Roaring Water Bay - Islands

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Sherkin Island is a mere ten minutes by boat from the small fishing port of Baltimore on the mainland. It is three miles in length and one and a half miles wide, which makes it a very easy place to explore. The island is home to a 15th century Franciscan Friary and one of the ruined O'Driscoll Castles, Dun-na-Long. A tarmac road leads from the ferry landing stage at Abbey Strand to the southwestern end of the island. Another road runs from the Abbey, past the Castle, Murphy's Bar and the Jolly Roger, to The Dock at the northeastern 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 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, including the bay of Foardree, and the peninsula of Farranacoush are difficult of access. The island rises to 112 m on its hilly backbone. The settlement at the eastern end has most of the island's facilities and the majority of the inhabitants live between the harbour and Trabawn. The population stands at about 90, which increases substantially during the summer months. Visit the web site [ Sherkin Island ] for more information about Sherkin.

Cape Clear  [ view ]

The largest and most hilly (up to 159 m) of the islands, Cape Clear has substantial areas of higher ground, much of it covered by farmland. The 130 or so inhabitants earn their living by farming, fishing and tourism. Cape Clear is Irish-speaking and a center for the study of the Irish language and traditional culture. The island has a network of tarmac roads with a surprising amount of motor traffic. Trees are few on this exposed island, but there are some shelterbelts and many hedges. Pastures are grazed by cattle, and a few goats, and there is a large population of rabbits. As well as Lough Errul, the major water body in the islands, there are West Bog, Central Bog (drained in the 1960s) and East Bog. East Bog is the largest and is dominated by reed swamp. Cape Clear is mostly bounded with steep cliffs and precipitous rocks, so sand and shingle strands are poorly developed. The steep slopes above South Harbour have some of the best dry coastal heathland in the islands. There was a lighthouse on the island but due to the height of the lighthouse, in foggy conditions, the light from the lighthouse could not be seen and because of this it was closed down. Visit the web site [ Cape Clear ] for more information about Cape Clear

                                                                The Calves

West, Middle and East Calf form a chain in the very center of Roaringwater Bay. West Calf rises to 22 m, Middle Calf to just 11 m and East Calf to 19 m. They are consequently exposed and treeless. Nevertheless, all were settled and the last inhabitants left only in the 1940s. Today, cattle are still grazed amongst the ruins of the former farms. Hares occur on all three islands.West Calf is less grazed and is dominated by rank grassland. West and Middle Calf have small areas of blown sand and Middle and East Calf have shingle strands. Middle Calf has marshy ground and a series of broad shingle strands at the western end. East Calf has more habitat diversity, with heathland on higher ground, grassland over blown sand and a small lough surrounded by marshy ground rich in plants.

The Carthys

The Carthys are four low, rocky islands, very exposed and home to large numbers of sea birds, mainly gulls. These damage the vegetation by trampling and over-enrichment by their droppings. North Island has in the past been grazed by sheep.

Goat & Little Goat

Goat, surrounded by rugged cliffs, rises steeply to 32 m. The vegetation is heathland dominated by rank grasses and some gorse. Little Goat is an adjacent sea-stack to Goat Island but these islands are difficult to explore because of rocky seas.


This is the largest island after Cape Clear and Sherkin. However, it is low-lying, with a maximum elevation of 29 m. There are 20 permanent inhabitants, most of whom live on the northern side of the central part of the island. A good track runs for much of the length of the island, but fades into a path at the eastern end. The island is almost treeless. Sheep and cattle graze enclosed areas of heathland at the eastern end of the island.


Castle, 141 acres,rising to 36 m, is dominated by gorse scrub and bracken, with occasional willows and improved pastures grazed by sheep. There are ruined settlements at the eastern end and to the west is a tower (ruins of an O'Mahony castle built around the 14th century). Its a mile and a quarter from mainland.  A censer take in 1837 saw 89 people living on the island and at the present about 30 people.


Horse, 92 acres, is a low-lying island with a maximum elevation of 37 m. A stony track leads from the old village at the eastern end to the landing stage at the northwestern corner. Much of the island is overgrown by scrub and bracken. Sheep graze parts of the island, but goats were removed in 1994. There are also some fine coastal grassland dominated by blown sand at the western end. Copper and small amounts of other minerals used to be mined in the western end of the island. One hundred miners used to work in these mines in the 1800's and the copper used to be sold in Swansea. With very low tides at the eastern side, you are able to cross to the mainland. A large house at the western end of Horse is lived in from time to time and one of the old dwellings of the eastern settlement has been refurbished. At least three more houses are being erected at the present time, presumably as holiday cottages.

The Skeams

These two islands are very different in character. Skeam West is for the most part a west-east valley flanked by rocky ground. The valley has lush grassland. At the western end, there is a beach. The small settlement at the eastern end has been restored as a holiday property but remains deserted. The church by the settlement is said to date from the 9th Century. Sheep are grazed from time to time on this treeless island. The Eastern Skeam has a more varied topography including an impressive rock arch on the western coast.

Heir (Hare)

The island is mostly low-lying, with the highest ground (up to 92 m) at the western end. The island has 10 inhabitants, but more visitors come in summer (the island supports both a small village shop and a restaurant!). A road runs from the East Pier almost the length of the island, becoming a track and eventually a path. Houses are scattered, mostly at the eastern end and towards the west near the large inlet - which is spanned by a sturdy causeway. Most of the island is covered by species-poor pastures that are grazed by cattle. The westerly part is a coastal heath surrounded by cliffs and almost cut off from the rest of the island by a deep inlet.


Inishleigh is dominated by overgrazed pasture, with heath and coastal grassland at the western end. At the northern end of the island there is saltmarsh and a shingle strand. The island is grazed by cattle which cross over from the mainland at low tide.

Mannin (and Mannin Beg)

Mannin, 29 acres, grazed by sheep, is mostly low-lying, and rises to just 20 m. Heathland covers most of the southern part of the island, with some coastal grassland and marshy ground. The northern half is overgrown with Bracken, but a few remnant trees remain near the ruins of a former settlement being that of the O'Driscolls clan. In this small island there used to be 20 people living on the island.

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