Cunnamore pier is the departure point for the short four-minute ferry crossing to Heir Island. A magnificent 10-minute walk from your landing and you’ve reached John Desmond and Ellmary Fenton’s Island Cottage Cookery School. Situated in a cosy whitewashed cottage which nestles into the landscape, this culinary school is a perfect example of good goods in small packages.
The walk around Arainn Mhor (Arranmore) is sign posted as Sli Arainn Mhor (part of Bealach na Gaeltachta which is a National Waymarked way) and begins and ends at the Ferry Port. The views in all directions along that walk are stunning and the western half of the route is particularly remote.
The monastic site on Skellig Micheal is reached by climbing over five hundred steps on up a 1000 year old stone stairway. Stone beehive huts where monks lived and prayed centuries ago cling to cliff edges alongside oratories, a cemetery, stone crosses, holy wells and the Church of St Michael.
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Toraigh’s remoteness has led to the preservation of the traditions and way of life of its resilient and independent people. Their music, dance, song and stories are living expressions of an ancient Gaelic culture. Many of Toraigh’s ancient customs still survive, including the appointment of the island king or Rí Thoraí.
The crystal clear waters surrounding Arranmore provide great dive sites and sea angling, while the island's freshwater lakes are home to brown and rainbow trout. Boats for sea angling can be hired and there are abundant cod, ling, conger eel, pollock, wrasse, skate, turbot and plaice. Birdwatchers will enjoy seeing fulmars and shags and climbers can tackle the steep cliffs.
Inishbofin is renowned for its water sports with surfing, kayaking and rock fishing growing in reputation annually. For many though the awesome views from the Island are enough of an inspiration to visit. The sweeping vistas take in mountains, including the unique white face of An tEaragail Mountain (Mount Errigal), and seascapes from Cnoc Fola(Bloody Foreland) to distant Toraigh (Tory Island), to the tip of Horn Head.
Inishfree (or Inis Fraoigh), lying 5km off the coast of Donegal, offers visitors an opportunity to step back to a simpler time, a time without cars, televisions or technology, and to experience the raw natural beauty of a place that for many holds an air of distinctive spirituality.
This tiny undiscovered Island off the the coast of Donegal is a place to get lost, to contemplate, to walk. So secluded is Oileán an Bhráighe that is often missing from maps. One has to explore to find it. It is, however, surprisingly easy to reach. As long as you don't arrive at high tide you can drive across to this unique retreat. Before the causeway to the mainland was built, children used to wade through the water on stilts at low tide to get to school
Across from the fishing village of Baltimore, in West Cork, is the inspiring retreat of Sherkin Island. One of Carbery’s Hundred Isles, Sherkin is the ancestral home of the O’Driscoll clan whose castle lies just above the pier. Nearby, you can also roam the ruins of a 15th century Franciscan abbey. Wander along lane ways past banks of red fuschia, bright orange mombrisha and rocky fields hemmed in by dry stone walls.
Bere Island lies at the entrance to the spectacular Bantry Bay and guards the deep water harbour of Berehaven, in West Cork. The island offers breathtaking scenery organised activities and great hospitality. Berehaven Harbour and Lawrence Cove are very safe and sheltered harbours for large and small boats and the marina has full facilities for visiting sailors.
The most westerly of West Cork’s inhabited islands, Dursey is accessed via Ireland’s only cable car, which runs about 250m above the sea. The island is part of the Beara Way walking trail and having no shops, pubs or restaurants offers the day visitor a unique experience of calm with spectacular views of the Beara peninsula.
The Islanders of Cape Clear are a friendly bilingual community removed from the hustle and bustle of mainland life. Whether you come to Cape Clear to get close to nature, learn a bit of 'an Ghaeilge', taste some goats milk ice cream or enjoy the island's famous hospitality: Oileán Chléire offers relaxation, nature and peace
Only a short ferry ride from Bantry Town, in West Cork, lies Whiddy Island. This Island is a haven for wildlife and a great place to spend a day wandering. The island's climate, like other parts of South West Cork, is influenced by the Gulf Stream creating a unique ecology and wealth of wildlife.Due to its mild winter temperatures, it has a local reputation for producing the region's earliest potato crop.
The Great Blasket remains uninhabited today but the island is open to visitors. Explore this historic island on foot along its steep grassy paths and hilly tracks. Discover the pre-historic remains and extraordinary bird life as well as the large colony of seals who have made The Great Blasket their home. You can even camp the night on this wild and romantic island. Visit the Blasket Islands centre in Dún Chaoin for an insight into the islands.
The Skelligs are world famous, each in its own right. Skellig Michael is known throughout the world of archaeology as the site of a well preserved monastic outpost of the early Christian period, now designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Small Skellig is equally renowned in matters of ornithology as the home of some 27,000 pairs of gannets, the second largest colony of such sea birds in the world.
Valentia, off the South West coast of Kerry, is an island of great beauty and contrast. It is joined to the mainland by bridge via the Portmagee Channel. The western part of the island is dominated by the barren, dramatic cliffs of Bray Head which command spectacular views of the Kerry coastline while the mild effect of the Gulf Stream results in Valentia's balmy climate and lush, colourful vegetation.
Achill Island is home to five picture postcard Blue Flag beaches, some of Europe's highest cliffs and large tracts of blanket bog sweeping over the island's two peaks and down to the shore. Achill Island, or as it is known by its Gaelic name Oilean Acaill, has a long history of human settlement with megalithic tombs and promontory forts dating back 5,000 years. There is also a 15th century fortified tower house, Kildamhnait Castle, the 19th century Acaill Mission and the poignant deserted villages at Slievemore and Ailt.
Ceantar na nOileán is a group of Gaeltacht islands situated between Kilkerrin Bay and Greatman's Bay, 56km west of Galway City. They are linked by a chain of bridges and causeways which were built at the end of the last century. This beautifully scenic area, a few steps off the main tourist trail, is in the heart of the Connemara Gaeltacht and Irish is the spoken language. There are three Irish colleges here that aim to instil an appreciation and love of Irish and ancient Irish traditions in young and old alike.
Clare Island lies off the Mayo coast at the entrance to Clew Bay. Its spectacular cliffs are home to large numbers of nesting sea birds and its hills, bogs and woodlands make it ideal for hill walking. The largest of the Mayo offshore islands, the Island's complex history can be read through its landscape: from archaeological remains of the Neolithic and Bronze age, to rare medieval wall paintings in the 14th century abbey. One can view the castle and burial place of the famous 'pirate queen' Grace O'Malley's (Grainneuaile)
Inishbofin Island, 11km of the Galway coast, is renowned for its white sandy beaches, rare flora and fauna and magnificent scenery. It is an inspirational haven for artists, musicians and photographers. Iron Age promontory forts dot the cliffs, early Christian and medieval monastic remains tell the tale of St Colman and St Leo, 16th Century strongholds whisper of pirates Don Bosco and Granuaile and the remains of a 17th Century barracks cry out for the Catholic clergy once imprisoned here.
Inishturk, which translates as ‘Island of the Wild Boar’ is a small beautiful island located 14.5km off the west coast of Mayo, between the islands of Inishbofin and Clare. This tranquil Island, sits atop cliffs and steep hills that drop down to the Atlantic. Inishturk is only 5km by 2.5km in size and yet it is rich in archaeological sites, such as the old Napoleonic Signal Tower.
Inishbiggle, or Inis Bigil, is home to a traditional community where small farming and fishing are time worn traditions. Located between the mainland and Acaill Island in County Mayo, this unspoilt haven has stunning panoramic views of west Mayo. Inishbiggle, is a bastion of traditional life and the tranquil atmosphere, old world customs and glorious scenery are beloved by walkers. Its tiny population speak both Irish and English. For day trippers this is an idyllic island for walking and exploration.
Ireland’s offshore islands are a paradise for walkers. These small dollops of land offer a remarkable variety of trails – from short looped walks and strolls to lengthy hikes that will really blast away the cobwebs. Along the way, you’ll be treated to dramatic scenery, undisturbed nature and a huge collection of fascinating historical treasures.
Ireland’s offshore islands are peaceful havens where nature and wildlife can thrive undisturbed by urban influences. Quiet cliffs, empty beaches, abundant hedgerows and untamed stretches of grassland provide perfect habitats for a whole plethora of birds ranging from meadow pipits to curlews to kittiwakes and puffins. There is no end to the bird-watching opportunities, no matter which island you choose.
To visit one of Ireland’s offshore islands is akin to visiting an open-air museum. Quite literally every single one boasts a plethora of ancient tales and treasure – from spectacular 4,000-year-old forts like Dún Chonchúir on Inis Meáin to the military fortification of Lonehort on Bere Island or the remains of St Molaise’s 6th Century monastery on Inishmurray Island off the Sligo coast.
Follow in the footsteps of Ireland's famous writers. Visit Synge’s cottage, his favourite writing spot with spectacular views over the Atlantic. Or wander the deserted villages of the Blaskets and imagine the life that Peig wrote about. Whatever you pick, we hope it inspires your story to start unfolding.
It is always advisable to check sailing times with the ferry or boat operator before travelling and to book your journey in both directions in advance, or as advised by the boat operator. The boats may be large or small vessels, as indicated on this website. All sailings are weather dependent and often subject to demand.
Wear layered clothing and sensible shoes and prepare for the particular island journey you are planning. For instance, while some of the islands are populated, easy to reach and have a full range of services from accommodation to catering facilities, others are uninhabited and remote with no services. Your licensed boat operator is your best source of information and advice. Generally, if travelling to an island with little or no services you should bring your own food and necessary supplies.
Please leave the islands as you have found them, taking nothing but photographs and leaving nothing but footprints. Please respect monuments, habitats, dwellings, stone walls, plant and wild life. Please dispose of any litter in bins or bring it with you from the islands.
The islands represent a very special visitor experience but, because of their very nature, are fully exposed to all of nature’s elements. Consequently, their terrains are mostly rugged and the seas surrounding them can sometimes be wild. Always take the greatest possible care when exploring the islands and their waters.