Heir Island – Gourmet Food & A Gorgeous Landscape
An island off the western edge of Europe is the last place you’d expect to find gourmet food (and learn how to cook it). But that’s what makes Heir Island (also known as Hare Island) wonderful.
Using local duck and produce, together with shrimp and crab caught by island fishermen, the island’s cookery school is a real hidden gem. Food lovers come from far and wide to hone their culinary skills over the course of a weekend, and guests dine together in the evening.
One of Carbery’s Hundred Isles, Heir Island is an unspoilt oasis, the kind of place where caves and creeks are best explored by sea kayak. Island cottages date back to the 1920s, with newer houses built on the same design, giving a genuine feel of a retreat, a sanctuary, and a place to book some much-needed time out.
Naturally, it’s not all about cooking. The light in West Cork attracts many artists and Heir Island has its’ share. There is a well-regarded art gallery here, the established Heir Island Sailing School, a retreat centre with regular yoga and meditation events, and several sandy beaches that are safe for swimming. Indeed, you’ll find any number of ways to work up an appetite – be it angling, island-hopping, bird-watching, diving, or cycling. And surrounded by the panorama of Roaringwater Bay, you have all the ingredients for a return visit too.
Seven things to do on Heir Island
1. Learn to Sail at the Heir Island Sailing School
Heir Island is situated in West Cork’s Roaringwater Bay amongst Carbery’s 100 Isles. Its’ safe sailing waters and wonderful sandy beaches give it a coastline that is heaven for the adventurous. A Training Centre, approved by the Irish Sailing Association, provides residential accommodation approved by Fáilte Ireland. Heir Island Sailing School hosts fantastic learning experiences for up to 25 mixed ability sailors at any one time. For more information see heirislandsailingschool.com or contact Kevin on Tel. +353 (0)87 148-8127, Email: email@example.com.
2. Enhance your Culinary and Baking Skills
There’s simply no better place to learn the art of breadmaking than West Cork’s Heir Island. From soda breads to yeasted loaves, from savoury snacks to sweet treats, there is something for the experienced home baker, complete beginner, or a food lover alike. Firehouse Bakery’s one-day courses are run by chef and baker Patrick Ryan, the co-author of “Bread Revolution”. To book, see http://thefirehouse.ie/bread-school.html
3. Explore the Bays on Angling, Whale-Watching or Island-Hopping Boat Trips
Take the opportunity for whale-watching on West Cork’s pristine bays, or try your hand at angling and catch fish in West Cork’s pristine waters with Heir Island Ferries. You can alo enjoy Fastnet trips and island-hopping services to get a real sense of life on and around West Cork’s wild Atlantic coastline. Contact Heir Island Ferries to find out more.
5. Learn to Cook at the Island Cottage Cookery School
Heir Island’s Cookery School is a fantastic place to learn about food and the importance of fresh, local ingredients. After your exertions, take a visit to the Island Cottage Gallery which hosts performances from the West Cork Fit-up Theatre Festival during the summer months. The Island Cottage Restaurant is renowned, and an afternoon here spent enjoying the best of West Cork’s food, is one of the real pleasures of the Wild Atlantic Way.
5. Relax and Restore at a Yoga or Meditation Retreat
Recharge your batteries by immersing yourself in an experience designed to nourish and transform. The peaceful, restorative powers of the island are ready to welcome you. Leave your car on the mainland, step off the ferry and feel your cares drifting away as you soak up the peace and wildness of this magical place. The combination of the sea air, walks on the beach, the wild open beauty of Roaringwater Bay, the company of island cows and a healthy dose of laughter…creates a uniquely healing weekend.
Retreats take place at the Heir Island Retreat, Island Cottage Gallery and outside overlooking the sea. Accommodation is provided in island cottages or Roaring Water Lodge. See our events calendar for retreats taking place this year.
6. Find 200 Varieties of Wildflowers
There are over 200 varieties of wildflowers on Heir Island, such as the Parsley Water Dropwort, Corn Spurrey, Field Pansy, Field Woundwort, Black Bindweed, Pale Persicara and Ivy -leaved Speedwell. It’s also a haven for unusual birds too! Visitors take in gorgeous panoramic views over Sherkin Island, Cape Clear, the Calf Islands, the East and West Skeams and Mount Gabriel as they discover the richness of the flora and wildlife on beautiful Heir Island.
“The Wild Plants of Sherkin, Cape Clear and adjacent Island of West Cork” by John Akeroyd says:
‘The deserted school house on the island is a notable site for ferns. Several occur in abundance on the walls of the old playground; of special interest is Rusty-back fern at its main station in Roaringwater Bay, and Wall Spleenwort at its only station in the islands. Both benefit from the lime rich mortar of the wall.
The choicest plant on Heir Island is the Spotted Rockrose, which flourishes in at least two healthy places. Should you find this delicate plant, leave it for others to enjoy. It has survived here probably since the glaciers retreated and it would be sad to lose it now.’
7. Explore Heir Island by Bike or Kayak
Heir Island has seven silver sandy beaches, perfect for swimming and sunbathing. For the adventurous, the island’s coastline is ideal for kayaking, angling, sailing, windsurfing, surfing and diving. A bike gives you an easy way to explore the island and take in the stunning views across Roaringwater Bay. And those with a good sense of direction will find the walks on Heir Island worth a ramble. For more information on island activities, contact Kevin on +353 (0)87 148-8127, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on visiting Heir Island – with links to accommodation and things to do,
HEIR ISLAND FAQs
How big is Heir Island?
Heir Island is about 2 miles long and 1 mile wide. It is a short ferry ride from Cunnamore pier to the island.
What is Heir Island’s population?
The island has a population of about 30. This is swelled in the summer months by people who come to learn sailing at the Heir Island Sailing School.
Can I drive onto Heir Island?
No – Heir is an offshore island. It is easily navigable on foot, and you will need to leave your car at Cunnamore pier on the mainland.
Can I buy food and drink on the island?
In July and August, t he Fuzzy Duck Cafe (10am to 6pm) and Pizzheiria (2pm to 8pm; booking advised) are open from Thursday to Monday. During the other months of the year, please bring a picnic, your own food and refreshments, and come prepared for weather. For details on the island’s current offering, see the Heir Island website.
The Island Cottage restaurant and cookery school on the island are much in demand, but they are only open in the summer months on selected days and booking in advance is essential.
Are there places to stay on Heir Island?
For an up-to-date list of places to stay on Heir island, check out the island’s own website which provides details of B&B and self-catering accommodation.
Is there a cash point on the island?
No – there is no cash point. While some businesses will take cards, it is a good idea to bring cash with you.