A visit to Cape Clear Island is one of the more unique things to do in West Cork.
If you’re ready to go way down south – as far south as it’s possible to go in Ireland – Cape Clear Island is one of those spots you just have to visit!
Cork’s islands (Whiddy Island, Bere Island and Sherkin Island, to name a few) are too often overlooked by people visiting the area, which is a shame, as they’re some of the best places to visit in Cork.
In the guide below, you’ll discover everything from things to do on Cape Clear Island to where to grab the ferry from.
Some quick need-to-knows about Cape Clear Island
Although a visit to Cape Clear in Cork is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.
Ireland’s southernmost inhabited island, Cape Clear is located off the southwest Cork coast and around 2km from nearby Sherkin Island. Divided into east and west halves by an isthmus called the Waist, the North Harbour is to the landward side and the South Harbour on the seaward side.
Officially a Gaeltacht area, 62% of the island’s population speak the Irish language. In fact, Cape Clear has become something of a popular destination for students looking to improve their Irish skills, with a number of immersion courses being run throughout the summer.
Cape Clear’s remote coastal location means that it gets plenty of visitors from the animal kingdom, perhaps even more so than people! So when you’re here keep a keen eye out for seals, basking sharks and dolphins if you’re near the water. Turn your eye to the sky for views of guillemots, cormorants and storm petrels
4. Getting there
You need to take the Cape Clear ferry to get to the island. Now, don’t let this put you off – it’s a short, 40 minute or so journey across, so you’ll be there in no time!
The Cape Clear Ferry
So, to get to the island you’ll need to climb aboard the Cape Clear ferry (there’s a couple to choose from, depending on where in Cork you are).
Where the ferry leaves from
How long it takes
Th journey from Baltimore takes around 40 minutes while the new fast ferries from Schull take only 25 minutes to reach Cape Clear Island.
How much it costs
An adult return from Baltimore to Cape Clear is €18 while a child return is €8. We can’t actually find the prices from Schull, for some reason!
When it leaves
There are two crossings per day from Baltimore with an additional third service during the summer months. There are two crossings per day from Baltimore in June three days per week, with the service then increased to six days per week during July and August.
Things to do on Cape Clear Island
There are plenty of things to do on Cape Clear Island that make it a great place to spend 2 or 3 nights (especially if you’re after an active break).
From the Fastnet Rock tour (en route to the island) to walks, mighty pubs and more, you’ll discover heaps of things to do below.
1. The Fastnet Lighthouse tour
Lying 6.5km southwest of Cape Clear, Fastnet Lighthouse is Ireland’s most southernly point and home to a pretty epic lighthouse!
As part of your journey from Schull and Baltimore, you can take a ferry tour to get right up close to this iconic Irish structure and get that once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity.
Note: when booking, make sure to choose the ferry crossing that includes the journey to Fastnet, as some go straight to the island.
2. Stretch your legs on one of the island walks
Not a large island, Cape Clear’s size makes it perfect for a windswept ramble and there’s a few different trails to follow (several of which are regarded as some of the best walks in Cork).
Cnoicin’s Loop is an easy 4km walk that should take between 1 hour 30 mins and 2 hours, while Gleann Loop is a tad more challenging at 7km, taking between 2 hours and 2 hours 30 mins to finish.
3. Plan your visit around the Cape Clear Storytelling Festival
One of Ireland’s premier storytelling events, the Cape Clear Storytelling Festival has been running during the first full weekend in September every year since 1994. They’ve been showcasing the grand Irish tradition of storytelling for almost 30 years and show no signs of slowing down.
4. Head off in search of whales and dolphins
Thanks to various local boat operators (such as Cape Clear Ferries’ The Deep Star), it’s possible to get up close to some of Cape Clear’s amazing sea creatures. Take a tour and keep an eye peeled for whales, dolphins, basking sharks, porpoises and seals (read our Cork whale watching guide for more info).
5. Visit the famous goat farm
A part of life on the island for over 40 years, Cape Clear Goat Farm (better known as ‘Cléire Goats’) welcomes visitors all year round. The goats will keep kids entertained while the goat’s milk ice cream at the farm shop (full of various artisan goat products) should go down a treat in the summer.
6. Give kayaking a crack
Don’t worry, if you’re a beginner you won’t be thrown out in the wild Atlantic just yet! Cape Clear is a deadly spot for kayaking though and you’ll start in the beautiful sheltered climbs of South Harbour. If you’re up for it, you can take on a circumnavigation of the island and even a ‘slingshot’ trip around the Iconic Fastnet Rock!
7. Head for a paddle
Want to get wet? There’s plenty of places around the island to go for a paddle though the only sandy beach option is at the North Harbour.
Cape Clear is a beautiful place to swimming in the summer months so dive right in, but if the weather’s playing up then always put safety first.
Cape Clear accommodation
There’s everything from B&Bs and glamping to guesthouses and a hostel on Cape Clear, depending on your budget.
Cape Clear Camping / Glamping
With cosy furnishings inside and stunning vistas over the South Harbour outside, glamping in one of these awesome yurts is a truly magical experience.
B&Bs and guesthouses
Get a true feel of Cape Clear’s unique appeal and local friendliness by spending a night or two at one of the island’s B&B’s or guesthouses. Click here for more on them.
Cape Clear Hostel
Overlooking the gorgeous South Harbour, the Cape Clear Hostel is a charming and affordable place to base yourself for a few days. Run by a local Irish-speaking family, this technology-free hostel is all about slowing down the pace of life and making a deeper connection with an enchanting island.
Cape Clear pubs and restaurants
If you’ve worked up an appetite or if you just fancy a couple of post-adventure pints, you’re in luck – there are several great places for food and a pint of Cape Clea Island.
1. Sean Rua’s Restaurant
Looking out towards the ragged beauty of the North Harbour, Sean Rua’s Restaurant is a great spot for some fresh seafood with a view! But if the locally caught seafood isn’t for you (though it should be), they also do a fine selection of homemade pizzas. Order some food and a pint and take a seat on one of the colourful benches outside and take in the atmosphere.
2. Club Chléire
A mighty spot for music in the summer months, you’ll be able to get a few drinks and hear some great live performances here every weekend and bank holidays during the high season. Located right in the heart of the vibrant North Harbour, you’ll also have some pristine views to enjoy along with your pint!
3. Cotters Bar
You can’t miss the maroon façade and quirky turquoise signage of Cotters Bar! Also a part of the North Harbour pub scene, this one is the most traditional of the lot and has that cosy feeling the moment you step inside. But if you’re there in the summer there’s only one place to be and that’s outside at one of their many tables, enjoying a creamy pint in the Irish sunshine.
FAQs about visiting Cape Clear Island in Cork
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from Cape Clear glamping to where to grab the Cape Clear ferry from.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
Are there many things to do on Cape Clear Island?
- Try the Fastnet Lighthouse tour on your way to the island
- Stretch your legs on one of the island walks
- Head off in search of whales and dolphins
- Give kayaking a crack
- Visit the famous goat farm
- Give kayaking a crack
Where do you get the Cape Clear Ferry?
There are regular Ferry services from Baltimore (all year round) and Schull (summer only – June to August). Baltimore is around a 1hr 30mins drive from Cork.
Is Cape Clear worth visiting?
100% yes! It’s worth spending a few days on Cape Clear to really soak up a bit of island life and to explore the beauty that can be found around every corner of the island.