Ireland’s most southerly inhabited point, Clear Island (Oileán Chléire, also known as Cape Clear) is an isolated outpost of the Gaeltacht, which welcomes teenagers from all over the country to learn Irish during the summer, and generally reaches out to visitors, with plenty of facilities and information available. The island also holds a traditional story-telling festival, with concerts, workshops and music (wwww.capeclearstorytelling.com), over the first weekend of September. Clear describes a very rough figure-of-eight, just six kilometres square, with North Harbour, where ferries dock, and cliff-girt South Harbour almost meeting in the middle. Its landscape of steep, rolling hills of heather and pasture is crossed by narrow, hedge-lined roads and paths, affording fine views of Roaringwater Bay and of Fastnet Rock to the west in the open sea, where whales, dolphins and sharks can sometimes be spotted. The island is most famous as one of the best seabird-watching sites in Europe, with breeding colonies of black guillemots, choughs and rock doves and an important bird observatory at North Harbour (t028/39181, wwww.birdwatchireland.ie; April–Oct). Late spring and October are the best times for twitchers, who can take field courses and stay at the observatory.

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