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Sherkin Island, a world away in County Cork

Sherkin Island, historically called Inisherkin (Irish Inis Earcáin), lies in Roaringwater Bay outside Baltimore in County Cork, Ireland. It is a very special inspirational place, where tranquillity takes on a whole new meaning within a 10-minute boat ride of the mainland. One of Carberry’s Hundred Isles, Sherkin was home to the O’Driscoll Clan whose castle ruins lie just beyond the pier. We enjoyed our stop immensely.

The anchorage

There is fairly good shelter and a vast anchorage just off the main pier to which the ferries from Baltimore tie up.

The substantial pier and a pontoon are attached to a scuttled barge to which boats can tie up.  Fees for tie up are posted on the barge. It is a very handy place to bring in a dinghy from the anchorage. On weekends, it can get very busy with day and weekend trippers tying up every which way.

The Seahorse Marina at Dún-na-Long Castle is just 50 yards from "The Islander's Rest". This facility for small boats is available from mid-April to mid-September (weather permitting). Facilities include mooring, electricity and water, with food and refreshment at The Islander's Rest. Rate per night: €15.00 to €40.00 (depending on size of boat).


People of Sherkin Sherkin once had a population of around 1,000, which started to decline during the Great Irish Famine in the mid-19th Century. It had a population of 106 people at the time of the 2006 Census, measures 3 miles long by 1.5 miles wide. 

The oldest archaeological monument on Sherkin Island is a tiny, box-shaped megalithic tomb at the western end of the island. Megalithic tombs in Ireland date to approximately 2500BC-2000BC, making them more than 4,000 years old. Other archaeological remains include two possible promontory forts dating to c. 500BC-400AD. More recent monuments include the Franciscan friary which was established in 1460 and Dún na Long Castle. Both of these lie near the harbour.

Most interesting in its modern history is the Sherkin Island Marine Station and its wonderful programme and publications. Sherkin Island Marine Station was founded in 1975 by Matt Murphy and his late wife, Eileen and is run by Matt and his family.  The Marine Station is located on the north-west end of the island on 16 acres. From a small laboratory of 140 sq. ft., the facility has grown into a large complex of five laboratories and a library of some 100,000 books, journals, reports, reprints, together with an herbarium of plants and seaweeds. Unfortunately, it is not open to the public.

Unlike many of the offshore islands, Sherkin is rather multinational with people from all over the world having discovered this secluded spot a decided to settle here. Although the mainstay of the community remains Irish, you’ll find residents from America, Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain and Russia coexisting here.  Many are creative types, including artists, authors, craftmakers, musicians and photographers who integrate well with the beekeepers and pilots, farmers, fishermen, biologists, botanists and oceanologists, as well as sailors, teachers and doctors, many of whom came to conduct research or simply for a holiday and stayed.

Things to do

The island is ideal for tranquil strolling and exploring.  Daytrippers tend to head straight for the beach (Silver Strand, Cow Strand or Trabawn) and stop to visit local exhibitions or Horseshoe Harbour along the way. A map of the island can be found here although the island is well sign posted.   A tarmac road leads from the ferry landing to the south western end of the island. Wander along past a an overwhelming palette of fuscia and mombretia, set against rough stones walls that hem in fields of verdant greens. Trees cascade down over the road providing shelter from the sun and rain along the way.

Another road runs from the Abbey, past the Castle, The Islander's Rest and the Jolly Roger, to The Dock at the north-eastern corner of the island. Just to the west of Kinish Harbour the main east-west road forks and another good road runs to Cow and Silver Strands, with their fine sands and secluded yet safe bathing. A network of footpaths and tracks enable the visitor to reach the western coast, Horseshoe Harbour and the lighthouse, but much of Slievemore is difficult to access. En route look for seals, otters, dophins and porpoises. 

There is an automated lighthouse tended by local residents that dates back to 1835 on Barrack Point. It marks the southern entrance to Baltimore harbour.

The Sherkin Regatta is the busiest day of the year on the island when its population swells with sea rowers and their fans. Usually held on the 3rd weekend in July, it is postponed to August if the weather does not cooperate.


The Sherkin Ferry sails from Baltimore daily. The island has two pubs, a hotel, B&B, community centre, primary school and a Catholic church. Sherkin Island runs a fine arts degree course as a result of its community of accomplished artists. There is no waste collection on the island so there are no waste disposal facilities, although it does have recycling.

The Islander’s Rest is the first hotel and bar one can access from the harbour. It has a spectacular view and nice rooms. It offers basic but pleasing accommodation and food. The staff are very friendly. In fact everyone we met on Sherkin Island was astoundingly friendly. We had multiple people stop us to ask where we had sailed from and where we were heading.

Jolly Roger Tavern is situated high up overlooking the harbour. It’s terrace seating is delightful and  Darragh made us feel so welcome. The Jolly Roger serves seafood and French cuisine. We had a lovely lunch off the bar menu including soup and sandwiches with a range of fresh fillings and choice of bread. The lobster at the Jolly Roger being the freshest in Ireland is true legend.  Apparently it takes at least a half hour because himself has to run down to the dock to haul one out of a lobster pot and bring it back to be cooked. No worries though, the French chef Jean’s chowder will sustain you during your wait.

Gannett’s Bay at Horseshoe Cottage, situated within 7 minutes walk of the pier facing south above Horseshoe Bay, is a delightful bed and breakfast. It is their schooner Anna M. which is careened against the old pier. Fiona and Joe Aston will welcome you heartily.

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