A Guide to Dursey Island in Cork: The Cable Car, Walks + Island Accommodation

dursey island cable car
Photo left: rui vale sousa. Photo right: Corey Macri (Shutterstock)

A journey on the Dursey Island Cable Car is arguably one of the most unique things to do in Cork.

It’s Ireland’s only cable car, after all, and you’ll be treated to views and a bit of a buzz from the moment it moves off of the ground.

If you’re not familiar with it, Dursey Island is one of the few inhabited islands that lay off the south-west coast of Ireland, near the Beara Peninsula.

In the guide below, you’ll discover everything from the story behind the Dursey Island cable car to what there is to do once you reach the island.

Some quick need-to-knows about Dursey Island in Cork

 

A visit to Dursey Island is a little less straightforward that some of the other things to do do in West Cork. Here are some speedy need-to-knows.

1. Location

Dursey Island is situated on the western tip of the Beara Peninsula in West Cork and separated from the mainland by the Dursey Sound, a narrow stretch of water. 

2. Population/size

The island has only a few permanent residents and is 6.5 kilometres long by 1.5 kilometres wide. Years ago, the island comprised three villages or ‘townlands’—Ballynacallagh, Kilmichael, and Tilickafinna from east to west on the island.

3. Ireland’s only cable car

The Dursey Island cable car is, interestingly enough, Ireland’s only cable car. It originally opened in 1969 and it’s the most used means of getting to the island

4. A great spot for bird-watching

A birdwatcher’s paradise, visitors to Dursey Island can see thousands of seabirds around the area and the location also attracts rare migrant birds from the west. 

Getting to Dursey Island via the Dursey Island Cable Car

dursey island cable car
Photo left: rui vale sousa. Photo right: Corey Macri (Shutterstock)

The Dursey Island cable car is the very unique method of transport that you’ll be using to get from the mainland to the island.

1. Where you get the cable car from

You take the Dursey Island cable car from this point. There’s a decent bit of parking right next to the departure point and the scenery from the ground here will give you a sense of what to expect when you get up in the air. 

2. How long it takes

The trip on the Dursey Island cable car takes just 15 minutes and there are roughly four journeys an hour (six passengers per cable car, although this is now four because of Covid-19 restrictions). 

3. How much it costs

Payment for the Dursey Island cable car is cash only and is €10 per adult and €5 for children for the return journey (note: prices may change).

4. When it leaves (times may change)

The Dursey Island cable car runs every day, although this can be weather dependent. From 1 March to 31 October, the timetable for the cable car is 9.30am to 7.30pm, although it is closed for lunch 1pm to 1.30pm. From 1 November to 28 February, the cable car runs from 9.30am to 4.30pm and is closed for lunch 1pm to 1.30pm.

Things to do on Dursey Island

bull rock island cork
Photo on the right: Deirdre Fitzgerald. Left: J.A. Ross (shutterstock)

Although it’s the Dursey Island cable car that tends to get all of the attention, there’s plenty to see and do on the island itself that makes the visit worthwhile.

Below, you’ll find everything from walks on Dursey Island to guided tours along with a lively summer festival and nearby islands.

1. The Dursey Island cable car journey is worth the trip alone

Dursey Island Cable Car
Photo by Babetts Bildergalerie (Shutterstock)

Many people will tell you the Dursey Island cable car experience is jaw-dropping; a unique experience you will not find anywhere else.

How often will you be able to transverse the Atlantic Ocean in a cable car – the perfect bird’s eye view of your surroundings? Remember to pack your best camera as the views are incredible.

The cable car runs 250 metres above the sea. It was originally constructed because the strong currents in the Dursey Sound made crossing to the island by boat too difficult and dangerous.

2. Walk the Dursey Island Loop

things to do on dursey island
Photo by David OBrien (Shutterstock)

As the island is small, it is perfectly do-able to walk its entire length and breadth in one day. There are no shops, pubs or restaurants, and with so few inhabitants it offers the perfect escape from civilisation (remember to pack food and water) 

The loop is well marked from where you disembark the cable car. You will walk through the former villages and past what was used as a signal tower during the Napoleonic Wars of the early 19th century.

You should allow about five hours for the walk, including the journey there and back in the cable car although in busier times, you might need to wait longer for the cable car.

2. Take a guided walking tour with Beara Baoi Tours

dursey island looped walk
Photo by Andrzej Bartyzel (Shutterstock)

You can also take a guided walking tour of the island. This informative tour is a great way to see the island and to discover local history.

On the tour, you’ll learn about pre-Christian divinities (the name of the tour company is inspired by the ancient Celtic goddess, Baoi – the Irish name for Dursey Island is Oileán Baoi), Vikings, monks, mariners, pirates, ship wrecks and more.

You will also see plenty of wildlife. Dolphins, seals, whales and otters are all regular island visitors. 

3. Plan your visit around the summer festival

irish music
Photo by michelangeloop (Shutterstock)

The Dursey Island Summer Festival is a family event, aimed at showcasing the beauty of the island to the rest of the world. It was first set up in 2011, with the intention of not only highlighting the island to visitors but attracting people who wanted to relocate there and boost the tiny population.

The summer festival runs for a weekend in June. Visitors who attend the festival are encouraged to become an islander for the weekend.

Various activities are put on, such as the celebration of mass, guided historical walking tours, and traditional Irish dancing and music.

4. Visit Bull Rock

bull rock island cork
Photo on the right: Deirdre Fitzgerald. Left: J.A. Ross (shutterstock)

Birdwatchers flock (sorry!) to Dursey Island because our feathered friends love the place. Bull Rock has a large gannet colony. But you will also see thousands of other seabirds, including puffins, razorbills, guillemots and Manx shearwaters.

There are breeding choughs to keep an eye out for too. In the migration season, migrant bird visitors to the island include the hoopoe and bee-eater from southern Europe.

Dursey Island accommodation

dursey island accommodation
Photos via Dursey Schoolhouse (Facebook & website)

Want to stay on the island? The Dursey Island Schoolhouse is a cabin that can take four guests. As the name suggests, the building once served as a school for the few inhabitants of the island and was built in 1891.

It is located on the top of a hill and the perfect place for people who really do “want to get away from it all”. There are no hotels, bars and restaurants so remember to stock up on food and drink, but the peace and quiet is all part of the attraction.

At times, you will have the whole island to yourself. Most guests rave about the peace and quiet to be found on this island getaway.

FAQs about visiting Dursey Island

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from how long the Dursey Island cable car takes to what there is to do on the island.

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.

Is Dursey Island worth visiting?

Yes – it 100% is! If you want to step off the beaten path, see unspoiled scenery at its finest and experience the very unique Dursey Island cable car, put the island on your to visit list!

Where do you get the Dursey Island cable car from and how much is it?

In the guide above, you’ll find a link to the point on the Beara Peninsula that the Dursey Island cable car leaves from. Although prices may change, expect to pay around €10 per adult and €5 for children for the return journey.

What is there to do on Dursey Island?

You can head off on the Dursey Island loop walk, take one of the guided tours of the island or just take it handy and soak up the scenery on a short ramble.

Emma Baird is a lifestyle editor and novelist. She has worked in the communications industry for more than 25 years, and loves animals, the countryside and lingering in a great pub for the food and the craic.

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