Nothing says ‘escape’ like a break on an Irish island. There’s something special about landing on an island, whether you arrive by ferry or other boat, by swimming, or by an island via a cable-car — and you’ve all those choices on offer in Cork County.
It is one of only six counties in the country to have permanent island communities, having 7 inhabited islands in the West Cork Islands group and a large number of islands that are uninhabited and ready to be explored.
The uninhabited islands include Spike Island which occupies a key location in lower Cork Harbour, and has hosted a monastery, a fortress and a prison within its 104 acres, all of which have left their mark in the second largest natural harbour in the world. Also uninhabited is Garnish Island which is home to a garden of rare beauty that garden lovers from all over the world travel to see. The gardens are laid out in stunning walks and some wonderful specimen plants from many parts of the world thrive on the island thanks to of its sheltered location.
Islands can make explorers of us all, appealing to our inner-child, to the naturalist, the bird-watching twitchers, to walkers, and to the recluse. Some of our most dramatic scenery, and most abundant wildlife, from birds to whales and dolphins, are on or around the offshore islands. Out of the hundreds of off-shore islands, there’s something (history, folklore, fauna, flora, the freshest of air and the magic of insularity) for everyone.
On the third weekend of June every year the West Cork Islands invite you to discover them and become an ‘Islander’ at their annual West Cork Islands Festival. Reduced ferry prices and a number of discounted and free activities make the festival, initiated in 2011, a great opportunity to cross the waters and experience a thriving island culture and a very different pace of life to that found on the mainland.
On offer throughout the Islands are activities, many organised and participated in by locals, including guided tours, historical talks, water-based activities, workshops, art exhibitions, ‘ceol agus craic’, food and more. All to be enjoyed while you meander the winding ‘boreens’ and by-ways of the islands, appreciating views of the Atlantic ocean, at the island pace, where the only time that matters is the hour or day to catch the boat out.