Ireland: Go wild on an isle of your own

Inish Turk Beg is a private island off Ireland's west coast. It's also the perfect retreat, says Rob Sharp

Beyond the living room windows, a grassy hillside slopes down to the sea. In the middle distance, beneath the sinking sun, other specks of land glisten with white flecks of sheep. Behind them, the Atlantic Ocean stretches to the horizon.

The living room belongs to Nadim Sadek, an Irish-Egyptian entrepreneur, who sits beside me: well-built, gregarious, constantly smiling. He has reasons to be cheerful. He owns this house and the 65 acres of private island which surround it. Sadek, who made his fortune in market research, has made real what for many is just a childhood dream. He purchased this patch of land off the west coast of Ireland then spent millions developing it.

The island is Inish Turk Beg ("island of the small boar"), in Clew Bay, off the coast of County Mayo. Its varied landscape is everything a child might dream of: stony beaches, gorse covered hills, miniature crags covered in grass, myriad nooks within which you might lose yourself. Half of it has been left "natural" (though there has been artificial planting of ash, larch, oak and pine trees), the rest has been developed with state-of-the-art accommodation.

"I was travelling a lot and I was getting on a flight to Tokyo when my wife, Sandra, called and said there was half an island for sale," Sadek says. "When I landed, she said it was the whole island. I told her we've got to buy it, not knowing anything about how affordable it was."

When Sadek first set foot here in 2003, the island consisted of little more than a few run-down buildings. He has since spent millions laying power cabling from the mainland and shipping in concrete on barges which a local workforce has used to build roads and new foundations. He then employed London architectural firm Andrew Wright Associates to design a collection of modern buildings – homes with broadband and infinity pools, games rooms and televisions – which would not look out of place in a north London suburb. The comfortable accommodation brings a stylish feel to the operation; the views and seclusion combine for added drama.

Inish Turk Beg's nearest airport is outside the small town of Knock, from which the island's private minibus shuttles passengers to the coast. It was here that I'd boarded Ocean Potion, one of Sadek's private fleet of three boats, each of which can carry about a dozen passengers. In the spring sunshine, there was little wind to buffet me on the journey over, which allowed me to focus on the dramatic views of some of Clew Bay's crags and shores. The bay's largest isle, Clare Island, loomed out of the sea to the west. To the south towered the holy mountain of Croagh Patrick, where bare-footed pilgrims walk to its mist-shrouded summit every July.

Mandy and Johnny, two of the island's permanent staff, greeted me at the island's east coast jetty, where one of Andrew Wright's modern, "pavilion-style" buildings blends in with the clover peppering the grass at the bottom of a hillside. Inside, large windows cast light across modern kitchen and dining facilities, next to three bedroom suites. Outside, decking covered the same area as the internal floor plan. In total, the island can sleep about 25 people, split between this building and a collection of other houses a short drive away. All are located at the island's shores, and all have views across the bay or out to sea.

I jumped into one of the island's two cars – a Volkswagen Beetle with the personalised numberplate "Inish Turk Bug", and a Nissan Cube, "Inish Turk Box", which guests may use – and trundled up a private road. Mandy was driving, though guests are covered by the island's insurance if they wish to take a spell behind the wheel.

Within five minutes I'd reached the other patch of accommodation, crowned by Sadek's home – a modern villa that sleeps 13 in a sprawling complex of bedrooms, dining facilities, kitchen, and various patios for taking meals outside. The main house boasts yet more stunning vistas, this time towards Clare Island. I took a quick dip in the warm, solar-powered infinity pool, which felt particularly cosy, given its views of the choppy sea outside.

For lunch, guests can self-cater or enjoy pre-prepared meals. Since my time was short, I opted for the latter and I ate in the sunshine, enjoying tangy, satisfying fishy chowder, salad with buffalo mozzarella and peppers, followed by stodgy apple sponge with toffee sauce.

Sadek also has a sideline in selling the island's own brands of produce, many of which I sampled during my stay. A personal favourite was the Inish Turk Beg salmon, with its sweet honey roast enhancing the salmon's delicate taste. Meanwhile, the island's bacon is hand-trimmed, and has an instant shock of cloves and muscovado sugar in its flavour. I was shown to my bedroom in a separate building, just opposite Sadek's house, known as the "crafts house", so called because on the ground floor there is a crafts room, replete with paints, easels and jewellery-making materials. Above lay my small sleeping room (with ensuite bathroom), where I settled into a dressing-gown monogrammed with the Inish Turk Beg boar.

The following day, I took a walking tour of the island. First to the westernmost tip, where grass tussocks bunched together to make a naturally comfy perch on which to recline among tulips and clover. I spent an hour here, staring out to sea, disturbed by nothing except the island's perennially boisterous dog, Lucky. Further on, it was surprising how much the landscape changes in a short distance. Near to a sheep's paddock there is a stony shore, decorated with glistening, pearly shells and smooth, round pebbles. Another short walk away there are fields scored with potato ridges, left behind when farmers vacated the landscape.

For those after a more adrenalin-fuelled retreat, there are jet-skis, sailing equipment, canoeing, and water trampolines, stored in the stretch of island between the two accommodation zones. I had a go at clay pigeon shooting, as set up by Johnny, using a mobile launcher. Lucky's barking, no doubt, was the reason it took me several tries to score a direct hit.

Sadek has also used the island as a recording studio. A collection of classics such as Stevie Wonder's "Superstition", reinterpreted by classical Irish musicians, provided the soundtrack to my view of the sunset from the sofa.

As I departed, Sadek remarked that Inish Turk Beg has now become a "viable place of business". And after a brief spell losing myself in its blustery remoteness, on the short boat trip back, I decided that it could also easily become a viable home away from home.

Travel essentials: Inish Turk Beg

Getting there

* The closest airport to the island is Knock, in County Mayo, which is served by Bmibaby (0871 224 0224; bmibaby.com) from Birmingham and Manchester; Ryanair (0871 246 0000; ryanair.com) from Stansted, Luton, Liverpool, East Midlands, Bristol and Leeds/Bradford; Flybe (0871 700 2000; flybe.com) from Edinburgh; and Aer Lingus (0870 876 5000; aerlingus.com) from Gatwick.

Staying there

* Inish Turk Beg, Clew Bay, Kilmeena, Westport, Co Mayo, Ireland (00 353 98 36957; inishturkbeg.com). Rental of the whole island, which sleeps 25, starts at €5,000, which includes breakfast. Rental of an individual house sleeping four starts at €400, or €2,600 for a house sleeping 13. Prices also include boat transfers to and from the mainland.

More information

* Tourism Ireland: 0800 313 4000; discoverireland.com

Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: MI Developer

    £35 - 45k: Guru Careers: An MI Developer is needed to join the leading provide...

    Recruitment Genius: Fitness Manager

    £20000 - £22500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leisure organisation manag...

    Recruitment Genius: Visitor Experience Manager

    £25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Delivering an inspiring, engagi...

    Recruitment Genius: Learning Team Administrator

    £17500 - £20500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are looking for a great te...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions