With a dramatic landscape that ranges from lakes and mountains to stark, ocean- battered cliffs, Southwest Ireland is a land rich in storytellers and history-makers. Outlaws and rebels once lurked in the hidden coves and glens now overrun by visitors. If the tourist mayhem is too much for you, you can always retreat to the placid stretches along the Ring of Kerry and Cork’s southern coast.


Swansea-Cork Ferries ( 021 427 1166) go between Cork and Swansea, South Wales (10hr. daily, ‚30-43). Brittany Ferries (021 427 7801) sail from Cork to Roscoff, France (14hr. ‚50-100).


The adult birds are a glossy metallic green in colour. The shag can stay underwater for up to 170 seconds, more than twice the time of the cormorant, but they normally average about 50 seconds. The eggs are very similar but the shag nests on individual ledges on rocky cliffs at the coast, unlike the cormorant which builds its nest close to others in clusters on flattish rocky islands. Most of the shags around the Farne Islands have moved down from Bass Rock in the Firth of Forth or from the Isle of May, and the shag is very seldom seen inland. Eider duck (Somateria mollissima) Eider ducks are on record as having been around the Farne Islands since the days of St Cuthbert and are present all the year round. They are very tame during the nesting season and will stay at the nest no matter how close you approach them. They are about 24 in. long (61 cm) and are very seldom found inland on the mainland. The females are a mottled brown in colour, while the drake has a magnificent and distinctive velvety-black underside and a glistening white top half, a pink flushed chest and emerald green nape. In both birds, the head and bill form a heavy wedge shape.

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