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Poised on the southern tip of Ireland, the West Cork fishing village of Baltimore is bathed in coastal beauty. Just off the beaten tourist track, Baltimore remains the friendly community it has always been, offering plenty for visitors to see and do.
A haven for walkers, the Irish-speaking (Gaeltacht) island of Cape Clear, or Oilean Chléire, is the most southerly, inhabited part of Ireland and well worth a boat trip. It is home to the Cape Clear Fun Day in August and the International Storytelling Festival in September.
Sherkin island, just off the coast of West Cork, is a place of unique beauty and varied landscapes. A selection of sandy beaches includes Trabawn, Cow Strand, and Silver Strand (the biggest). All of Sherkin’s beaches are safe for bathing and ideal for children. Alternatively, you could amble along quiet leafy lanes or explore the old lighthouse and the ruined Franciscan Abbey by the pier.
Another one of the beautiful islands worth visiting off Baltimore is Heir island (or Hare Island, as it is sometimes known), the smallest and least populated of the three main islands. Just a few hundred metres from the mainland, the island is flanked on three sides by Carbery's Hundred Isles. Home to restaurant, B&B, and self-catering accommodation, Heir Island also has a lovely sandy beach called Reen. Heir can be reached by ferry either from Baltimore or Cunnamore.
The castle that watches over the village and harbour of Baltimore in West Cork from a rocky outcrop also lent the place its Irish name, meaning ‘fort of the jewels’. The castle was constructed in 1215, and the jewels in the title may refer to the castle's role in the collection of taxes levied on foreign ships entering the harbour. The castle has now been carefully restored so that visitors can once again admire the Great Hall and the panoramic view across Baltimore Harbour from the battlements.
Though Baltimore is famous among seasoned yachtsmen, even complete beginners can experience the joy of sailing here on a skippered charter yachts. Baltimore Sailing Club regularly hosts dinghy race meetings, and the harbour also provides a safe anchorage and great facilities for visiting yachts. The sheltered waters of Carbery's Isles and Roaringwater Bay create a distinctive inshore cruising ground, where you can sail for miles without venturing into the open sea.
The ocean off this corner of West Cork is a popular route for whales, dolphins, and other marine animals from spring, when minke whales are among the first to appear, together with several varieties of dolphin, some of which perform playful displays alongside moving boats. The season peaks from late summer onwards, with the advent of the giant fin whales (the world’s second-biggest animal) and the chance to see humpback whales breaching.
Within easy reach of Baltimore, Lough Hyne (or Loughine) is the perfect place to enjoy walking, hill climbing, or a gentle lakeshore stroll. A saltwater lake, it is linked to the sea by rapids and was Europe's first marine nature reserve. It teems with unusual maritime species, including sea urchins and oysters, which are strictly protected. The lough is also popular for swimming, diving, and kayaking. Fishing is permitted away from the piers.
Topped by the famous lighthouse, the Fastnet Rock is one of the world’s iconic maritime landmarks. Take a boat trip there from Baltimore and you’ll see the magnificent scenery of Carbery’s Hundred Isles. Apart from its significance to shipping, the rock is also the turning point of the renowned Fastnet ocean race.
The Baltimore Pirate Festival in June commemorates the attack by Barbary corsairs known as “The Sack of Baltimore,” as well as the established trade among pirates of many nationalities in the bays and inlets of Roaring Water Bay. The festival includes attractions for all ages based on the theme of the sack, as well as the story of pirates and piracy around this area.
The deep-sea angling festival held in Baltimore each August is the oldest such event in south- west Ireland. Famous for good fishing, good company and a spirit of friendly rivalry, it is open to everyone and usually attracts around 60 anglers from Ireland and abroad. A separate one-day shark fishing contest is followed by a three-day bottom fishing competition for fish including conger, ling, pollack, cod, and common skate. With an emphasis on conservation, results are decided on a points basis, and fish are returned alive to the sea.
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