Celebrating the best bits and bobs to be found while exploring Britain, Ireland and beyond. Much is inspired by real outings, whether they were walking, cycling or photographic in nature, while virtual blundering in the name of planning them has turned up some gems too. Regardless of how they were found, I hope that they keep coming so I can continue to share new things with you.
They may not be as many in number as those possessed by Scotland but Ireland has its offshore islands too. Continuing the comparison, Scotland may have a much more indented coastline but there are gashes in the Irish equivalent that necessitate river crossing ferries too. It is from both of these that this collection will be drawn. You'll notice that there isn't a major operator of island ferries like Scotland's Caledonian Macbrayne and that car ferries are a rarity when travelling over the sea. River and estuary crossings are a very different matter, not least given the amount of driving that is being saved.
These summer season operations between the coast of County Clare and the Aran Islands may come in handy if you are based around that part of the world for a stay. Modern passenger ferries are in use too so that may help for a smoother crossing to one or more of the islands in question.
It was only recently that I finally got to Inishmore, the largest of these bastions of Irish language and culture. It was this passenger ferry operator that conveyed me there and back. Bus Éireann got me to their mainland port of Rossaveal, a 23 mile journey west of the city of Galway. Other options include an add-on shuttle coach service, an organised day tour or your own car. On the islands themselves, you can walk or cycle if you fancy more activity than a minibus tour or a horse and trap ride.
Unusually for an Irish island, both of these will carry cars as well as the more usual mix of foot and cycling passengers. The schedules are good too and Bere Island must be visited by quite a few to justify this extent of service.
Until the 1950's, there was a viable community of hardy islanders but they had to leave for the mainland out of necessity. The outcome is that any human incursion nowadays is only fleeting and this passenger service fulfills that need. My impression is that peace and quiet is what will await you on a day when the weather is well behaved. The idea of visiting somewhere deserted by humanity sounds desolate but there is something enigmatic about the idea too, especially when you consider how much literature came from the minds of former islanders.
Cape Clear Island is Ireland's most southerly outpost of the Irish language and enjoys year round ferry connections to both Baltimore and Schull on the Irish mainland. Hnaily, there are several sailings per day so a day trip is a possibility and the island is not that big anyway. In addition, there are boat tours to Fastnet Rock for those seeking one of Ireland's more extreme corners.
It took an issue of Irish Mountain Log to bring this operation to my attention. It actually connects Greenore in the Republic of Ireland with Greencastle in Northern Ireland. The two places are only a mile apart and the crossing is hourly, linking the walking country of County Louth with the Mourne Mountain area in County Down. The sailings also save a lot of driving as well as conecting these alluring localities.
In spite of the name, the first of these serves Inishturk too while the second restricts itself solely to Clare Island. With two companies operating passenger ferries to the island, you have to conclude that there is sufficient demand for them from islanders and visitors alike.
The river is question here is the Lee near Cork City since this ferry service crosses from the mainland near Glenbrook to Great Island near Carrigaloe and Cobh. The ferry operates continually between 07:00 and 22:00 every day and the crossing only takes five minutes so you only have to wait a short time for the vessel to return if you have missed a sailing. Handily, it allows you to get to the delights of Fota Wildlife Park and Cobh without a cross-city journey when approaching from the opposite side to where Great Island is to be found.
The winter timetable has two sailings each way seven days a week on this passenger ferry and separate hires for purposes as diverse as weddings and school trips are possible too. All in all, it makes the island an easy visits and doubtless helps for the viability of the island community too.
This is another and maybe the original operator of passenger ferry services between Doolin and the Aran Islands. Boat trips along the Cliffs of Moher are on offer too. All sailings start out from Doolin's pier and that is around 2 km away from the village so it is best to allow for that during your trip planning, especially when you are travelling by bus.
This handy service saves having to go around by the city of Limerick and braving its traffic when wanting to go from North Kerry or West Limerick to West Clare. The company has existed for decades now and €28 is the not too unreasonable return fare for a car with passengers. Service frequency is up to half hourly and seems very reliable too, subject to fog, daylight and other operating conditions. The thing feels like its been there forever now and long may it last.
My first ever school trip was to Sherkin Island and I have to admit that it would mean more to me these days than it did back then when this sort of thing was very new to me; coach and boat rides, a longish walk on an island and other things were too far outside of my experience then for me to make anything of them. All of that may been a while ago but there is still a semi-open deck foot passenger service connecting the island with Baltimore on the mainland and with a good frequency too.
The trend of an island stronghold of the Irish language having a local ferry company serving its needs continues with this entry. During the summer months of July and August, sea cruises around the North Donegal coastline are on offer too. The vessel is a another half-decker that conveys only foot passengers but the island's size means that the lack of a car shouldn't be felt either.