Inishturk may be the most remote inhabited island off the Irish coast, being 7 miles from the mainland at its closest point. Smaller than its neighbours, Inishbofin and Clare Island, and having only recently acquired a regular ferry service, it receives few visitors.
Seen from the Connemara or Mayo coast Inishturk appears rather flat, especially compared to Clare Island to its north. This view is deceptive: the high point of the island is over 200m and the hidden western coast is an almost continuous line of cliffs.
The cliffs reach their highest point at the right-angled cutaway at the north-west of the island maintaining a vertical profile of 120-170m for almost 1km. This 'Main Cliffs' area is an exceptional and intimidating place. The structure is reminiscent of parts of the South Stack at Gogarth in Wales or Tintagel Head in Cornwall, though on a far grander scale. Two multi-pitch routes have been climbed so far here and there is scope for many more.
Elsewhere on the island there are several other major features. The north-east coast has a very steep wall and the interesting 'Perrin Zawn'. On the west coast the crags become smaller forming a complex system of small bays and zawns, offering extensive scope for single pitch routes. The western tip is Dromore Head, the only other area developed so far, with excellent solid wall and slab climbing below a dramatic knife-edge ridge.
Rock type is a variety of Ordovician sedimentary layers (sandstones, slates) similar to those found around Killary Harbour on the mainland. There also appear to be some igneous rock intrusions.
The compact nature of the island means that all the crags may be reached by foot. The Main Cliffs are 40 minutes from the harbour and Dromore Head a little further.
Accommodation is camping or a limited range of B&Bs. Camping appears to be unrestricted on the common land that is on the north and western side of the wall that bisects the island. There may also be scope for camping closer to the harbour - ask the locals. Of the B&Bs, Delia Concannon's Harbour Lodge (098 45610) is recommended both as a place to stay and for tea whilst waiting for the homewards ferry.
The ferry operates between Roonah Quay near Louisburgh in Co. Mayo. Roughly there is an outbound sailing at 1100 and return at 1800 but check (098 45541) before travelling, and book if necessary. The sailing can be rough being exposed to full Atlantic swell for much of the distance.
Apparently there is a shop somewhere north-east of the harbour. There is a bar in the community centre. The Harbour Lodge does evening meals.
Finally, note that the weather on Inishturk is usually better than on the mainland.
Toby Foord-Kelcey
Last updated November 2003