Sunday, 18 September 2016

Island 351 - Dursey Island, County Cork

Dursey Island is the only island in the British Isles, which is connected to the mainland by a cable car.  Sadly I visited on a day when it was so foggy that you couldn't see the island from the mainland and could only just see the sea from the cable car.  It was my first ever trip in a cable car and it was a slightly surreal experience disappearing into the mist!

Dursey Island is located at the western end of the Beara Peninsula and is separated from it by the Dursey Sound, which is only about 200 metres wide at its narrowest point.  The island is 3 miles long by a mile wide. The Irish name for the island is Oilean Baoi, which in Old Norse means "the island of the bull".

There is no shop, hotel or café on the island, so you need to take your own food and drink.  I didn't see a public toilet on the island. There are a couple of self-catering cottages.

The cable car service began in 1969.  It was an attempt by Cork County Council to stop the depopulation of the island.   However it didn't work because in 2011 there was a resident population of 3, compared to 96 in 1951 and 358 in 1841. Most of the houses I saw looked to be in a habitable condition, so presumably they are the holiday homes of mainland dwellers.  I travelled in the cable car to Dursey Island with a man who lived on the mainland but also had a house on Dursey, which he said he visited a couple of times a week.  He told me that twice a year a ferry is chartered to visit the island and transport cars, bulky good and livestock.  

The cable car carries up to 6 people at a time.  It used to also transport one cow at a time but it no longer carries livestock.  It runs all year round but fewer times a day during the winter months.  The journey time is about 8 minutes.  It is not possible to pre-book tickets and I understand that it is very popular in the summer and that on busy days numbers of visitors are limited, due to the restricted capacity of the cable car.  Oddly enough there was no queue when I visited on a very foggy Tuesday in early September.  There is a large car park at the mainland end of the cable car.  You cannot take a bicycle on the cable car.

A circular section of the Beara Way long distance footpath is on Dursey Island.  There is a high level path over the hills and the return section is along the metalled road.  As it was so foggy when I visited, there was no point in walking the high level route, so I just walked along the road for a couple of miles and then turned round and walked back.  At several points I could hear the waves crashing on the rocks at the bottom of the cliffs.  However I couldn't see the sea or the rocks because of the thick fog.  I could see the wild flowers and spotted ragwort, sheep's bit scabious, tormentil, heather, buttercups, clover, gorse and foxgloves.   There were also plenty of blackberries to ear.  Sheep and cattle were grazing in some of the fields.

Dursey originally had three villages or townlands.  The village at the western end was Tilikafinna, and those at the eastern end were Kilmichael and Ballynacallagh

In 1602, during the Nine Year's War (Irish chieftains and their allies attempted to end the rule of the English over Ireland) the 300 inhabitants of Dursey, who were members of the O'Sullivan Clan were massacred by the English.  This event became known as the Dursey Massacre.

A signal tower was built on the highest point  (252 metres) on the island during the Napoleonic Wars.

Cable car on its early morning test run
Cable Car at the mainland end
Ruined chapel and graveyard
Slipway and Jetty at the north end of the island
Fishing Boat
 Fisherman's Hut
Two of the island's residents
Stone picnic bench and table
At least it won't blow away in a gale!
 Welcome to Dursey sign at Ballynacallagh
Old Pump at Kilmichael
A typical Dursey House (in the fog!)
Beara Way Signpost
Spotty house in the fog
Car park at the Dursey end of the cable car
Waiting Room?
It was full of bales of wool when I visited, so couldn't be used as a waiting room
Cable car approaching Dursey in the fog
Cable Car at Dursey Island end
Cable Car
Long list of terms and conditions.  I wonder what no 24, which is now blacked out, once said?

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