Did you succumb to the charm of Enid Blyton when you were growing up? Was your childhood literature like mine and littered with references to boarding school hijinx, a lad called Moonface who lived in a Magic Faraway tree or explorations with close friends resulting in, frankly, perilous adventures? If so then Sherkin Island is your own Irish version of Kirrin Island, sort of, waiting to be explored. Sherkin Island is a mere stone’s throw (not really, it’s a 10-minute ferry ride) from Baltimore harbor and retains a lot of the charm it had 50 years ago not having succumbed to too much development. It’s certainly a great way to beguile a few hours of a sunny weekend or for those who crave a detox from mainland life (except the mainland is still actually an island, Inception much!) it is a yoga, mindfulness, art-centric retreat.
One of only seven inhabited islands that dot the West Cork coastline, Sherkin has been inhabited for at least 4.5 thousand years with the remnants of a friary at the pier and a connection to pirates in the nearby Baltimore harbor. For more information click on the link here.
Sherkin is easily accessed by ferry which departs from Baltimore pier regularly during the summer months and is obviously weather dependent. Have a look at the timetable here so you can plan your visit. A return ticket costs €12 per adult and €4 per child (family tickets 2+2 cost €28). There is a limited bus service from Cork city centre (Parnell Place Bus Station) and you must change in Skibbereen and two buses that return to the city from Baltimore again via Skibbereen. The journey takes about 2 hours 20 minutes by bus and 1 hour 40 mins by car (plus din;t forget to add on ferry time-10 whole mins!)
What is there to do on the island?
Get back to nature, that’s what. We brought a picnic and walked to the south side of Sherkin Island, (about a 20-minute walk with some elevation) to Silver Strand. If vistas, unpolluted beaches, cool splashing sea and an abundance of nature is your thing then you’ll love it here. Sherkin is relatively unspoiled and under-developed in the sense that it hasn’t got a central island ‘village’. The unassuming ‘coffee shops’, art galleries and studios etc are more like pit stops along the way to nature as opposed to being part of a central point or hub on the island. Sure you came for the beaches, and nature walks (and maybe the marine station, island crafts, yoga and general mindfulness) anyway, right?
So we packed a picnic with us and so did a lot of other people on the ferry to Sherkin. Think; cooler boxes brimming with ginger beer and hampers full of cake and sandwiches. However, I have it on good authority that there are two bars on the island; Murphys and The Jolly Roger (which I hugely regret not visiting!). There is also a hotel on the island which serves pub grub as far as I am aware. SO while I would suggest you BYO and take away all your rubbish with you, there are a few options as well as the odd coffee stop and picnic fare.
Where are my beaches?
Ok, we headed straight for Silver Strand – about a 20-30 minute walk straight up (there is a little hill but it’s nothing like the one from Cape Clear pier) past the Abbey from the pier. The way to The Jolly Roger follows the road that veers off to the right but the strand is straight on. This is the largest beach on the island and on the southern facing shore. However, you also pass the smaller, sheltered, sandy Cow Strand. No cows were spotted on it the day we were there but I wouldn’t rule it out! There were wandering horses, so heads up. There are a number of other beaches/ trá, in Irish, dotted around the island which are worth a look if you have more than one day/ afternoon there. Silver Strand is signposted and there are flags fluttering at the entrance. Follow the wooden decking steps to the beach and choose a spot to park yourself for the day. The sand is clear and the walk out to the water’s edge isn’t far. There are rocks for shelter and rock pools for poking about in. I saw no bins so bear that in mind and take all your rubbish away with you. I saw a sign (and a few people walking back to the beach with takeaway coffee cups) for ‘Cafe Bruno’ and when I say sign I mean a handwritten board so there is a coffee spot nearby if you need it.
Post island fun
Not quite ready to leave the island vibes? Why not stay a while in Baltimore and explore the West Cork area. Inchydoney Island is under an hour’s drive and Mizen Head (Ireland’s most southerly mainland point). Explore Schull, Skibbereen and Cape Clear Island. There’s so much to do you’ll need to extend your holiday time.