Friday, 16 September 2016

Island 348 - Heir Island, County Cork

Heir Island, which is also known as Hare Island or Inishodriscol, is located just off the west coast of County Cork.  At its nearest point at Cunnamore, the island is only about 400 metres from the mainland.  It is located to the north of Sherkin Island.  At its widest point it is about 1.5 miles long by 1 mile wide.  Heir Island was owned by the O’Driscoll Clan, hence its Irish name.

Heir Island can be accessed by passenger ferry from Cunnamore Pier.  The ferry is well signposted from the N71 Skibbereen to Ballydehob road, which is useful because it is 4 miles down ever narrowing lanes.  When you get to Cunnamore Pier there is a large car park. There are two companies running ferries to the island: the one run by the island's Sailing School only serves Heir, while the other one serves Heir and Sherkin Islands.  The crossing time is about 5 minutes.  I travelled on the Sailing School Ferry, the MV Thresher.  It is a bit scruffy and all the seats were wet, even those under the
little canopy.  The ferryman was a man of few words, but what he did say I struggled to understand, as he had a very strong Cork accent.

I spent 2 hours on Heir Island on a rainy and foggy afternoon in September 2016, so I didn't see the island at its best, although there were plenty of blackberries to eat.  I didn't meet many people on the island.  There was a farmer silently staring at his cows in one field and then later I saw him staring at some more cows in another field.  He travelled back to the mainland on the same ferry as me but remained silent.

In 2011 there were 29 people living on Heir Island but in 1841 it was home to 358 people.  The houses are scattered around the island and many of them are holiday homes.  There are a couple of metalled roads, which makes for easy walking and the island is gently undulating.  The highest points on the island are 26 metres above sea level.  The island is divided into fields and there were cattle grazing in several fields when I visited.  There is a restaurant at Island Cottage, which is open during the summer months and they also run a small cookery school there.  There is a shop at the sailing school.  It was unmanned when I was there but it did say that it was open and that you could summon assistance by ringing a bell.  There is apparently a public toilet near the Sailing School but I didn't find it.  I opened one door, which said Ladies on the door but it seemed only to contain showers.

Sailing School
Jetty on the north coast
 Memorial to the O'Neill Family who once lived in a house on this spot
 O'Neill Memorial with sheepdog and small boy statue
Island Cottage Restaurant & Art Gallery
 Heir Island's Old National School
 Water Pump and small Shrine outside the Old School
Gort na Cille: Graveyard for unbaptised children
 Known as a cillin, the burials would have been carried out at night by the father of the dead child, assisted by other male relatives.

 Some of the island's bovine residents
 House at the western end of the island in the fog
 House at the western end of the island
 Beach on the South West Coast
 Telephone box for people who don't want to make phone calls, as it has no phone in it!
Ferries in the Harbour
The one on the left is the MV Thresher

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