Sean’s journey. Photo: Sean Wood
By Sean Wood
Over the past month I have received several inquiries about whale watching in Ireland and the best place to stay, giving me the perfect opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.
Because in recent years, and indeed thanks to Covid, the Emerald Isle has become a hotspot for the rarest whales, and although I don’t have a home across the sea from Ireland, I know a man who has.
The truth is that Matthew Boyd of ‘Shamrock Cottages’ has around 100 of them at his disposal, all in beautiful areas, but more importantly many are in the perfect spot for whale and dolphin watching, and I will match properties with recent sightings, then you can decide for yourself where to stay.
This year is proving to be a bountiful season for humpback whales off the Blasket Islands in County Kerry, with no less than seven animals identified so far.
When I first visited the area, their location at one point was quite obvious from their simultaneous small and large banging.
Some of the other animals also paired up while cooperatively foraging with bubble nets; circling a high-speed bait ball in a blur of white pectoral fins before rushing forward with its mouth wide open.
About 15 miles west of the Blaskets we were treated to a fabulous feeding display with gannets and shearwaters and hundreds of common dolphins chasing large amounts of fish in the water.
A pair of humpback whales and several minke whales completed the scene with occasional displays of the humpback whales, with the smaller juvenile humpback occasionally escaping from the water.
Matthew owns a number of seaside cottages in County Kerry and all within easy reach of the Blasket Islands, Inishtooskert and the mighty Skelligs themselves. Some located in the Gaeltacht, a place where Gaelic is still spoken, and others on the Dingle Peninsula at the foot of Mount Eagle (1696ft) and most importantly, to celebrate the sightings, the nearest pubs and restaurants are only a few steps away. .
In County Cork and the world is your lobster when it comes to spotting whales and dolphins, including fin and minke whales from shore.
Matthew has an end house of an attractive waterfront, next to a south-facing slipway with wonderful views across Schull Harbor to Calf and Clear Islands, a short walk from the fishing village popular area of Schull, where it is possible to participate in whale watching trips.
Cape Clear, Ireland’s southernmost island, is an amazing place to visit, not least for the amount of rare birds that roost there for a time, including, memorably, a magnificent frigatebird that was, it must be said, a bit lost.
Several miles from the south-west tip of Cork in an ocean area, Porcupine Seabight, three blue whales have been sighted in the past five years. In the far west of County Mayo in the past month alone there have been several sightings of everyone’s favorite killer whale, including a pod of four individuals.
These beauties can appear anywhere, and this year alone they have been seen from Dublin Bay to Donegal and from Waterford to County Galway.
You could do worse than staying in Mulraney’s outstanding bungalow in Mayo, with magnificent views across island-studded Clew Bay to Croagh Patrick (2510ft) with nearby sheltered sandy beaches ideal for swimming .
Shamrock Cottages has a wonderful thatched cottage in Carne, and the surrounding area of County Wexford is magnificent for national wildlife. It’s also where part of my family is from, and it’s from the shore here that a sperm whale has been photographed in recent years.
Like most wildlife sightings of any description, nothing is guaranteed, but as I said earlier virtually all of Matthew’s Cottages are in beautiful locations, which means that even if you don’t ‘re unlucky, you can stay in a little piece of paradise.
For example, a traditional 250-year-old thatched cottage in a unique location nestled in the sand dunes just off Ballinesker Beach and Curracloe Strand, County Wexford, with sand stretching for miles, was the location where “Saving Private Ryan” was filmed.
Check the website.
Not so long ago, sperm whales were nearly wiped out, partly because we used a substance found in their heads for all sorts of household items and preparations.
This white waxy substance is called spermaceti and was used in candles and ointments. It is present in a rounded organ of the head, where it concentrates acoustic signals and helps in buoyancy control.
The Laughing Badger Gallery & Cellar Bar Music Venue, which many of you have visited, has lifted the sticks and moved into its new natural habitat at the Howard Town Brewery in Old Glossop.
All the usual shenanigans, including workshops, live music and art.
Read more here and give me a shout.
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