This year A Taste of West Cork offers foodies the chance to soak up the sights on the islands, writes Sean O’Riordan

A classic islands’ dressing awaits foodies, locals, and visitors in West Cork in the weeks ahead.

The region will become a foodie’s paradise as its islands, inhabited and otherwise, add a new flavour to the highly successful A Taste of West Cork Food Festival.

Patrons to the event, running September 9-18, will be all at sea with guided walks, barbecues, free cookery demonstrations, art and food trails, tapas and wine tastings, along with island tours and historical talks.

Whiddy, Sherkin, Heir, Beara, the State-run Garnish, Dursey, Inish Beg, and Irish-speaking Cape Clear all have tasty programmes lined up.

Traditionally Skibbereen-based, the festival organisers have also embraced dozens of other villages and towns in this year’s event.

However, in addition to the jam-packed programme of events on the mainland, the festival uniquely offers a chance to soak up the sights on the islands.

“The combination of land and sea, town, village, and islands within this vibrant festival highlights the pre-eminent position of West Cork for food and fun along the popular Wild Atlantic Way,” say the organisers.

Among the top offshore events to whet the appetite are:

Sherkin Island:

Seafood Celebration on September 9. Under the new proprietorship of Deirdre and Jez Youell, the Jolly Roger will host an evening of good fun, with excellent music, tastings of West Cork beverages, cheeses, and charcuterie in the atmospheric setting of the traditional island pub.

Bere Island:

A taste tour of the peninsula island is on September 10. It combines a cultural heritage of the island and showcases the spectacular seafood served in the island restaurants: The Lookout Bistro, Bere Island Hotel, and the Bakehouse Case. It also visits the Heritage Centre, the standing stone at Grenane and the military fortifications.

Garnish Island:

Gardener Peter Dowdall leads a tour of the OPW-maintained island. Located in the harbour of Glengarriff in Bantry Bay, Garnish is world renowned for its gardens, the result of the creative partnership of Annan Bryce and Harold Peto, architect and garden designer. The garden is a fantastic Italianate in beautiful walks, and home to many rare specimens of plants not seen in Ireland. It has a restored Martello tower and is accessible by a short ferry trip.

Whiddy Island:

The Bantry Bay inner harbour island presents a guided walk and delicious seafood lunch on September 10. A haven for wildlife and many species of birds, the walk along the shoreline is a journey of discovery.

Sherkin Island:

Back to Sherkin on September 10 and award-winning chef Derry Clarke will once again be behind the coals cooking up a feast for the Islanders Rest BBQ. An annual fixture in the West Cork calendar, the fundraiser aids the RNLI Baltimore Lifeboat Station.

Heir Island:

Situated amid Carbery’s famed hundred isles, a free cookery demonstration, ‘How to make a classic chocolate mousse’ will be presented at John Desmond’s Island Cottage restaurant on September 11.

Beara Safari:

Photographer John Eagle leads a tour on September 16/17 of the peninsula. A specially designed figure-of-eight safari includes Allihies, Eyeries, Ardgroom, Adrigole, and Castletownbere. Also, there’s the country’s only cable car to Dursey Island and the dramatic serpentine road of the Healy Pass crossing the Caha Mountains.

Sherkin Island:

An art and food trail on September 17 will showcase the island as a hub of creativity for artists. Its home to a diverse and interesting group of artists including Jo Ashby, Bernadette Burns, Terry Farnell, Claus Havermann, Fergus Murphy, Mona O’Driscoll, and Sean O’Neill.

Ten Island Tour:

The September 17 tour leaves from Baltimore Pier and cruises around the islands of Roaring Water Bay, with a full commentary on the islands that slip past as patrons enjoy complimentary snacks and drinks.

Cape Clear:

A Taste of West Cork on Cape Clear island on September 17 starts with the Sean Ruas Restaurant, for tea and coffee, to meet historian and archaeologist Diarmuid Ó Driscéoil, Cape Clear Bird Observatory warden Sam Bailey and biologist Geoff Oliver who will host a guided walk.

Afterwards, visitors have two options: Energetic visitors can head up the hill to visit Mara farm, a working island farm or take a slow meander back to North Shore where a bus will be on hand to drive to the Heritage Centre to meet up with the hill walkers.

This year A Taste of West Cork offers foodies the chance to soak up the sights on the islands, writes Sean O’Riordan


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