Dursey Island – Connect with Ireland’s Only Cable Car
Fancy beating the rat race for a little while? Dursey Island is the place to do it. Lying across a narrow sound off the tip of the Beara peninsula, this is the dictionary definition of escape – no business, no traffic, no hassle. Just you, rugged nature and the awe-inspiring Atlantic Ocean at one of the signature points on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way.
There is one sign of civilisation, of course – Dursey’s unique and charismatic cable car. Hitched to the mainland above dolphin-rich Dursey Sound, this is Ireland’s only cable car, running 250 metres above the sea. With the capacity for just six people at a time, it’s a lifeline for the handful of inhabitants living in three small villages on the island.
Stepping onto the island, visitors can continue on foot along a stretch of the Beara Way. Highlights on Dursey include the ruins of O’Sullivan Bere’s castle, a 200-year-old signal tower with views stretching to the Skelligs and Mizen Head, and several standing stones. The indented coastline, open bog, and wild winds leave you in no doubt – you’re far from the madding crowd.
Five Things to Do on Dursey Island
1. The Cable Car is an Experience in Itself
Strong currents in Dursey Sound make crossing by boat hazardous, and led to the construction of the island’s famous cable car which operates to this day to bring islanders and visitors alike across to the island at the end of the Beara peninsula. It’s a memorable and awe-inspiring way to travel over the swirling waters below!
Please note that the cable car only operates for certain periods of the day and has limited capacity. Please check the timetable here and allow at least 5hrs for your trip.
2. Encounter Birdlife at the very edge of Europe
This is a wonderful spot for anyone who takes an interest in birdwatching. Gannets, Manx Shearwaters, Guillemots, Razorbills and Puffins can be sighted here, and the island is home to breeding Choughs. During the migration season, you might even see rare migrant birds such as Wilson’s Warbler and Ovenbird from North America, the Eastern Olivaceous Warbler and Red-flanked Bluetail from the east, and Hoopoes and Bee-eaters from the south.
3. Walk the Beara Way
The stark beauty of this island at the tip of the Beara peninsula, with its rugged cliffs, open bog and patchwork of fields, gives you a real sense of Ireland’s wild Atlantic spirit. A hike here is an exhilarating experience and a wonderful opportunity to take in some salt air fresh off the sea! For more details, see here, and check the cable car timetable.
4. Be part of the West Cork Islands Festival
Visit during the West Cork Islands Festival each June to learn more about the lives of the modern-day islanders, and the history of the island through the generations. See our islands event calendar for details of events on all of West Cork’s islands during the event.
5. Find Traces of Dursey’s Past
From the graveyard you pass soon after you arrive on the island, to the schoolhouse, there are traces of the past all around you here. The Signal Tower which stands on the westernmost hill has commanding views north to the Skelligs and south to the Mizen peninsula and was built 200 years ago as a line of defence against the French. Monks from Skellig Rock are said to have founded the ancient church of Kilmichael on Dursey, which is now a ruin. O’Sullivan Bere’s Dursey castle was sacked by English forces in 1602, and local inhabitants thrown into the sea. Dursey – like nearby Bere and Whiddy islands has a fascinating story to tell.
Find out how to get to Dursey Island, and learn about island accommodation and events here.