What IS island life like?

Living on Ireland’s most southerly Gaeltacht island, Cape Clear/Oileán Chléire, proves to be an avid topic of discussion/ice breaker for myself when imposed with the question “Where are ya from?” How do I even begin with this answering this question?? I’ll give you basically the down low of how I try to narrow down where Cape Clear is, misconceptions of island life, and most importantly, what IS island life actually like??

1.Explaining the geography of Cape Clear.

Well first off, I try to highlight the fact that Cape Clear is, indeed, an island and that means a 45 minute ferry journey on a good day or an hour journey on a shabby enough day which departs from Baltimore Harbour. Cape (us islanders call it Cape for short) is the most southerly inhabited Gaeltacht in Ireland, 3 miles long by 1 mile wide of pure and utter scenic beauty. It consists of a population of approx. 120 people and proudly beholds a shop/restaurant, a tourist shop, a church, a school consisting of only approx.12 students, 2 irish colleges, a hostel, a campsite, a goat farm, various holiday homes and B&B’s, a hackney service, a co-op and most importantly, 3 pubs where many a time trad sessions go on til the crack of dawn as us islanders can be seen holding a freshly pulled pint of Guinness in one hand and a packet of cheese and onion Tayto’s in the other as we embrace our irishness in the midst of song and dance. If you’re looking for craic agus ceoil, well Cape is the place for you!

2.Frequent misconceptions of island life.

I swear to christ above some people think I live in a hole in the ground when they hear that I live on an island!

I would like to clarify a few things for people about the island;

  1. Wifi/ television: YES, I do have internet and television. To be honest, the wifi is so good on the island that it’s dangerous for the likes of me, to be quite frank, I’m constantly checking out Kyle Jenner’s latest ridiculously unrealistic life on Istagram, trying to get famous people to tweet me on Twitter and checking my Facebook feed only for me to have to marvel at the latest water condom challenge or skimming through the latest evident frape victims that are apparently “in a relationship” with someone they’ve been shifting the faces off of in college on drunken nights out.
  2. Do you speak Irish at home? I do indeed! Although, I would inform someone that I speak Irish and ONLY Irish at home, people like to proceed to ask me ” Like, all the time? You even text in irish?” Like YES, I didn’t say it just for the craic! It’s literally like asking you if you speak Portuguese at home, if you communicate on all levels with this langauge?! Well, no, you speak English and why would you be speaking in Portuguese and for me, why would I be speaking English if Irish is the language in my household! Sin sin.
  3. Is there a shopping centre/chinese, pizza take away??? The answer to that is unfortunately no. However, I have been tempted numerous times to order pizza on JustEat and ask them to pop it onto the ferry for me to collect it… You mainlanders don’t even realize how blessed you all are when you are in dire need of a big duurty pizza and it’s literally that simple to get hold of one. Like, literally, I really really would love a 16″ Margarita pizza right now, but literally, I don’t have the man power to do that at this moment in time. You don’t know how powerless us islanders feel at times like these…

3.What IS island life actually like?

Imagine a life where running late for getting ready for a night out literally means being a day late by missing the last running ferry and that means that you won’t be making it out to 12 pubs with your friends from the mainland and unsuccessfully managing to achieve 12 pubs and making an absolute fool of yourself, in that case, missing the ferry is sometimes necessarily a good thing! You’re restricted by the times the boats go out and it’s not just simply a case of getting the next bus in 20 minutes because some days only 2 ferry crossing run where they are hours apart so basically it’s a case of tough luck.

If I want to plan to go out on the weekend etc. I literally need about a week in advance notice because you need to check out what time ferry’s cross and what corresponding buses you can get. Let’s put it like this; when I went to boarding school in Cork, I left the island at 4pm and would only arrive in Cork City at 8pm. You could fly to Spain in less than that time!!

On the upside though, the island doesn’t have any ngaaardaí therefore many of us islander kiddo’s start to learn how to drive when we’re about 12/13 years young. ( If you’re a garda reading this, please pretend like you didn’t read the last few lines.) I have never seen a car over the year 1998 on the island. My car has a sheet of plastic in place to substitute for a glass window and our side mirrors are non existent. A car for use on the island could easily cost 200 beans or so!

Many people wonder how exactly do us islanders do our shopping?! Well we have a few options indeed.

No.1 – We can order our groceries from Supervalu Fields in Skibbereen by phone and they’ll deliver our goods in packaged boxes with twine, on to the ferry and then we collect the boxes from the pier.

No.2- We can make the boat trip out and drive to Skibbereen and manually shop for our weekly groceries but this is more time consuming…

No.3- We can run small errands in the local shop on the island ‘Siopa Beag’ which literally means ‘small shop’ and certainly lives up to the name.

No.3- We can sometimes not get any fresh milk or bread if the sea is too rough and the boat can not cross which is quite seldom!


So that’s basically general 21st century island life summed up in a blog! If you want to know anything else like how us islanders matchmake or have random céilí’s in the middle of the night in the pissing rain, don’t hesitate to ask me!

Slán go fóilín!



4 thoughts on “What IS island life like?

  1. Nice work Fay. Just retired from UL after 30+ years. We can see the sun setting on Cape Clear from our new home on the mainland. Beautiful 🙂


    1. Haven’t seen them but that’s good I guess 😛 Yeah that’s true but ya can’t get delivered pizza whenever you want which is what I was trying to highlight! Cape is lucky that we at least have pizza night on Friday’s, should have mentioned that I guess 😀 Thanks for the comment!


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