Achill island County Mayo in the Republic of Ireland.
I don’t do a lot of landscapes but this coastline was worth a go!
Canon 450D canon 18-55mm@28mm
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Coordinates: 54°00′N 10°00′W / 54°N 10°W / 54; -10
Location of Achill Island
Overlooking the west coast of Achill Island
Achill Island (pronounced /ˈækəl/; Irish: Acaill, Oileán Acla) in County Mayo is the largest island off the coast of Ireland, and is situated off the west coast. It has a population of 2,700. Its area is 148 km2 (57 sq mi). Achill is attached to the mainland by Michael Davitt Bridge, between the villages of Gob an Choire (Achill Sound) and Poll Raithní (Polranny). A bridge was first completed here in 1887, and replaced by the current structure in 1949. Other centres of population include the villages of Keel, Dooagh, Dumha Éige (Dooega) and Dugort. The parish’s main Gaelic football pitch and two secondary schools are on the mainland at Poll Raithní. Early human settlements are believed to have been established on Achill around 3000 BCE. A paddle dating from this period was found at the crannóg near Dookinella. The island is 87% peat bog. The parish of Achill also includes the Curraun peninsula. The people of Curraun consider themselves Achill people, and most natives of Achill refer to this area as being “in Achill”. In the summer of 1996, the RNLI decided to station a lifeboat at Kildownet.
It is believed that at the end of the Neolithic Period (around 4000 BCE), Achill had a population of 500–1,000 people. The island would have been mostly forest until the Neolithic people began crop cultivation. Settlement increased during the Iron Age, and the dispersal of small forts around the coast indicate the warlike nature of the times. Granuaile maintained a castle at Kildownet in the 16th century.
Achill Island lies in the Barony of Burrishoole, in the territory of ancient Umhall (Umhall Uactarach and Umhall Ioctarach), that originally encompassed an area extending from the Galway/Mayo border to Achill Head in Co. Mayo.
The hereditary chieftains of Umhall were the O’Malleys, recorded in the area in 814 AD when they successfully repelled an onslaught by the Vikings in Clew Bay. The Anglo/Norman invasion of Connacht in 1235 AD saw the territory of Umhall taken over by the Butlers and later by the de Burgos. The Butler Lordship of Burrishoole continued into the late fourteenth century when Thomas le Botiller was recorded as being in possession of Akkyll & Owyll.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, there was much migration to Achill from other parts of Ireland, particularly Ulster, due to the political and religious turmoil of the time. For a while there were two different dialects of Irish being spoken on Achill. This led to many townlands being recorded as having two names during the 1824 Ordnance Survey, and some maps today give different names for the same place. Achill Irish still has many traces of Ulster Irish.
Achill Archaeological Field School is based at the Achill Archaeology Centre in Dooagh, which has served as a catalyst for a wide array of archaeological investigations on the island. It was founded in 1991 and is a training school for students of archaeology and anthropology. Since 1991, several thousand students from 21 countries have come to Achill to study and participate in ongoing excavations. The school is involved in a study of the prehistoric and historic landscape at Slievemore, incorporating a research excavation at a number of sites within the deserted village of Slievemore. Slievemore is rich in archaeological monuments that span a 5,000 year period from the Neolithic to the Post Medieval.1 Recent archaeological research suggests the village was occupied year-round at least as early as the 19th century, though it is known to have served as a seasonally occupied booley village by the first half of the 20th century. (A booley village is a village occupied only during part of the year, such as a resort community, a lake community, or (as the case on Achill) a place to live while tending flocks or herds of ruminants during winter or summer pasturing.)2 Specifically, some of the people of Dooagh and Pollagh would migrate in the summer to Slievemore and then go back to Dooagh in the autumn.
From 2004 to 2006, the Achill Island Maritime Archaeology Project was sponsored by the College of William and Mary, the Institute of Maritime History, the Achill Folklife Centre, and the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP). This project focused on the documentation of archaeological resources related to Achill’s rich maritime heritage. Maritime archaeologists recorded 19th century fishing station, ice house, and boat house ruins, a number of anchors which had been salvaged from the sea, 19th century and more recent currach pens, a number of traditional vernacular watercraft including a possibly 100-year old Achill yawl, and the remains of four historic shipwrecks. The summer 2009 field school excavated Round House 2 on Slievemore Mountain under the direction of archaeologist Stuart Rathborne. Only the outside northwall, entrance way and inside of the Round House were completely excavated.3
 Places of interest
Despite some unsympathetic development, the island retains some striking natural beauty. The cliffs of Croaghaun on the western end of the island are the third highest sea cliffs in Europe but are inaccessible by road. Near the westernmost point of Achill, Achill Head, is Keem Bay. Keel Beach is quite popular with tourists and some locals as a surfing location. South of Keem beach is Moytoge Head, which with its rounded appearance drops dramatically down to the ocean. An old British observation post, built during World War I to prevent the Germans from landing arms for the Irish Republican Army, is still standing on Moytoge. During the Second World War this post was rebuilt by the Irish Defence Forces as a Look Out Post for the Coast Watching Service wing of the Defence Forces. It operated from 1939 to 1945.4
Slievemore mountain dominates the centre of the island
The mountain Slievemore (672 m) rises dramatically in the north of the island and the Atlantic Drive (along the south/west of the island) has some dramatically beautiful views. On the slopes of Slievemore, there is an abandoned village (the “Deserted Village”) The Deserted Village is traditionally thought to be a remnant village from An Gorta Mór (The Great Hunger of 1845-1849).
Just west of the deserted village is an old Martello tower, again built by the British to warn of any possible French invasion during the Napoleonic Wars. The area also boasts an approximately 5000-year old Neolithic tomb. Achillbeg (Acaill Beag, Little Achill) is a small island just off Achill’s southern tip. Its inhabitants were resettled on Achill in the 1960s.5
Mural on handball alley. Muralist: Karen Forde
The villages of Dooniver and Askill have very picturesque scenery
While a number of attempts at setting up small industrial units on the island have been made, the economy of the island is largely dependent on tourism. Subventions from Achill people working abroad, in particular in the United Kingdom the United States and Africa allowed many families to remain living in Achill throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Since the advent of Ireland’s “Celtic Tiger” economy fewer Achill people are forced to look for work abroad. Agriculture plays a small role and is only profitable because of European Union subsidies. The fact that the island is mostly bog means that its potential for agriculture is limited largely to sheep farming. In the past, fishing was a significant activity but this aspect of the economy is small now. At one stage, the island was known for its shark fishing, basking shark in particular was fished for its valuable liver oil. There was a big spurt of growth in tourism in the 1960s and 1970s before which life was tough and difficult on the island. Since that heyday, the common perception is that tourism in Achill has been slowly declining.
Most people on Achill are Roman Catholic. There are three priests on Achill and eight churches in total
In Achill there are two post primary schools Mc Hale College and Scoil Damhnait
Achill has a GAA, Soccer and Golf club. Fishing and watersports are popular with tourists and locals alike. Different card games are played, including Whist.7
In 2006, the population was 2,701. The island’s population has declined from around 6,000 before the Great Hunger.
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Because of the inhospitable climate, few inhabited houses date from before the 20th century, though there are many examples of abandoned stone structures dating to the 19th century.
The “Deserted Village” at the foot of Slievemore was a Booley village; see Transhumance
The location of the village is relatively sheltered
The best known of these earlier can be seen in the “Deserted Village” ruins near the graveyard at the foot of Slievemore. Even the houses in this village represent a relatively comfortable class of dwelling as, even as recently as a hundred years ago, some people still used “Beehive” style houses (small circular single roomed dwellings with a hole in ceiling to let out smoke).
Many of the oldest and most picturesque inhabited cottages date from the activities of the Congested Districts Board for Ireland—a body set up around the turn of the 20th century in Ireland to improve the welfare for inhabitants of small villages and towns. Most of the homes in Achill at the time were very small and tightly packed together in villages. The CDB subsidised the building of new, more spacious (though still small by modern standards) homes outside of the traditional villages.
Some of the recent building development on the island (over the last 30 years or so) has been contentious and in many cases is not as sympathetic to the landscape as the earlier style of whitewashed raised gable cottages. Because of generous tax incentives, many holiday homes have been built over the last ten years. This building boom has brought benefits but at a cost. On the one hand it has provided much-needed employment for the local people, has increased the demand and value for suitable development land and has allows the island to support more tourists. On the other hand, many of these houses have been built in prominent scenic areas and have damaged traditional views of the island while lying empty for most of the year. They may also be contributing to the declining fortunes for the traditional beneficiaries of tourism – bed and breakfasts, public houses and guesthouses.
 Notable people
Achill football team celebrate winning the Junior county title, Castlebar, 21 October 2007
Heinrich Böll: Irisches Tagebuch, Berlin 1957
Kingston, Bob: The Deserted Village at Slievemore, Castlebar 1990
McDonald, Theresa: Achill: 5000 B.C. to 1900 A.D. Archeology History Folklore, I.A.S. Publications 1992
Meehan, Rosa: The Story of Mayo, Castlebar 2003
Carney, James: The Playboy & the Yellow lady, 1986 POOLBEG11