Written by mildrover on 03 Jul, 2003
Heading down the Louisburgh road from Westport on a fine day, the scenery is simply spectacular. To the north Clew Bay, peppered with small islands, stretches to the Nephin Mountains and Achill Island. To the south, the holy peak of Croagh Patrick stands majestic in…Read More
Heading down the Louisburgh road from Westport on a fine day, the scenery is simply spectacular. To the north Clew Bay, peppered with small islands, stretches to the Nephin Mountains and Achill Island. To the south, the holy peak of Croagh Patrick stands majestic in its symmetry and looming on the horizon Clare Island rises like a huge stone whale from the sea. Heading west for a few miles you eventually reach Louisburgh, here the main road heads south to Killary Harbour and Connemara, but just past the village a lonely road continues west to Roonagh Quay.
Roonagh is the main disembarkation point for Clare Island and Inishturk and today it is thronged with day-trippers heading out to the islands. Most of them are heading to Clare Island, only a short hop by ferry but many are heading to the lesser known Inishturk for the Regatta. It’s standing room only on the small boat as we head out from the shelter of the bay and meet the swell of the Atlantic. After an hour of bouncing around, the tiny island harbour is a welcome sight.
The concrete helipad overlooking the harbour was both grandstand and dance floor, local musicians were setting up to provide the entertainment and a small caravan would be serving chips throughout the day. By twelve o’clock there must have been a hundred people here and the impromptu bar was doing a roaring trade. Several yachts have moored in the harbour for the day and a fine vintage Galway Hooker has joined them.
The races were due to start in an hour, so I decided to take a walk. Behind the tiny village, a track leads west through a barren rocky valley towards the Mountain Common and the highest point on the island. At the top stand the ruins of a Napoleonic signal tower which once communicated with those on Clare Island and Cleggan in Galway. You can see why they chose to build it here; at over 600 feet, the view is breathtaking. From the conical peak of Croagh Patrick to the north to the Twelve Pins of Connemara to the south, it is every inch the picture postcard Irish landscape.
Back at the harbour, the races were getting underway, teams from Inishturk, Clare Island, Achill, and Belmullet were competing for currach racing glory. Inishturk’s victory in the ladies final went down particularly well, even though one of their competitors went in the opposite direction; I had seen them at the bar earlier. When the racing is finished, cups are awarded to the winning teams and victories are celebrated.
As the evening draws in, the yachts began to sail away and many of the revellers had left on the late ferry. Those in the know booked in at one of the two B&Bs or brought a tent--it was going to be a good night. It turned out to be a good morning, too. I got to the community centre at around eleven o’clock and the joint was jumping. Over a dozen traditional musicians from as far away as Belfast and Tipperary played into the early hours to a packed house. I made it back to my lodgings at about seven the next morning, so I had plenty of sleep before catching the nine o’clock boat back to Roonagh.