Cape Clear Island
County Cork, Republic of Ireland
from Walking in Ireland
ABOVE: Martello watchtower and abandoned lighthouse on Cape Clear Island.
Cape Clear Island, called Cléire or Oileán Chléire in Irish, is the most southerly inhabited patch of land in Ireland. The hilly island is 3 miles or 5 km long and looks a bit like a Scottish Terrier in profile, with a narrow neck behind the head connecting the North and South Harbours. A passenger ferry takes 45 minutes to cover the 9 miles or 14 km distance from Baltimore in County Cork.
Cape Clear's year-round population is less than 140 but grows to several hundred during the summer, when Irish students from ages 11 to 18 attend "Gaelic colleges" where they can practice their Irish. (Cape Clear is a Gaeltacht island where Irish is the primary language.) Irish courses are available to both youth and adult groups, including teachers and corporate employees, at Ionad Foghlama Chléire, a.k.a. Cape Clear Island Language services.
Cape Clear also attracts walkers, amateur birdwatchers, and the ornithologists who man the Cape Clear Bird Observatory during spring and fall.
To find your way around the island, use Map 88 of Ordnance Survey Ireland's Discovery Series and the free Island Heritage Map. The latter shows the island's roads, walking paths, sights, accommodations, pubs, artisans' workshops, and other places of interest. You might also consider buying a book about Cape Clear Island if you're interested in history, ornithology, or folk life.
Accommodations are limited, so book ahead, especially in summer. Ciarán and Mary O'Driscoll offer comfortable lodgings in the Cluain Mara Bed & Breakfast and the self-catering Cape Clear Cottages next to their bar and restaurant, Ciarán Danny Mike's Pub. The O'Driscolls' lodgings are just uphill from the ferry pier in the island's small village; they have a Web site at capeclearisland.com.
Another B&B, Ard na Gaoithe, is just uphill from the South Harbour, where you'll also find the Cape Clear Island Hostel in the old Coast Guard station and a hillside campground with a spectacular view, Chléire Haven, which offers tipis and fully-furnished Mongolian yurts along with the usual bring-your-own-tent campsites.
For more information on the island's sights and services, visit:
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