The beauty of Clew Bay lies in its myriad islands. While Clare Island and Achill Island are the obvious giants, and many others are unpopulated and have no commercial services to them, a few are both easily accessed and worthy of exploration. Inishturk can be easily reached by regular ferry from Roonagh Pier, near Louisburgh and the boat journey is part of the adventure.
Even the name Inishturk meaning ‘Isle of the Wild Boar’ conjurs ancient times and archaeological findings assure us the island has been occupied intermittently by humans for some 6,000 years. Located 14.5km off from the mainland, today’s its population of approximately 60 is about a fifth of what it might have been in pre-famine times. Sized at a mere 5km by 2.5km the island can easily be traversed in a day.
Besides the rugged walking trails, dramatic cliffs and sandy beaches, there are several interesting archaeological features on Inishturk. At its highest peak the island boasts one of 82 Napoleonic Signal Towers which were built along the western seaboard by the British between 1801 and 1806 as a defensive response to the surprise attacks in 1798 by the French Army under General Humbert’s command.
Ruins of the Old Church reveal at least two incarnations: 17th and 19th century. Part of the building dates from the 17th Century--reminding us of the hardships experienced in these parts during the harsh years of the Penal Laws imposed upon Catholics and Protestant dissenters, forfeiting to Irish citizens any natural rights and described by Edmund Burke as:
"A machine of wise and elaborate contrivance, as well fitted for the oppression, impoverishment and degradation of a people, and the debasement in them of human nature itself, as ever proceeded from the perverted ingenuity of man."
Another section of the church dates from the Famine times, another tragic period when the island’s landlord, Lord Lucan sent bailiffs in gun boasts to evict tenants from their homes.
The area which is now a graveyard shows up on a 19th century map with a stone circle indicating pagan origins and an ancient cooking mound or Fulacht Fiadh, made of shattered stones and charcoal both reaffirm that this island’s inhabitants reach far into the distant past.
Legend has it that Portdoon, a clear lagoon nestled in the sea cliffs off Inishturk was a hiding place for Norse pirates from where they launched attacks on unsuspecting travellers.
Today, one can circumnavigate the island easily without fear of ambush (though watch out for those sea stacks) and finish off with a dip in the crystal clear waters at either Tranaun or Curraun beaches to end an afternoon walking or boating before departing from one of the farthest flung populated spots in Europe.