I joined a group led by Clifden archaeologist Michael Gibbons on a trip to Inish Turk and Caher Island this week. We set out from Cleggan harbour at 9.30am and headed for Caher island first, north east of Turk. It is tiny, uninhabited and difficult to access. The remains of an early Christian monastery survive on the island which is an ancient pilgrimage place and is still visited for this purpose today.
Map of Inishturk and Caher Island
Unfortunately, we were unable to land on the island as there was quite a big swell even though the day was warm and calm. This was what we saw as we approached – the water was deceptively still, almost black and oily in appearance but it rose up suddenly in bursts which crashed heavily on the rocks at the shoreline.
We turned around then and made our way back to Inishturk, stopping first to marvel at the base of these cliffs – a rupture of black basalt and granite. The light was incredible – it sparkled off the water and diffused as it rose, trapped in the black curve of rock which rises sharply from the water. I wish my photography skills were a bit better – this is my best picture.
We travelled over to the pretty harbour of Portdoon next ( cover photo ) where we disembarked and started our hike. The island is 5km long by 2.5km wide and we covered a good deal of it in the five or six hours we spent there. The landscape is an eye popping mix of undulating hills and valleys with ancient walls and field systems and dramatic cliff top walks. There’s a spectacular view of the Twelve Bens mountain range in this next one.
The diamond shaped hill in the centre distance ( below ) is Croagh Patrick, an important pilgrimage mountain in county Mayo.
Me in hiking mode below.
These sea stacks are known in Irish as ‘Buachaill mor’ and ‘Buachail beag’ ( Big boy and small boy ). The cliff views were spectacular and a little scary.
This next one is known locally as the sphynx – an incredible natural sculpture.
As we completed the loop back to Portdoon, we began to hear the sound of the sheep and their new lambs which dotted this part of the island – they were very willing to pose for photos..
Lastly, I stopped to take a picture of the post office which also operates as a Bed and Breakfast.
Every single islander we met along the way greeted us warmly and stopped for a chat. I was struck by the thought of living among such a small close community – just forty inhabitants today. This island is less known and travelled compared to it’s neighbours Inishbofin and Clare Island which attract large numbers of tourists in the Summer, but it is no less beautiful. I hope to make a return visit before the end of the Summer.