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Heir Island

An island off the western edge of Europe is the last place you’d expect to find gourmet food (not to mind learn how to cook it). But that’s one of the things that makes Heir/Hare Island famous.

Using local duck and lamb, together with shrimp, crab and seasonal wild salmon caught by island fishermen, the island’s cookery school is a real hidden gem. Food lovers come from far and wide to hone their culinary skills over the course of a weekend and guests dine together in the evening.

Heir Island is the ideal base for this sustainable enterprise. One of Carbery’s Hundred Isles, it is an unspoilt oasis, the kind of place where caves and creeks are best explored by sea-kayak. Island cottages date back to the 1920s, with houses built since then modelled on the same design, giving a genuine feel of a retreat, a sanctuary, a place to book some much-needed time out.

Naturally, it’s not all about cooking. There is a well-regarded art gallery here, an established sailing school, and several sandy beaches are safe for swimming. At the centre of Heir Island lies an extensive marsh with a vibrant reed bed – it is home to some 200 varieties of wildflower. Indeed, there is any number of ways to work up an appetite – be it angling, island-hopping, bird-watching, diving or cycling. And surrounded by the panorama of Roaringwater Bay, you have all the ingredients for a return visit too.

Location: Roaringwater Bay. Cunnamore, where ferries depart for Heir Island, is roughly 98km (1hr 50 mins) from Cork by road. Baltimore is about the same distance.

Size: 2.5km x 1.5km. Heir Island can be enjoyed in a short visit of a few hours.

Population: 25

Facilities: B&Bs, self-catering, restaurant, art gallery, sailing school, cookery school, shop.

Top 3 Activities: Cooking, sailing, walking

Getting there: Heir Island is a five minute ferry ride from Cunnamore, on the Skibbereen to Ballydehob Road. Sailings are daily, year-round services.

Getting around: It’s best to walk around Heir Island, though bikes can be hired and brought along from Baltimore.

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