Dursey Island - Allihies Parish

Head of Dursey Island - Photo Cormac Boydell

Dursey Island

A special feature of the Allihies area is Dursey, County Cork's most westerly inhabited island. It is situated 15 miles west of Castletownbere, separated from the mainland by a narrow sound. Dursey is unique in being Ireland's only island that is connected to the mainland by cable car. Dursey appears in the mythology of the ancient goddess known as the Hag of Beara and in various legends.

Archaeological remains testify to human presence since the Bronze Age. The ancient church of Kilmichael (now a heap of ruined masonry) was reputedly founded by monks from the nearby Skellig Rock. Oral tradition associates Dursey with the marauding Vikings, who are said to have used the island as a holding station for captives. Dursey was the scene of tragic events in 1602 when Queen Elizabeth's forces stormed the fort and massacred many local people.

A notable moment in more recent history was the rescue of 6 men marooned at the nearby Calf Rock lighhouse in 1881. For centuries fishing has been the islanders' economic mainstay, and in the past fishermen from Spain and France frequented these waters.Privateers and pirates were also visitors here long ago.

Four miles in length, Dursey has three small villages, Ballincallagh, Kilmichael and Tilickafinna. Before the Famine of the 1840s the population was around 350. Now the residents are in single figures.

Dursey is included in the Beara Way, the long-distance walking route. Visitors enjoy the island's unspoilt nature, tranquillity and splendid views. Ornithologists find it a rewarding place to observe birdlife.

A useful guide to the island is Discover Dursey by Penelope Durell, price book €9.99 .. Also the large-scale Discover Dursey Map (€2.50) which includes many Irish-language placenames. Both available locally. (follow this link for details...)

The Dursey Cable Car

The first and only cable car in Ireland was opened in 1969. It runs at about 250 m. above sea level and the 250m trip takes about six minutes. The car can take up to six people at a time or one large animal.

The cable car operates between 9-11am, 2.30-5.00pm and 7-8pm. Different hours apply on alternate Sundays due to Mass: check locally for details.

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