Enjoy a cable car ride to an island full of natural beauty

In the final part of our 12-part series, Exploring Natural Cork, RICHARD GORDON visits the beautiful Dursey Island on the Beara Peninsula, taking a trip on Ireland’s only cable car along the way
Enjoy a cable car ride to an island full of natural beauty

A stunning rainbow over the harbour of Adrigole as Richard head to the Beara Peninsula, to pay a visit to Dursey Island. Picture: Richard Gordon

I encountered a perfect morning rainbow over the harbour of Adrigole as I was headed towards the tip of the Beara Peninsula. So perfect I had to pull over for a closer inspection.

The road on Beara is a pleasure to drive with winding smooth roads that feel like new tarmacadam and rich views around every bend.

As I approached Dursey Island a small box could be seen hovering and slowly moving laterally above the wild waters - Ireland’s one and only cable car. Two great stanchions could be seen from which the cables were attached, one on the mainland and one on the island, and one little box sliding in between them.

Richard had a bit of a waiting game, as the cable car was maintained.
Richard had a bit of a waiting game, as the cable car was maintained.

I was expecting large crowds so I got there fine and early as it opens at 9.30am hoping to be first in the queue. Maintenance was being carried out so I had to wait longer than expected and the crowds were not what I thought they’d be, it was actually really quiet.

The morning forecast had not turned out how I’d hoped, instead it was extremely blustery with thick and low hanging grey clouds.

It all felt a bit Father Ted-ish, as I sat there on my holidays waiting for the cable car, looking out onto the island, surrounded by rural fields, gale force winds around my face and shrouded in drizzling mist, “This is great, Ted!”.

Luckily I could see some break in the sky and it seemed to be travelling in my direction.

Travelling over on the cable car I met a lady called Mairead who knew the island intimately. We chatted about how they used to carry sheep across on the car. The inside was made up of wooden floors, wooden benches and a bottle of holy water hanging on the wall. The two rickety doors shut with the help of a little hooked latch. As the car lifted up and the pressure was exerted onto the cables, the force could be heard whipping its way through the metal fibres like firing electricity.

Once I reached the island I walked for a short while and noticed an old ruin down by the water’s edge, a cottage of some kind that was now being used as a graveyard. There was an only sheep standing on one of the walls of the ruin bleating its lungs out. The little fella clearly wanted to be heard as the rest of the herd were quietly pottering around chewing on grass. Its bleating echoed through the air as the light was falling through the clouds and shimmering over the steely, blue bay, as Crow Head peninsula placidly lay in the distance.

Narrow roadways wind around the island - with 100km speed limits.
Narrow roadways wind around the island - with 100km speed limits.

There are three villages on the island and they get more ancient and ruined the further you walk along.

I met a man called John at the second village who was born on the island and is now the only year-round resident of the island. We chatted about all sorts and he filled me in on the news. At one point he mentioned how cars get quickly damaged by the salty sea air and if part-time residents leave their cars on the island for too long their handbrakes will often rust solid and seize up. This made sense as it was incredibly windy and everything metal I saw seemed to be rusted, which added to the feel of antiquated Ireland on the island.

I was admiring the views at one point, looking down over steep cliffs and into the waters, watching the lobster fisherman circulate the island collecting their pots from the buoyed orange dots that appear at intervals in the water.

Then I heard a high-pitched buzz from a distance that was charging towards me. I turned to see a man on a small motorbike flying up the bohereen wearing his goggles and a massive smile, waving to me and clearly loving life. “Morning!” he bellowed as he zipped past me.

Interestingly, the cliffside roads, which have no barriers or protection at all from sheer drops, apart from some tall and beautiful foxglove flowers, limit the drivers of the island to 100 km/h… which seems a stretch. Good old Irish main roads with their highly ambitious speed limits.

The Dursey Cable Car, Ireland’s only cable car.
The Dursey Cable Car, Ireland’s only cable car.

The visibility was so poor I decided not to hike to the peaks of the island but the views nonetheless were incredible, with a little lighthouse sitting just beyond the main island.

I brought my swimming gear and figured if I felt crazy enough to get into the water I would but I later learned that there are no swimming spots.

The island is a steep dollop of land with cliff edge perimeters almost all the way around.

A highly recommended, stunning hike and beautiful day out for those who can brave the powerful Atlantic air.

You can catch up on Richard’s 12-part series, Exploring Natural Cork, on EchoLive.ie

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