Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Island 410 - Inishturk, County Mayo

Inishturk is located 9 miles off the west coast of County Mayo.  It is approximately 3 miles from east to west by 1.5 miles from north to south and in 2016 it had a resident population of 53.  It can be accessed by passenger ferry from Roonagh Quay, which is 10 miles west of the town of Westport.  In 2018 the cost of an adult return ticket was €17. The ferry is operated by O'Malley Ferries.

My visit to Inishturk in the middle of May 2018 started badly when 25 minutes into the 45 minute journey I realised I was going to be sick.   I managed to find the sick bag I had in my rucksack just in time...  The problem was that we were heading into the south west wind but there was also a swell coming in from the north west (or maybe it was the tide) and causing the boat to move in both directions at once.  I have been on a lot of ferries and this was only the second time I had been sick.  Once we landed the day improved considerably and I was fine on the boat on the way home.

There are two signposted looped (circular) walks around the island and there was a free and very useful leaflet available on the ferry with a map showing these walks and points of interest around the island.  The main Lough Coolaknick Loop (3 miles) is all on roads and tracks around the centre of the island, with the second walk - the Mountain Common Loop (2 miles) as an optional off-track extension to view the western cliffs.  This part was less well signposted but worth doing as the cliffs are stunning.  The looped walks are only signposted if you do them in an anti-clockwise direction.
Looped Walk Signpost
Stone Structure on Mountain Common Looped Walk - close to where Teampaill Na Muckaun is marked on the map
Standing Stone
Stacks and Cliffs from the Viewing Point on the West Coast
Stacks and Cliffs on the West Coast
Two of the Inishturk's many sheep pose for a photo on Mountain Common
Not sure what this once was - there are lots of similar structures on the Mountain Common Looped Walk
Lough Coolaknick outflow
Cliffs on the North Coast near Tale of the Tongs

The ruins of a signal tower built 1805-6 during the Napoleonic Wars can be visited by a detour off the Mountain Common Loop to the highest point on the island at 191 metres above sea level.  82 signal towers were built along the west coast of Ireland and the one on Inishturk was number 57.

Signal Tower
Signal Tower
Trig point near the Signal Tower
Looking east along the north coast

The little harbour at Portdoon on the south coast is worth the short  detour off the Lough Coolaknick Loop.  It has an extremely narrow entrance and so is only accessible to very small boats.

Harbour at Portdoon
Narrow entrance to Portdoon Harbour
Looking south from the entrance to Portdoon Harbour
Sheds at Portdoon Harbour

Close to Lough Coolaknick there is a modern sculpture called The Tale of the Tongs.  It consists of a glass shelter, which resembles bus shelter and several stone tables or benches of varying dimensions and the main surnames of islanders past.

Austrian family sheltering in the Tale of the Tongs shelter
Tale of the Tongs - Clare Island in the distance
O'Toole sign and Lough Coolaknick from Tale of the Tongs
Tale of the Tongs

Inishturk has a Community Club, which has a pub, a restaurant, which is open in the summer months and a shop, which is only open for a couple of hours each day.  The Community Club opened in 1991 but was officially opened in 1993 by the President of Ireland, Mary Robinson.

There are a couple of guesthouses on the island offering bed and breakfast accommodation.  The island's health centre and Catholic church are both located close to the harbour.  In the middle of the island there is a community sports field, which was completed in 2010.  The changing rooms were completed in 2012.

Inishturk Community Club and Shop
Inside the Church
Health Centre
Sports Field
The name Inishturk means "island of the wild boar" in English.  The island has been inhabited for more than 6,000 years and several archaeological sites can be seen on the island, including burnt mounds (fulacht fia in Irish), an old church, dúns (forts) and beehive hut sites. Geologically Inishturk is composed of schists and shales from the Ordovician period.

Looking south towards Inishdalla
The Islanders - sculpture above the harbour by Eamonn O'Doherty, commissioned by Mayo County Council
Ferry in the Harbour
Steps down to Corraun Beach - no beach at high tide!
Lobster pots neatly stacked
Chickens and cockerel
Old Barn near the Harbour
Fishing Boats in Inishturk Harbour
O' Malley's Ferry - Naomh Ciaran II
Houses behind the harbour
Cottages to the north east of the harbour
Graveyard - looking south towards Inishdalla

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