Dozens of atmospheric islands lie off of Cork’s 1,094km of coastline. Some are rugged and uninhabited; others are nestled by coastal settlements, home to traditional Irish communities. The Wild Atlantic Way provides the perfect opportunity for island-hopping, with its myriad of remote landscapes to escape to. Here’s our pick of the best islands to visit near Cork in Ireland.
Brimming with history, the pint-sized Spike Island offers an easy day trip full of scenery and atmosphere. Straddling Cork’s harbour, the tiny island is composed of just 103 acres (42ha). Once the site of an ancient monastery, the island is centrepieced by an 18th-century star-shaped fort called Fort Mitchell. The island’s fortuitous location, nestled within Cork’s harbour, made it a perfect military outpost; it also served as a remote prison. As this is one of Cork’s major attractions, it’s worth taking part in a tour of the island to get your bearings on its fascinating history. This island is uninhabited, meaning no one can stay the night. Instead, consider pitching up in the nearby settlement of Cobh, or in Cork city itself.
A stunning array of tropical flora and fauna await you on Garnish Island, which enjoys a unique micro-climate, nestled in the protected Bantry Bay. Attractions include the Martello Tower, an original feature of the island from 1805; a Grecian Temple on the western side; and the clock tower. Asian trees, exotic flowers and swaying ferns all add to its magic. For many visitors, the most remarkable part of the experience is Seal Island, which you’ll glide by on the ferry over. Hundreds of seals luxuriate on the island – and if you’re lucky, you might even spot a dolphin or two. As this destination is three hours round-trip from Cork’s capital, consider staying at the coastal village of Glengarriff nearby.
The remote outpost of Bere Island offers dramatic scenery in droves. Bere lies at the entrance to the wild Bantry Bay and guards the harbour of Berehaven in West Cork. The island offers breath-taking views of the Slieve Miskish and Caha Mountain massifs, and there are sandy beaches and remote coves to choose from. Hikers are rewarded with archaeological sites of interest, including ring forts, Martello towers and old military barracks. Occupied by a small community of islanders, Bere Island has patches of infrastructure, with three pubs and restaurants, a museum and B&Bs for overnight stays.