to by the locals as "Lots Wife", which has to be a slur on that biblical lady's figure - the edifice is not even pear-shaped. The island was once one of the strongholds of the O'Driscoll clan and has the ruins of a fifteenth-century friary, built by the O'Driscolls for the Franciscans. Sherkin's location has a double advantage; it has the tranquility of an offshore island but is so close to the mainland that the crossing is not hazardous, even in bad weather. As a result, not
only does it attract many holiday-makers but also, in recent years quite a number of non-islanders have set up home here.

Cape Clear Island:
Cape Clear Island the largest of Carbery's Hundred Isles with a population of about one hundred and fifty people is about six miles (alomst 10kms) from Baltimore. It marks the southern boundary of Roaringwater Bays and is Irelands most southerly land-mass - the final glimpse of Europe seen by liner passengers (including those on the Titanic) as they sailed to the U.S.A. For emigrants sailng from Cobh it was their final glimpse of home.
Cape Clear is associated with St. Ciaran, whose life predated the coming of St. Patrick to Ireland. Much of the island is still Gaelic-speaking and has an Irish language school, which attracts large numbers of students every summer. It also has an expanding tourist trade and during the migratory season is a mecca for bird watchers. There is a daily ferry service from Baltimore to Cape Clear throughout the year and in summer there is also a ferry service from Schull. The natives of cape Clear have a reputation of being very shrewd, summed up by the West Cork phrase "As cute as a Caper" (Cute in West Cork means "shrewd"; in the American parlance it has a very different meaning - an illustration of Bernard Shaw's observation: "nations divided by a common language").

Fastnet Rock:
Fastnet Rock is just a light house - gale swept in winter - on a rock well out in the Atlantic Ocean off West Cork's coast. It is sometimes referred to as "The Teardrop of Ireland". Whether this is due to the fact that it appears like a tear that has dropped from the face of Ireland or that it has guided many an emigrant boat into the wide atlantic, I do not know.
Fastnet is Irelands most southerly building, constructed of granite blocks imported from Cornwall. It was completed in 1904 and was automated in 1989. Prior to its automation, it must have been considered as a mini-alcatraz by the light-house keepers who were assigned (sentenced??) to serve there.
 

 

 
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