01 Jul 2019
Remote yet accessible, Ireland’s islands are little worlds apart that offer unique experiences for travellers.
Ireland’s rugged coastline is dotted with islands, some little more than large windswept rocks, others home to thriving communities.
Taking a trip, even for just a day, to explore the character, history and timeless tranquillity of these outposts is a guarantee of experiencing something extraordinary and truly memorable.
Two island gems lie off the West Cork coast and are easily reached by ferry from the village of Baltimore.
A crossing of just ten minutes takes you to Sherkin Island, known as the Island of the Arts. Inspired by the beauty of its landscape, many artists, writers and photographers have made it their home and an artist trail enables you to view their work. Walkers will enjoy the beach walks on Silver Strand and the paths that wind alongside that provide the chance to spot seabirds and passing whales.
Lying beyond Sherkin is the Gaeltacht (Irish speaking) island of Cape Clear, which recently hosted the Dutch King Willem-Alexander and his wife, Queen Máxima, as part of their official visit to Ireland. A 45-minute crossing by Cape Clear Ferry from Baltimore brings you to this romantically beautiful place which has the unhurried charm of bygone days.
Rathlin Island view to mainland
Heather, gorse and wild flowers carpet the hills between dry stone walls, and the island’s rich cultural heritage is reflected in its megalithic standing stones, medieval castle and church ruins. To really experience Cape Clear, walk its car-free roads and scenic pebble beaches, call into Séan Rua's restaurant for homemade food and take time to listen to the lilt of the locals.
Then there is the beautiful Rathlin Island, lying six miles off Northern Ireland’s celebrated Causeway Coast and just a short ferry hop from the seaside town of Ballycastle, County Antrim.
This unspoilt, L-shaped island is home to an internationally important seabird colony, a quirky upside-down lighthouse and of course a pub. Spend a while walking the peaceful roads, keeping an eye out for seals in the bay, and breath in the fresh sea air before calling in at the allegedly haunted Manor House for lunch or a warming drink overlooking the pretty harbour.
Or explore the famous Aran Islands on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, well-known as a hub of traditional Irish culture, language and music. The daily ferries operating from Rossaveal, County Galway and Doolin, County Clare, make getting to them straightforward.
If you’ve only time for one Aran lsland day trip, head to the largest of the three, Inis Mór, which boasts over 50 ancient monuments as well as spectacular walking and cycling trails, numerous festivals, and activities from language and craft workshops to yoga and meditation retreats.
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