The Barony of Carbery covers much of
West Cork and the title "Carbery's Hundred Isles" is given to an
assortment of islands scattered in the aptly-named "Roaringwater Bay".
A panoramic view of these islands can be got from the top of the hill
near Lough Hyne. This can be a very pleasant climb on a summer's day,
along well-maintained paths.
Carbery's Hundred Isles vary in size. The two main islands are Sherkin
and Cape Clear. Among the rest are Hare Island (which has a small
population and a restaurant with a growing reputation), Skeams, Goat
Island, Calf Islands, Castle Island and Long Island (not as long as
its twin in the U.S.A.!)
Sherkin Island is the secong largest of Carbery's Hundred Isles and is
only about 10 minutes journey by ferry from Baltimore. The snow-white
beacon you see as you make the crossing is referred to by the locals
as "Lots Wife", which has to be a slur on that biblical lady's figure
- the edifice is not even pear-shaped. The island was once one of the
strongholds of the O'Driscoll clan and has the ruins of a
fifteenth-century friary, built by the O'Driscolls for the
Franciscans. Sherkin's location has a double advantage; it has the
tranquility of an offshore island but is so close to the mainland that
the crossing is not hazardous, even in bad weather. As a result, not
only does it attract many holiday-makers but also, in recent years
quite a number of non-islanders have set up home here.
Cape Clear Island:
Cape Clear Island the largest of Carbery's Hundred Isles with a
population of about one hundred and fifty people is about six miles (alomst
10kms) from Baltimore. It marks the southern boundary of Roaringwater
Bays and is Irelands most southerly land-mass - the final glimpse of
Europe seen by liner passengers (including those on the Titanic) as
they sailed to the U.S.A. For emigrants sailng from Cobh it was their
final glimpse of home.
Cape Clear is associated with St. Ciaran, whose life predated the
coming of St. Patrick to Ireland. Much of the island is still
Gaelic-speaking and has an Irish language school, which attracts large
numbers of students every summer. It also has an expanding tourist
trade and during the migratory season is a mecca for bird watchers.
There is a daily ferry service from Baltimore to Cape Clear throughout
the year and in summer there is also a ferry service from Schull. The
natives of cape Clear have a reputation of being very shrewd, summed
up by the West Cork phrase "As cute as a Caper" (Cute in West Cork
means "shrewd"; in the American parlance it has a very different
meaning - an illustration of Bernard Shaw's observation: "nations
divided by a common language").
Fastnet Rock is just a light house - gale swept in winter - on a rock
well out in the Atlantic Ocean off West Cork's coast. It is sometimes
referred to as "The Teardrop of Ireland". Whether this is due to the
fact that it appears like a tear that has dropped from the face of
Ireland or that it has guided many an emigrant boat into the wide
atlantic, I do not know.
Fastnet is Irelands most southerly building, constructed of granite
blocks imported from Cornwall. It was completed in 1904 and was
automated in 1989. Prior to its automation, it must have been
considered as a mini-alcatraz by the light-house keepers who were
assigned (sentenced??) to serve there.