Whiddy Island – A Hidden Gem in Bantry Bay
Resting between peninsulas in Bantry Bay, Whiddy Island enjoys a superb strategic position in one of the world’s finest deep-water harbours.
It boasts an intriguing naval history too.
During World War One, seaplanes from a US navy base on Whiddy patrolled Fastnet Rock. More recently, the island has served as a Gulf Oil terminal for berthing supertankers. It was here, in 1979, that the French tanker Betelgeuse exploded in what remains the biggest maritime disaster in Irish history.
Of course, there’s more to Whiddy than modern industry and warfare. At the Kilmore lakes, an early ecclesiastical enclosure features a holy well, church, and graveyard dating from the sixth century. In the early 1500s, the great chieftain Donal Cam O’Sullivan Bere built Reenananig Castle on the island. The castle was bombarded during the Cromwellian Wars, and finally collapsed in a 1920 storm; however three magnificent forts have survived.
Today Whiddy Island is a place where walkers can absorb a landscape steeped in history and – in the summer months – wreathed in red and purple fuchsia. It’s a hideaway where bird-watchers can break out the binoculars; an escape where everyone can grab a well-earned drink at the welcoming island pub. Whether you’re walking, boating, kayaking, or simply relaxing here, you’ll find an island of hidden depths.
Six reasons to visit Whiddy Island!
1. Make a splash on the Bantry Blueway
Whiddy is part of Ireland’s first Blueway trail, so why not head out onto Bantry Bay to enjoy a host of activities like kayaking, paddleboarding and sailing? On Whiddy Island, and around the bay, you’ll find information boards with trail maps, safety details, and tips on equipment hire and tuition. For more details see here.
2. Discover Whiddy’s military history
The island’s long history is peopled with Vikings and monks as well as Gaelic rulers, and in later times the island was a hub for pilchard fishing and for the military operations of British and American forces. A guided walk with islander Tim O’Leary – who featured in TV3’s acclaimed Islanders series – is a wonderful way to learn the military history of the island and the way that intertwined with the day to day lives of Whiddy’s islanders. Contact Tim O’Leary, Tel. +353 (0)86 862 6734.
3. Take a Whiddy Island walk
A walk on Whiddy Island is a real pleasure. The island is calm and tranquil and the scenery, with views over Bantry Bay, is stunning. The waymarked walk which is part of the Sheep’s Head Way walking route – takes about 3 hours and covers moderate hills, beaches, and roads, so sensible footwear is essential. For more information and to arrange guided group walks, contact Tim O’Leary via whiddyferry.com
4. Hire a bike and explore the island
Bikes are available to hire from The Bank House Bar on Whiddy Island, directly opposite the pontoon. Cycling is a great way to explore the island and take in the great views available on the island, and across the Beara and Sheep’s Head peninsulas.
5. Enjoy the arts
The West Cork Literary Festival runs a regular week-long workshop on Whiddy as part of its annual July programme, as well as other shorter events. It’s a wonderful place to meet some of the most intriguing authors of our times! And when August rolls around, Whiddy hosts performances as part of the West Cork Fit-Up Theatre Festival.
6. Enjoy a Sea to Shore Whiddy Island Tour
Explore Whiddy and the bay with Bantry Bay Boat Hire and a local guide, Youe will spend an hour on a rib on Bantry Bay touring around Whiddy Island, seeing the Gulf Oil terminals from the water, visiting the infamous jetty from the Whiddy Island Disaster of 1979 and learning about the island’s history from different vantage points on the sea. Then, you will be dropped off to meet your guide on the shores of Whiddy Island where you will explore the island on foot during a leisurely guided walk for two hours before returning to Bantry.
7. Sample seafood at the Bank House
A seafood platter from the Bank House on the shoreline of Whiddy Island is a wonderful way to finish off a day exploring the island’s lanes and enjoyable walking routes. The Bank House bar hosts regular live Sunday music sessions with local musicians in the summer months.
Find out how to get to Whiddy Island
Visit Whiddy Island
Start planning your visit to Whiddy Island, which is just a short ferry ride from Bantry, West Cork.
Start planning your visit to Whiddy Island, which is just a short ferry ride from the harbour town of Bantry in West Cork.
There is car parking at the main Bantry marina, which is just a minute or two’s walk from Bantry town.
For more information on visiting Whiddy Island – with links to accommodation and things to do, visit the Whiddy website.
WHIDDY ISLAND FAQs
Do people live on Whiddy Island?
Census 2016 estimated the population of Whiddy Island as 30, but, as late as 1880, the island had a resident population of around 450.
How big is Whiddy Island?
The island is about 3.5 miles (5.5 km) from northeast to southwest and about 1 mile (1.6 km) across.
Is there a hiking route on Whiddy Island?
The Whiddy Island Loop walk is part of the Sheep’s Head Way and is signposted from your ferry arrival point.
Are there places to stay on Whiddy Island?
Whiddy Island is home to the Whiddy Island Schoolhouse Hostel and a range of self-catering accommodation.
Are there places to eat on Whiddy Island?
Whiddy Island’s Bank House Bar is a great destination for seafood and other meals. The mainland departure point is within a short walking distance of Bantry’s restaurants and cafés.