Inis Arcain, or “island of the sea porpoise,” is the Irish name for Sherkin Island. It is an island of raging beauty, sitting 10 minutes as the porpoise swims from Baltimore harbor. Second only to The Burren in flora and fauna variety, it also has plentiful bird and sea life. Walk the southern “raggedy cliffs” and stay awhile.
What to See and Do
Swim in the three sandy beaches on the western shores: Tra Ban, Tra Eoghan, and Silver Strand. Visit the 15th century Franciscan Abbey. Pull your boat up in the marina below Dun na Long, “the fort of the ships” castle built by the O’Driscolls, now in ruins. Visit Island Crafts, showing local handicrafts. They have Sherkin Island Knitwear, a co-operative established in 1982 by eight women; they make hand loomed knitwear in pure Donegal wool. Or Robin Snelson’s handcrafted leather goods, made from 220-year-old leather recovered from the Metta Catharina von Flensburg, which sank in Plymouth Sound in 1786. Visit Cunnamore Galleries, showing contemporary art by Irish and English artists.
Where to Eat and Drink
The Jolly Roger is the island’s oldest pub. A French chef creates its food, and impromptu and organized music sessions happen here all summer. The Islander’s Rest serves bar food.
Where to Sleep
The Horseshoe Cottage B&B is a small place, peeking south over Horseshoe Bay. Proprietors Fiona and Joe Aston create home baked goods and serve organic produce from the kitchen. This is a quiet resting spot. Fiona is a registered Homeopath who also does holistic therapies such as Indian Head Massages. They also offer Stay ‘n Sail packages.
The Islander’s rest is a larger abode with 21 en suite bedrooms, and a bar and lounge.
How to get there
Sail with Baltimore Yacht Charters – their Ilen River Cruise stops on Sherkin Island. www.baltimoreyachtcharters.com.
There are also local ferries leaving from Baltimore.
When to go
April to October, when the days are long and the sun is out.
Written by Liz O'Malley - Summer of Travel 2007