Cape Clear – Oileán Chléire
Oileán Chléire (Cape Clear) is known as The Storytellers’ Island
Cape Clear has an enviable location – right on the cusp of the continental shelf. The entrance to Roaringwater Bay is one of the leading dolphin and whale sighting locations in Europe, and, if the weather’s on your side, you might also catch sight of leatherback turtles, sunfish, and sharks.
The island is also home to Ireland’s only manned bird observatory, which has been maintaining a daily species log since 1959. Located a mere two-minute walk from the ferry beach, the observatory is manned by a resident warden (March to November), and even offers birdwatchers hostel-style accommodation. May and October are high season.
In the summertime, Oileán Chléire (Cape Clear) is festive. Scores of Irish language students energise the island; day-trippers stroll to the lake or the Old Lighthouse; yachts ply in and out of the harbours, and Cape Clear yurts and hostel are bustling with visitors. A storytelling festival brings alive the oral traditions of yore, and outdoors enthusiasts pitch up with kayaks, fishing rods, hiking boots and binoculars. Beneath the seas, scuba divers prowl old wrecks and precipitous reefs.
The island is firmly on the radar of walkers too, many of whom – after a stroll on the pebble beaches or gorse-strewn headlands – will pop into one of the island’s lively pubs. The Cape Clear community speaks both Irish and English, and knows how to spring a music session, light a cosy fire, or spark a friendly chat. Visitors are always welcome at their social soirees.
Eight things to do on Cape Clear
1. Listen to tall tales at the Cape Clear Storytelling Festival
The annual Cape Clear International Storytelling Festival each September draws a babble of storytellers from around the world to enthrall audiences on the West Cork island. See capeclearstorytelling.com for details.
2. Tour the Fastnet Rock
The Fastnet Rock Tour day trip will bring you first to the Fastnet Exhibition and multimedia display in the Cape Clear & Fastnet Rock Heritage Centre. This will allow time to see the Fastnet Rock memorials on Cape Clear Island and to view the rock from the island itself. The tour later circumnavigates the rock to view it from all sides at close quarters.
For more information about this exhilarating tour go to Cape Clear Ferries
3. Enjoy unrivalled birdwatching on Cape Clear
Cape Clear Bird Observatory (Tigh na nÉan) was founded in 1959 by a group of four English birdwatchers. They recognised the enormous potential Cape Clear Island offered for observing bird migration. Not only is the island in an ideal position for watching passing seabirds, but it also attracts overshooting eastern and western migrating birds. It’s the perfect destination for anyone with a passion for birdwatching. Contact Steve for more information – firstname.lastname@example.org Tel. +353 (0) 281 9878 Website: birdwatchireland.ie
4. Sea angling & wildlife spotting on unspoilt waters
Sea angling, birdwatching and whale & dolphin spotting trips are all available from Cape Clear, which is located in one of the foremost international areas for marine wildlife spotting. Contact Michael at +353 (0)28 39182 or by email email@example.com.
5. Visit the Fastnet Experience at Cape Clear Museum
The marvelous private museum on Cape Clear contains interpretative exhibition panels that cover island settlement patterns, genealogy, folk and farm history, folklore, place names, education, famine, telegraph and maritime history. The exhibition about the building of the Fastnet Rock lighthouse is also of great interest to visitors, and the extensive records relating to O’Driscoll genealogy are a rich resource. The museum is open daily from June to September and by prior arrangement. To arrange a visit, contact Oifig Eolais / Cape Clear Island Information Bureau, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel. +353 (0)21 39119, Website: capeclearmuseum.ie
6. Explore loop walks on Cape Clear
Cnoicín’s Loop and the Gleann Loop are the island’s two official walking trails and well worth a few hours out. Cnoicín’s Loop is great for families while the Gleann Loop is a bigger challenge and offers a longer hike. Both offer spectacular views of the coastline and the wild Atlantic.
7. Visit Chleire Goat farm
Cape Clear Goat Farm was established in 1979 with four British Alpine goats. Join them for a fun-filled time at the farm where you can pet the friendly goats and sample their delicious goat’s cheese and goat milk ice cream! Walk-ins are welcome, but as it’s a working farm you can also call ahead and let them know you’ll be stopping by! There is also a goat course available by request. Tel: +353 (0)87 797 3056 Email: email@example.com Open 10 am-6 pm Groups welcome.
8. A taste of life on Mara Heritage farm
Mara Farm is a Heritage Farm run by Fiona Mac Lachlann. The farm is home to all kinds of interesting animals like Kerry-Bog ponies and Tamworth pigs (said to be the closest breed to Ireland’s now extinct native pigs). Fiona has a farm shop and cafe and serves delicious home baking and things like spiced beef on homemade soda bread. The farm has seasonal opening hours so give a call before you visit. Tel: +353 (0)28-39121
Visit Cape Clear
How to get to Cape Clear
Ferries sail daily from Baltimore, year-round and from Schull from June to August.
Plan your visit to Cape Clear
For more information on visiting Cape Clear – with links to accommodation and things to do, visit the Cape Clear website.
Irish College on Cape Clear
Coláiste Pobail Chléire is one of the most sought-after places to go to Irish college each summer! Cape Clear offers a unique setting for students to study; not only is it an Irish-speaking area in which the language is still very much alive, it is also an island! This provides students with a whole series of after-school adventure opportunities and a safe environment in which to learn.
Classes are held each morning with games, leagues, competitions, swimming, treasure hunts, and céilís. Other fun activities are organised in the afternoons and evenings.
Cape Clear FAQs
How do I get to Cape Clear?
You can travel to Cape Clear by ferry from Baltimore year-round, and from Schull in in the summer months. Find out more from Cape Clear Ferries. The 8-mile ferry journey takes about 45 minutes.
There is a car park close to the departure point in Baltimore. This can get quite busy in the summer months, so do give yourself time to park safely before departure.
Can I drive onto Cape Clear?
There is no way to bring a car onto Cape Clear unless you are an island resident.
How big is Cape Clear?
Cape Clear is 3 miles long by 1 mile wide.
What is the population of Cape Clear?
The Gaeltacht island has a population of 147 people.
Is there a cash point on Cape Clear?
There is no cash point on the island. Most island businesses take cards, but it is a good idea to bring some cash with you.