The most beautiful of islands
Inishturk is a small beautiful island, 5km x 2.5km, located 9 miles or about 15km off the west coast of Mayo, between the islands of Inishbofin and Clare Island.
It rises boldly from the wild North Atlantic with wall like-cliffs to the northwest and steep hills to the north on which stands the ruins of the old Napoleonic signal tower 688 ft above sea level.
Inishturk, meaning ‘the Island of the Wild Boar’ in Irish, has been inhabited on and off since 4,000 BCE and in its present phase since at least 1700. The old settlers seem to have congregated at the southwest corner of the beautiful little harbour of Portdoon, where there is ample archeological evidence of their presence. The ancestry of the current population includes Wicklow, Wexford and Galway. Some of the dominant names include O’Toole, Heanue and Concannon, names from Leinster, Ulster as well as the nearby Connemara Gaeltacht.
Traditionally islanders have emigrated since the famine, to America and England. As a result, the island is now English speaking, although at the beginning of the 20th century Irish was the first language. Inishturk has a good main harbour with a new improved pier, fine beaches and many interesting archeological sites. Geologically Inishturk dates from the Ordovician period. Two separate folds of schists and shales rise out of the Atlantic to form Inishturk, which is a continuation of the same folds as Croagh Patrick on the Mayo mainland. Fulacht fiadh have been located on the island.
Pirates of Inishturk: Tradition has it that the Dun at Portdoon was built by pirates who harboured their galleys in the creek below, screened by the rocks from the observation of those sailing past. The pirate crew were the last Danes in Ireland who knew how to make bier lochlannach, a meade which was made from the heather-bloom. The fort was surprised and taken by the Irish who slaughtered the inmates except for one Dane and his son, offering to spare the captives if they told the secret of the meade, or as others said, the hiding place of their vast treasures, the plunder of many years. The old pirate, fearing the boy might be tempted or tortured into betrayal offered to tell if his son was put to death first, so none of his kin might see his treachery. This done, the pirate captain tore himself from his captors, and ran, shouting insults, to the deep chasm, springing over the cliff and carrying his secret to Odin.