||This article is written like a travel guide rather than an encyclopedic description of the subject. (May 2010)|
Sherkin Island, historically called Inisherkin (Irish: Inis Earcáin), lies southwest of County Cork in Ireland alongside other islands of Roaringwater Bay. It had a population of 106 people at the time of the 2006 Census, measures 3 miles long by 1.5 miles wide (5 km by 3 km). The island has a primary school, two pubs, a hotel, B&B, community centre and a Roman Catholic church.
Sherkin is the second most southerly point of Ireland after Cape Clear. It is said that when the frost covers the lawns of Baltimore just across the bay, the grass remains unfrosted on the island. Like any other coastal part of Ireland, Sherkin can be affected by heavy coastal gales.
Sherkin once had a population of around 1,000, which started to decline during the Great Irish Famine in the mid-19th Century. Now the population is reduced and varies between the summer and the winter months, with increases in summer as people return to holiday houses and tourists arrive. People from all over the globe have settled on Sherkin. Amongst Sherkiners one can find artists, book writers, craft workers, musicians, photographers, beekeepers, pilots, cattle, mussel and oyster farmers, biologists, botanists and oceanologists, fishermen and sailors, teachers and doctors, horselovers and strawberry growers.
Sherkin's ferry boat is named "Mystic Waters", and during the summer (roughly 1 June – 30 September) it makes ten daily trips from 07.45 to 20.30 on weekdays, from 9.00 on Saturdays and from 10.30 on Sundays. During the winter months the last ferry leaves Baltimore at 17.30, with later ferries on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Fridays.
The roads on Sherkin are narrow and often in poor condition. Most of the cars on the island are old and unsuitable for use on the mainland. Cycling and walking are popular, with an occasional horse ride also an option. There is a rural transport service on the island, it meets every ferry and costs €2 per trip.
There are a number of important archaeological remains on Sherkin, with some of them being restored. A friary, the Mainster Inis Arcain, is just uphill from the ferry pier. The seat of the O'Driscoll Clan was Dun-na-Long Castle. These two buildings were heavily damaged in 1537 when citizens of Waterford invaded the island after a dispute over a seized and plundered ship. Sherkin has an automated lighthouse, maintained by locals. It is situated at Barrack Point and dates back to 1835. The lighthouse marks the southern entrance to Baltimore Harbour, along with the Baltimore Beacon. On the south-western side of the island there is a functioning Roman Catholic church. The main historic sites include:
- Promontory fort – Celtic Iron Age – 600 B.C. – 400 A.D.
- Franciscan friary – Medieval – post 1200 A.D.
- O'Mahony Castle – Medieval – post 1200 A.D.
The ferry to Sherkin sails from Baltimore on the mainland. The island is a tourist destination and it normally takes less than 15 minutes to get to Sherkin from Baltimore. The journey to the neighbouring Gaeltacht island Cape Clear takes on average approximately 40 minutes. Many of Sherkin's residents are active in the fields of art: island craft, paintings and book writing. The busiest season starts with school summer holidays when people with young families visit the island.
The busiest day of the year coincides with the Sherkin Regatta, a rowing regatta usually held on the 3rd weekend in July, but which is postponed to August if weather does not allow. On this day the island is crowded with sea rowers and their supporters. Children's activities, music and food stalls are all part of this Sherkin fair.
Visitors can take a direct ferry trip to Sherkin or book a sea safari trip around the islands. Tourists can also avail of guided tours around the islands. Once on Sherkin pier, people can visit the Franciscan friary, if it is open. It is locally known as "the Abbey" and has a photo exhibition inside and some displays outside. Tourists can climb up the stairs on to an open landing to observe local scenery: the Baltimore beacon, Baltimore harbour, Sherkin pier, island landscape and the old post office. Many visitors go straight to the beach (Silver Strand, Cow Strand or Trabawn) and visit local exhibitions on the way or visit Horseshoe Harbour.
During the second week in July, the ocean conservation organisation Sea Shepherd Ireland run a weekend break where the island is used as a base to explore Roaringwater Bay and its islands.
Camping and picnicking
Sherkin also has camp facilities. Because the island has no local refuse disposal facilities, all campers and picnickers are encouraged to bring minimum packaging and make sure to take the litter back to the mainland or recycle cans and bottles on Sherkin pier. The best place for barbecues is Silver Strand where there is a choice of soft grass or warm sand to rest on.
The island has a local development officer, and a community based organisation called "Sherkin Island Development Society" (SIDS).
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