Supporting island communities will enrich all our lives
Published 10/08/2016 | 02:30
The highlights of our stay in west Cork were trips to the islands, Whiddy and Bere.
We decided to cycle on Whiddy Island and the ferryman Tim O'Leary, recognisable from TV3's Islanders series, readily agreed we could bring our bikes, even though he provides bike hire himself from the Bank House bar, opposite the new pontoon that was built a few years ago.
The island is, unfortunately, strongly associated in the public mind with the infamous Whiddy disaster of 1979 where a French oil tanker, the Betelgeuse, exploded, killing 50 people.
Whiddy was perfect for cycling with young kids. It is quite flat, the roads are well surfaced, the scenery is stunning in a rustic way and, best of all, there is little vehicular traffic.
The oil terminal is now owned by Zenith Energy and the tanks, which store one third of the county's national oil reserves, stand like colossal defenders, which seems appropriate given the strategic importance of this coastline over a long period.
The island's history, which dates back to around 4500BC, is peopled with Vikings and monks as well as Gaelic chieftains.
More recently, as a consequence of the attempted French invasion of Ireland in 1796, the British built three gun batteries on Whiddy in 1806 and 1807.
We walked up to the East battery, which has a commanding view over the surrounding area. It is overgrown but still looks magnificent and is surrounded by a cavernous surrounding limestone ditch. It has the makings of a stunning visitor attraction.