Last April myself and 27 other individuals took our first steps on an 118km walk along the Camino de Santiago from Sarria to Santiago with Mark and Cormac from Into the West Adventures, it was a first for most of us and one that bonded us in an experience only shared by spending a whole week with people from all different backgrounds and places, sure where else would you meet them! We promised to keep in touch and share many more adventures together and we kept our promise.
So last weekend 16 out of the 28 met up and had a reunion and not just any old reunion, we decided to go on another adventure and this time we travelled to Inishturk Island Inishturk is a small beautiful island, 5km x 2.5km, located 9 miles (14.5km) off the west coast of Mayo. It rises boldly from the wild North Atlantic in wall-like cliffs to the northwest and steep hills to the north on which stands the ruins of the old signal tower 688 ft above sea level. If you ever want to experience the bliss and beauty of an island, this is one to come and see.
Each of us travelled to Roonagh Pier coming from Galway, Mayo, Dublin and even Manchester. The excitement in the car on the way down for myself and Grace - who was also celebrating her 40th birthday that weekend was palpable. We sang and danced in our seats as the sun shone for our beautiful 2 hour drive and that was just to get on the ferry to sail to the island, all part of the experience for me, I felt my inner child hopping all over the place awaiting a new adventure. Again I feel so grateful to be able to experience something for the first time and take in every moment of excitement.
We were here taking our maiden journey upon Naomh Ciaran , as always we had a few that were running just a little late and we were thinking how could we bribe the driver to hold on for a few more minutes, we were coming up with some very inventive ideas that thankfully we didn't have to carry through. At last all the group present and accounted for, we set sail. The most beautiful sailing with the breeze blowing and the evening sun shining down upon us, we chatted and even sang on the hour long journey.
For most of us it was our first time to visit Inishturk, we were the island virgins! On arrival to Inishturk there was a very warm welcome from the locals, Mary Catherine Heanu of Ocean view house our home for the next two nights, was there to collect our bags and welcome us into her beautiful home. We had to walk a short distance up the hill and just looking around in those moments was breathtaking, I couldn't wait to go exploring! There was no time to waste as our dinner was being prepared in the community club which was our restaurant and pub for the weekend. The beautiful three course meal was very welcomed by these 16 starving windswept visitors, afterwards we retired to the bar next door where we made ourselves at home, too comfortable in fact as some never left till nearly 4am! You'd think we were never let out.
So after a few hours sleep, who needs that much anyway! We started the day with a big irish breakfast from Mary Catherine and her daughter Tina before we set off at 9.30am to explore the island. We knew the weather was promised to get worse later in the day so we wanted to make the most of it. Mark from Into the West Adventure had brought along his lovely Father in law and also his friend Michael who was a mine of information on the local history and archealogical sites of the island, it is amazing when you are told something, how your mind starts to see the different formations of early settlers in the rugged hills, where as before they would just look like rocks in the rugged hills. It is fascinating to learn of how the early settlers lived and coped with daily life in sometimes such harsh conditions.
The ground was soft and marshy in places and easy to walk on, the strong winds sometimes took your breath away but also made you very aware of the power of Nature and not to stand too close to the cliff edge. Every where you looked there was something else to marvel in. We laughed and chatted along the way, sharing stories of of what we each had been up to since our last group adventure, it was like we had just picked up from where we left off last April. I am deeply grateful to have met so many wonderful people that I will hold in my heart forever.
So walking the hills of Inishturk, the weather starts to get a little rougher, for our safety we had to cut the adventure a little short and how awful it was to return to the community club to warm up in the bar! Like children it was like getting off school early and heading to the shop for sweets, we landed our wet backsides down on the chairs, stripped off the wet gear and settled ourselves down for an quick one or three. It is such a relaxed and comfortable place that you could stay there all day, thank goodness we had the sense to go back to the B&B and have a little rest, shower and change before our dinner that evening, we had worked up another great appetitie and we were not disappointed with the delicious array of food put before us, bellies full, we even had surprise birthday cakes for Grace and also Lisa who were celebrating milestone birthdays that weekend. We again retired into the bar for a few quiet ones, but most of us were tired after the day and all the fresh air and for a change I was in bed before 12.30am, I even got a lift home! Some die-hards had to stay to help clean up the bar, we believe ye!
Waking up on Sunday morning the winds were gone and the day bright and fresh. Big breakfast to fuel us for another few hours of walking, we pass along the wishing wall again, where it is tradition to leave a coin in the cracks of the wall, there has been many the wish made by the amount of coins the wall now holds. More hills and more history, we are getting the whole experience and to top off the wonderful weekend we get to visit one of the beautiful beaches on the island, now this really took my breath away. I felt the pull of the water and every cell of my being energised. I had to take the shoes and socks off and just run straight in, I was tempted to dive in head first but that will be for my next visit.
Back to the B&B to shower off the sand and sea from the feet and prepare to leave after a wonderful and wild weekend. My heart was full but I secretly wanted to stay to explore some more. The friendly and welcoming people on the island - 58 of them in total made us feel like we were part of their community from the minute we stepped on that ferry at Roonagh Pier.
We met so many people that like us, had decided to take a trip to Inishturk and explore the magnificence and beauty of this island, I am sure they too were in awe of its natural beauty and rugged landscapes and will share their stories with many. For me even though I was with the group, I experienced it in my own way. It is a place you can get lost and also find yourself. It brings you back to remembering the simple things in life are usually the best, that we all need to take time out and explore our wonderful country, it has so much to offer even if we don't always get the weather, you can still enjoy it.
Sharing the experience with my wonderful friends will be a memory we will hold onto and I am sure we will have many more adventures in the future. It's not have far you travel, but what you learn along the way and who stays in your heart forever. This gang are in my heart always and Inishturk is embedded in my soul.
You may also wish to read James' story on his recent visit to Inishturk also, no matter who you are you will always remember your visit there.