We live only a few hundred meters from the Mayo border and yesterday we decided to stop building, harvesting and weeding for a day and go exploring in this beautiful county. Our destination was Achill Island, the largest island of the coast of Ireland, reached by a bridge.
The first stop was stunning Keel beach where our puppy, Dubh, saw the ocean for the first time. She loved it and since the beach was practically deserted she could come off her lead and race along the surf. At first she barked loudly at the waves but she soon got used to them. We walked for a long time, played on the beach and had a picnic. We remembered the cheese but forgot the crackers.
Our next stop was a megalithic tomb. We reached it after a rather steep climb up the side of Slievemore, a most beautiful and impressive mountain. We were quite tired when we reached the tomb but it was defiantly worth it. We found a very peaceful place where we all rested for a while.
We then went on a little bit down the road and reached the deserted village. There are more than eighty ruined houses here. It is a place of tremendous beauty but it also has a feeling of sadness. Walking around the village you can’t help but think about the people who lived here once and how difficult it must have been to be forced to leave home and set out on an uncertain journey. The village was abandoned during the famine, in 1845, and while some people only moved to another village by the sea, others were forced to emigrate. In later years and up until the 1940s the village was used as sleeping quarters in the summertime by teenage boys and girls bringing the sheep up the mountain to graze.
Today the only inhabitants of the cottages are sheep and they graze where the potatoes and other vegetables once grew. You can clearly see the old ridges, called lazy beds in the fields, made to make the soil a little more fertile and we are certain seaweed was brought up from the beach to further enhance fertility.
Our outing was a welcome change to our everyday routine, we spend most of our time close to home and it is energizing to get out and away sometimes, if only for a day. Achill Island is a beautiful place, full of history and interesting natural sites. We can thoroughly recommend a visit. At this time of year it is quiet and peaceful , a big change from the summer months when thousands of tourists visit the island.