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Sea Serpents and Miracles - They do exist on Achill Island!
Villages & Resorts in Mayo (Ireland)
Member Name: Gaelic_Goddess
Villages & Resorts in Mayo (Ireland)
Date: 11/03/02, updated on 11/03/02 (231 review reads)
Disadvantages: Not at all
Since I was 'no age', I've been visiting Achill. One summer my family spent a month in Dugort, one of Achill's minuscule villages that manages to stretch out for at least a mile. We expected a tiny island you could explore in an hour and plenty of long days in the sea. The long days turned out to be short dips in the bone-aching chill of the water, but the 'small' island offered enough to keep everyone hiking, fishing and pubbing for a good month.
No balmy seas that particular year, but we did find amazing, absolutely empty, stunning beaches; mountains that abruptly end as cliffs; pre-famine ghost villages in the middle of nowhere and deserted handball courts in the most remote spots. All these spots have stories to tell, especially the abandoned amethyst workings tucked away in the side of a mountain. High above Keel Strand, a turquoise jewel you can only reach via a hair-raising cliff road, you can still scavenge among the rubble for glints of purple.
For my mother, the best surprise of all was the free fish from the fishermen at the local jetty. This was in the days when delicacies like mackerel and crab were not desirable catches, so she'd regularly arrive back with a dripping treasure. Her most memorable haul was a 6-foot conger eel, fat, black and slippery with a pronounced bulge halfway down the middle. The mystery bulge was a freshly swallowed mackerel - two fish for the price of one! By the way, I would not recommend boiled sea-serpent-sized eel, unless you like cotton wool.
Who was to know that an even meatier surprise
awaited me on my most recent visit to Achill? For golfers, the view is as much part of the enjoyment as the game itself, so when we were recommended Keel Golf Course with its breathtaking backdrop of the cliffs of Minaun, we made a beeline for it. The view was just as promised; sea, cliffs and mountains, and of course the extra bonus of a few dozen sheep because Keel Golf Course does double up as a sheep pasture. In return for good grazing, the sheep keep the course well-clipped and fertilised. Perhaps too well fertilised.
The clubhouse was another eye-opener, a bottom of the range mobile set in a fenced enclosure. Access was strictly by gate only, which the locals warned us to shut firmly and quickly. Anytime the gate was opened, several of the less sheepish sheep would make a break for the clubhouse. As we walked down the path away from the clubhouse, I could hear someone shouting: "Who left the gate open? The sheep are at the clubhouse again!", it wasn't me, honest.
Today, Achill, with its wild landscape and lively pub life is a popular destination for continentals, trekkers and water sports enthusiasts. But religious pilgrims have also joined this cosmopolitan mix. Yes, within the past few years, Achill has added religious apparitions to its many unpredictable charms.
A resident of Achill Sound, the Island's main town, developed stigmata bleeding in the same places on the wrists and feet where Jesus was nailed to the cross. In no time, coachloads of the faithful were pulling up at her home, now called the House of Prayer. Knowing Achill, as I do, I'd be surprised if miracles didn't happen.
Although a causeway joins Achill to the rest of the world, and the island no longer feels as remote as it did 30 years ago, Achill remains a place apart. Perhaps it's the attitude of the place. Or perhaps it's sheer eccentricity that ensures Achill continues to surprise with every visit. Which reminds me, it
's been two years!