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Photo Essay: Off the Beaten Path -- Heir Island, Ireland

11/04/2013 03:07 EST | Updated 01/23/2014 10:52 EST

Just off the coast of West Cork, Ireland lays tranquil Heir Island. This island is the perfect retreat for anyone looking to get away, feel inspired, sail, paint and cook. Only 2.5km long, Heir Island is located in Roaringwater Bay and home to 24 residents.

On a rainy September day, I took the Heir Island ferry over from Cunnamore pier (now try finding that on a map!) to explore the Island and visit with a few of the residents. John Desmond and Elmary Fenton from the Island Cottage Restaurant and Cooking school not only put me up for the night, but also gave a lesson in cooking "live" shrimp.

Heir Island Ferry - 5 minute ferry ride from Cunnamore Pier.

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Views of Heir island harbour and resident's fishing boats. In the distance is Skeam Island.

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Heir Island cottages dot the landscape. The cottages were originally built in the 1920s and still preserve their original style.

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Heir Island artist Christine Thery in her studio. Christine and husband Gubby Williams, master boat builder, have lived on the island for over 20 years. Along with Christine, three other artists have permanent homes and studios on the Island.

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The Island provides plenty of natural materials to create art pieces like these at Christine Thery's studio. It just takes imagination.

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Artist Percy Hall's studio and residence by the Heir Island pier.

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Roaringwater Lodge Guesthouse is the home of Heir Island Sailing school, owned by the Moore family for over 40 years. Today Patricia and John Moore jointly run the Sailing school. The Moores' hold multiple jobs on the Island, John takes turns with his partners in running the ferry service while Patricia serves as the Island mail delivery person. The sailing school gets busy in the summer months with many signing up for two-week sailing camps.

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Firehouse Bread School's outdoor wood oven - methinks it would be great for baking pizza too. The Lodge's kitchen does double duty as the space is also used by Firehouse Bread School. The art of bread baking is taught by award winning chef and baker Patrick Ryan.

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Mobius Mini Conference Centre, opened in 2012 by Paul and Sarah Matthews as a corporate retreat for leadership development.

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Live shrimp just out of the ocean.

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Island Cottage's John Desmond cooking shrimp for dinner. It's difficult to imagine that John is able to whip up 5 course meals for 24 guests in this tiny kitchen when the restaurant is open during the summer months.

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Soda Bread fresh out of the oven baked by John Desmond for our breakfast.

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My trip to Heir Island was assisted by Tourism Ireland.