Go Walk: Slievemore, Achill Island
From Slievemore on Achill, there are showstopper views of the islands
Slievemore, Achill Island
Map: OS Discovery Series Sheet No 30.
Keel Beach on Achill Island is the stage upon which surfing, canoeing and kayaking are taught, practised and enacted, and Slievemore is its backdrop. Sometimes, it’s hidden within a low leaden cloud-base and sheets of rain. Then at other times, it’s dwarfed by the most high, blue and sunny skies imaginable. Its shape, changing moods and colours never fail to draw the eye, and on this day in August it drew me and my boots to come visit.
I took off to do an east-to-west traverse of Slievemore. Weatherwise, Met Éireann had forecast cool northerly breezes, straight from polar regions but with the ideal hiking accompaniment of low humidity, largely sunny skies and endless visibility.
This was brought home to me, as I parked near the little pier of Dugort, by the strong blue and green of the Atlantic, the shining white beach sands of the northern Achill shore and the silhouette of the Nephinbeg Mountains under a bright sky to the east. From the road, I walked to right and west skirting under the dramatic glacial cliffs, gouged out of the northeastern flank of the mountain, climbing over easy cropped grass interspersed with huge glacier-shifted quartzite boulders. All the time, as I gained height, the long length of the Mullet Peninsula came more and more into view, with the lighthouses of its north and south extremities easily visible. The beautiful islands of Inishkea and Duvillaun were the next treat for the eyes and imagination, prompting an early lunch stop to take in the full sunlit 180 degree vista to the north. Ben Bulben, peeping shyly over the lower slopes of Corslieve in the Nephins, was a special surprise as I studied the vista.
Then it was on straight up the back of the mountain to the summit, and the view to the south that I’d hadn’t anticipated, being engrossed up to then in the northern perspective. I sat for an hour just under the summit and savoured it, totally enthralled, out of the wind and warmed by a strong sun.
Met Éireann were right when they said that this was a day to see our beautiful landscape at its best. Below was a real feast for the eyes: first of all, there was the ever-lovely sweep of Keel bay and a shining sea; shapely Clare and Inishturk Islands; the Twelve Bens, Mweelrea and the Sheefrys; and, off to my left, the familiar Croagh Patrick. And barely discernible, on the distant southern horizon, was a black line that can only have been Inishmore and the Aran Islands.
Inishboffin stood out prouder, with the Stags of Boffin dramatically defining its western end. I was seeing from the borders of Leitrim to the north to the borders of Clare to the south.
The way down to the Deserted Village, from where I was driven back to Dugort, was grassy and easy. On the way, I had paused at the enigmatic “Star”, a huge white quartz block discovered by archaeologists to have been revered by our distant ancestors. It was a day that confirmed to me that there is nowhere like Ireland on a good day.