Uncoding the landscapes around Achill as tourists say it all looks so beautiful
ON THE WILD ATLANTIC WAY:Paul Henry clouds billow over a glassy sea during another 10 hours of sunshine up the Mayo coastline
“I’VE NEVER seen anything like this before,” says Kealey Sullivan (18) from Boston, “the mixture of rolling hills and big mountains right next to the ocean; the fishing and the sheep. Everything looks just so beautiful.”
Yes, indeed it does. Another day in the west of Ireland on the Wild Atlantic Way and another 10 hours of perfect sunshine – billowing Paul Henry clouds over those Paul Henry Achill blue mountains, the sea a glassy calm sea and bird song filling the air.
Kealey was cycling the Greenway, the cycle and walking path linking Achill and Westport, via Mulrany and Newport. She was with her pal, Kelly Goonan (18), and Kelly’s parents, lawyer Tom and doctor Kate.
Tom’s family emigrated to the US after the second World War from their home west of Bangor near Blacksod Bay. Yesterday was the last day of the holiday for the Goonans and Kealey.
They had nothing but good things to say about their stay in Ireland and thought the Greenway a knockout. When I told them of Fáilte Ireland’s plans for the Wild Atlantic Way, they declared that a winner as well.
“There’s a tremendous opportunity for tourism in outdoor activities like this and in encouraging people to view the beauty of a place,” says Tom. “There’s no destruction and very little wear and tear [on the environment].”
The 42km Greenway is a success story for Mayo (Kate thought everyone associated with it, such as the bicycle hire firm, were helpful and good value for money) and is the sort of initiative Fáilte Ireland hopes to run in parallel with the motoring aspect of the Wild Atlantic Way.
Ian Stobbart would no doubt leap at more walking options were they available.
“It’s easy enough to follow the Greenway,” says the Newcastle- born employee of South Dublin County Council when I meet him walking from Newport towards Achill. “It’s very well signposted, not too hilly and off the road. That’s the main thing; you are in the middle of the countryside with fields and scenery and you don’t need a map. It is very safe.”
BMW 1200 Adventure motorbikes are not allowed on the Greenway (and quite right too) so I hightail it off back to the N59 – through Newport, looking pretty in the sun with its fine river entering the bay and its signature seven-arched old red sandstone former railway bridge.
The sandstone may well have come from Corraun Hill, the landmass just before Achill Sound. There’s a drive, the Atlantic Road, that lures me on to the L1404, that amply rewards deviation.