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Published: April 9th 2006
Minaun Heights panaroma
What a spot for a view !
Interesting name for a tiny, picturesque island off the west coast of Ireland. It might be tiny in size, but it holds the record as "biggest" island off the coast of Ireland ! Great place to spend a weekend off to escape the stresses of the urban life. I love driving around the country side and I happen to discover this place by chance as I was driving around the beautiful and tranquil Connemera coast. As of all Ireland, Achill is no exception - needs the sun to be out and about to shine its magnificent beauty of the landscape and coast line. During the west coast Atlantic sunsets - the islands, sky blue waters shimmers with golden hue on the reddish brown sand of the beech with ever so greenish background of the islands vegetation, an enthraling scene which still lingers in my mind.
"Achill" the name caught my attention, and I wondered if it is anyway this little island was related to the legendary "Troy" and "Achillis" himself. Well, it turns out, Achill island and Troy are only related being located the extreme edges of Europe. "Eccuill" in Gaelic language means 'eagle island'
and the island had been associated with the island for many centuries. The "Eccuill" came to be known as Achill as it is known today.
As I had my scuba diving gear in my jeep, I wondered if I could get a sneaky dive when I am in the island. Unfortunately, the dive master had other divers to cater and I couldn't be accommodated. So I decided to drive around the island. I was so lucky to get the sun to be out on that weekend. To say the least, I was mesmerized by the Achill's beauty as I circled around the coast line. The landscape is one of rolling hills and valleys dotted with the ubiquitous grazing sheep and occasional cattle. The famous golden eagle was never to be seen any where even though it is reported that the species was recovering from the brink of extinction.
There are 3 famous beeches, the Keel, Keem, Doogah, all of them on the westcoast and provides great surfing coast line and in fact it is a surfers delight. As surfing is out of my league, I just wandered around clicking beautiful images of the coast. I was
Rambler on the Minaun heights
What a breathtaking view. The sprawling Achill head and Keel Beech on the far end.
mesmerized by the deep sky blue colors of the sea. Seagulls were everywhere, squawking and squabbling for food. As it was hot sunny June, lot of the tourists enjoyed sun bathing and waking around in bare feet on the shallow waves. Bit deep on the ocean, the water was rough and choppy as it was a windy day, but that didn't stop, a couple of avid surfers venturing into the treacherous waters. The coast guards were visibly apprehensive and it was unnerving to see their rather worried faces, intently watching these dare devils, scampering into the waters with bright yellow surf boards. Fortunately, they got too tired quickly fighting the rough sea and returned to the coast to everyone's relief.
Adjusant to the Keel beech, lies the island's link golf pitch-n-putt course. There were a couple of golfers out on the day but they were out numbered by the grazing sheep out on the course !. I wonder, do the sheep, enjoy the well manicured golf course "greens" more than the grass out in the wild. By the looks of it, I must confess, they looked the same out on the course or on the steep cliffs of the
The Cliffs lining the coast
Achill is famous for its cliffs - at the west end of the island, they drop vertically to 600 feets. Not for the faint hearted or someone prone to vertigo !
island. Speaking of the cliffs, more than half of the coast line is lined with steep and vertical cliffs dropping precipitously down to the avid and wild sea - not a place to for the faint hearted or someone prone to vertigo ! Nevertheless, they look spectacular to look at. Believe it or not, that didn't deter the Achills sheep - unlike me, they were undaunted by the drops and they went about their business of grazing, nonchalantly. Please take a look at the images below, you know what I mean.
On Sunday, I visited the Minaun heights, one of the two main hills of the island. Minaun, is about 400 meters high and provides a great spot for ramblers enjoying walking up the hill. I met one such rambler, Mr.Vincent who looked rather tired and offered him a lift ! True to his rambling roots, he declined politely. I met him again at the top of the heights after some twenty minutes later. I must say I was bit embarrassed to drive up when the best way up is to walk and imbibe the great vistas the Minaun readily provides. Once you are up there, it
Sheeps and the lone golfer on the golf course !
Sheeps are every where in Achill. I wonder, do the sheep, enjoy the well manicured golf course "greens" more than the grass out in the wild. By the looks of it, I must confess, they looked the same out on the course or on the steep cliffs of the island.
is a different world indeed. On your left the moors lands - rather dark and swampy, flat lands dotted with puddles of water well known for sinking quick sands. If you are not careful, Vincent tells me, that you can get caught and slowly sink to your death - Gosh, what a way to go ! And on your right, the distant Achill head and the Keem beach sprawls magnificently, surrounded by the azure blue waters all around you on your right - What a magical sight to savor.
The old trains which connected the island with the mainland has long gone and the railway station is no more a station but a small hotel. It has an interesting story to tell - apparently there was a prophecy, to quote Achill tourism website - "Brian Rua O' Cearbhain had prophesied that 'carts on iron wheels' would carry bodies into Achill on their first and last journey. In 1894, the first train on the Achill railway carried the bodies of victims of the Clew Bay Drowning. This tragedy occurred when a boat overturned in Clew Bay, drowning thirty two young people. They had been going to meet the
Sheeps on the Cliffs
Speaking of the cliffs, more than half of the coast line is lined with steep and vertical cliffs dropping precipitously down to the avid and wild sea - not a place to for the faint hearted or someone prone to vertigo ! Nevertheless, they look spectacular to look at. Believe it or not, that didn't deter the Achills sheep - unlike me, they were undaunted by the drops and they went about their business of grazing, nonchalantly. Please take a look at the images below, you know what I mean.
steamer which would take them to Scotland for potato picking. The Kirkintilloch Burning Disaster in 1937 fulfilled the second part of the prophecy, when the bodies of ten victims were carried by rail to Achill. These people had died in a fire in a 'bothy'. This term referred to the temporary accommodation provided for those who went to Scotland to pick potatoes".
The island also boasts one of the Ireland's famous clans of 1530's, the O'Mally's from the near by Clare Islands. The most famous of the clan was "Grace O Mally" - the daughter of the clan Chieftain, who famously refused to toe the line under English rule - was born there. And also the Nobel laureate from Germany, Heinrich Boll, lived there for some twenty years. It won't be complete if I do not mention this notorious guy, James Lynchehaun - in 1894, he attacked and seriously injured his former employer and set the big house in fire. He was found guilty but escaped to America and successfully thwarted the English attempts to extradite him to Ireland. Apparently, he was the main character behind the book "The Playboy and the Yellow Lady".
Achills is also
Sheeps on the shore
Sheeps are every where in Achill. What a wonderful vista as a back-drop. Beautiful day.
a great place for wonderful and sumptuous sea-food. Restaurants are everywhere catering for every whims and fancies of the ever so valuable tourists. I happen to order for the elusive crabs "catch of the day" - I had to wait for an hour as I was bit early and the catch hasn't arrived yet ! When it eventually turned up, was wonderful and well worth the wait - needless to say that I had a great dinner on that Sunday.
I had a good short weekend trip. Highly recommended if you are happen to be visiting the west coast of Ireland.
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