The Maldives might not be on the cards for everyone, but don’t give up on your island dreams just yet. There are plenty of beautiful islands dotted around our own coastline and now is the perfect time to see all the beauty this country has to offer. From white sandy beaches to spectacular coastal views, as well as cliff faces with the heady scent of heather, there’s plenty of untamed and wild country out there to discover this summer.
SHERKIN ISLAND, WEST CORK
With access via a 10-minute boat ride from the mainland of Baltimore, Sherkin Island is very easy to get to. It is three miles long with a population of about 100. Its sense of tranquillity is instant, with white sandy beaches, secluded swimming areas and remote scenic spots, as well as spectacular Atlantic views.
The calm and captivating island is a walker’s paradise, especially along the shore where you’re likely to see some seals, otters and dolphins. Steeped in history, Sherkin Island is the ancestral home of the O’Driscoll clan, whose castle lies just above the pier. Nearby, you can also roam the ruins of a 15th century Franciscan abbey. Such is the beauty of the scenery on Sherkin, that it has long attracted artists and the West Cork Arts Centre now runs an island-based fine arts degree course here.
Getting there: Accessible via a 10-minute ferry service from Baltimore harbour which costs €10 return.
Where to stay: Sherkin House, Sherkin North Shore and Cuinne House B&B. Jolly Roger is also a firm favourite on the island for some pints and a bit of grub.
RATHLIN ISLAND, COUNTY ANTRIM
The rugged, almost untouched Rathlin Island is Northern Ireland’s most northerly point and a popular spot with day-trippers and holidaymakers alike. Just 10km from Ballycastle, Rathlin is a spot favoured by surfers and canoeists but also families due to the wealth of activities to explore. Check out the upside down lighthouse or visit the seabird centre and find out about the island’s puffins. There’s even a museum for the culture enthusiast. With a population of 140 people, the remote island has some great walking trails to explore the island on foot.
How to get there: Rathlin Ferry runs a regular service from Ballycastle.
Where to stay: Manor House, Coolnagrock Bed & Breakfast and Arkell House.
INISHBOFIN, CO GALWAY
Inishbofin is picture perfect and could rival any tropical paradise abroad. A popular island for families, the beaches are outstanding, surrounded by seas the colour of turquoise that really come to life when the sun shines. Apart from the spectacular beaches there’s loads to do, especially if you like to stay active and try something new. Great hikes can be explored as well as biking, kayaking and diving and fishing too.
Getting there: There is a daily ferry service to Inishbofin all year round.
Where to stay: The Inishbofin House Hotel and Marine Spa, Cloonamore Cottage, Inishbofin, Blue Jackets
LAMBAY ISLAND, CO DUBLIN
The largest island off the east coast of Ireland, Lambay is about 2.5 sq. km in size, but is very secluded and is an undiscovered gem for many. For good reason though - the island is privately owned, so you can’t just visit , a trip has to be approved in advance.
It’s worth the wait though, not least because it’s home to a number of wallabies. Yes, you read that right. You see, the island is owned by the Baring family, of Barings Bank fame, and they brought wallabies to the island as pets. Dublin Zoo later sent some additional wallabies out to join the sizeable community there.
You can stay on the island if you make the approval cut and only between the months of March and November. Island visits are hosted by Baring family members and are subject to the tides, weather and availability of the resident Baring family members.
How to get there: Access to the island is only available via Skerries Sea Tours
Visit www.lambayisland.ie to enquire about visiting
INIS MOR, CO GALWAY
The Aran Islands are fascinating and should be on everyone’s list to visit. The largest and probably the most popular is Inis Mor. If you love the great outdoors, exploring remote and rugged landscapes then this is the island for you.
When visiting you need to add the Worm Hole to your list and although it can be a bit tricky to find, it’s worth the effort when you finally get there. It’s a natural rectangular shaped pool into which the sea ebbs and flow at the bottom of the cliffs south of Dún Aonghasa.
One thing to note when visiting this attraction is make sure you wear really good walking shoes and be extra cautious due to the rocky terrain. Although you can go swimming here, be vigilant and cautious before hitting the waters and don’t swim alone.
Inis Mor is also steeped in history and the attractions on the island include the stone fort of Dun Aengus which is definitely worth checking out.
How to get there: You can travel to the Aran Islands by sea or air. You can find information on both Aran Ferries and Aer Arann.
Where to stay: Pie House B&B, Clai Ban and Aran Islands Camping & Glamping.