Heir Island - Cork's hidden secret - Whats On In West Cork

Heir Island - Cork's hidden secret

David Caldwell 21:16 24 Aug 2020


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As we come out of lockdown and ferry (and cable car!) services have resumed to Cork's seven inhabited offshore islands you might consider visiting one of Cork's Islands less travelled - Heir Island.

Think of West Cork’s offshore islands and you might imagine Cape Clear or Sherkin - but amid the archipelago along Roaring Water Bay there’s a populated island which shores up a lot less attention, Heir Island. It is a four-minute boat trip from the mainland with an excellent ferry service. The island cottages, which were built at the beginning of the last century, have been beautifully preserved and are dotted around the landscape.

The island is known to many for its destination Island Cottage restaurant but while that premises remains closed for this season, Heir still offers myriad attractions. Visitors can go kayaking or sailing with Heir Island Sailing School, visit the island’s eclectic art gallery or grab a bite at the island’s pizzeria (worth establishing for the name alone: Pizzheiria).

But the island is rightly known for its natural appeal. From the pier, stroll across the narrow bridge at the townland known as Paris before exploring the island’s stunning beaches, like Trá Bán, and the spectacular south western cliff face known as the Dún. Heir Island, like much of West Cork, has attracted artists for generations, both as a subject and as a place to live.

Heir Island (also called Hare Island) is the third largest of an archipelago of islands in Roaring Water Bay off the south-west coast of Co. Cork, often referred to as Carbery’s Hundred Isles. In Irish, Heir Island is Inis Uí Drisceoil. The O’Driscolls were the main sept of the Corca Laoidhe tribe (pronounced Corcalee), who, at one time, controlled the area between Kinsale and Kenmare Bay. By the end of the fifteenth century their territory was much reduced. By 1601 and the defeat of the Irish Earls at the Battle of Kinsale, the O’Driscolls controlled only three small areas.

The O’Driscolls built many tower houses, usually called castles. In Collybeg, they built only one, Rincolisky, known today as Whitehall Castle. The O’Driscoll chieftain resided in Baltimore in Dún na Séad castle (now restored). Ó Driscoll Óg of Collybeg was next in line to the leadership. He was the Tánaiste (second in command). The name Heir probably derives from the Irish Inis an Oidhre (the island of the heir).

Heir Island, about two miles long and a mile wide, is separated from the mainland of Aughadown by a narrow stretch of water, the nearest point being Cunnamore, from which there are regular ferries to and from the island. The main pier on Heir is at the eastern end. There is an undulating road the full length of the island. In the middle of the island, there is high ground from which there are magnificent views; north is the Mizen peninsula and Mount Gabriel. From there is a descent to the Góilín inlet, which almost cuts the island in two. This is spanned by a narrow bridge which was constructed about 1910. West of the Bridge was at one time the most populated part of the island, and is often called Paris (probably from a corruption of the term Fish Palace, where pilchards were pressed to make fish oil).

Heir Island is a beautiful quiet island, easily accessible from Cunnamore Pier where there is a regular local ferry. Head to the far side of the island to the Paris townland and there are beautiful views and lovely beaches facing out to the Atlantic. There's one restaurant on the island but you have to pre-book - the food is excellent but the menu is very limited but worth it in the end! Go see for yourself and spend a relaxing day on this welcoming artistic and natural haven set among Carberys 100 Isles in Roaring Water Bay.

Ferry €6 return;

for more info, see http://heirislandferries.com/

& http://heirisland.ie/

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