Achill Island (/ k æ əl /; Irish: Acaill, Oilean Acla ) in County Mayo is the largest island off Ireland, and is located off the west coast. It has a population of 2700. Its area is 148 km 2 (57 sq mi). Achill is connected to the mainland by Michael Davitt Bridge, between the villages of Gob an Choire (Achill Sound) and Poll Raithní (Polranny). A bridge first completed here in 1887, replaced by another structure in 1949, and then replaced by the current bridge was completed in 2008. Other population centers include the villages of Keel, Dooagh, Dumha EIGE (Dooega), Dun Ibhir (Dooniver), The Valley and Dugort. Assembly head Gaelic football pitch and two high schools are on the mainland at Poll Raithní. Early settlements believed to have been formed on Achill around 3000 BC. A paddle dating from this period were found at the Crannog close Dookinella. The island is 87% bog. Parish of Achill also includes Curraun peninsula .Some of the people in Curraun consider themselves Achill people, and most residents of Achill refer to this area as “Achill”. There are between 500-600 native Irish speakers in Achill parish.During the summer of 1996 the RNLI decided to station a lifeboat on Kildownet.


It is believed that at the end of the Neolithic period (around 4000 BC), Achill had a population of 500-1000 people. The island would have been mostly forest until Neolithic people börjadeodling of crops. The settlement grew during the Iron Age, and the proliferation of small promontory fort along the coast indicate warlike character of the times. Megalithic tombs (see picture to the right) and fortresses can be seen at Slievemore, along the Atlantic Drive and Achillbeg.


Achill Island is located in the Barony of Burrishoole in the territory of the old Umhall (Umhall Uactarach and Umhall Ioctarach), which originally covered an area stretching from Galway / Mayo border to Achill Head.

Hereditary chiefs Umhall was O’Malley, recorded in the area 814 AD when they successfully repelled an attack by the Vikings in Clew Bay. The Anglo-Norman invasion avConnacht in 1235 AD saw Umhall territory taken over by Butler and later by Burgos. Butler Burrishoole domination continued in the late 14th century when Thomas le Botiller registered as being in possession of Akkyll & Owyll.


In the 17th and 18th centuries it was much migration to Achill from other parts of Ireland, particularly Ulster, because of the political and religious turmoil of the time. For a while there were two different dialects of Irish spoken on Achill. This led to many townlands registered as having two names during the 1824 Ordnance Survey, and some maps today give different names to the same place. Achill Ireland still has many traces of Ulster Irish.

Specific historical places and events

Grace O’Malley castle

Grace O’Malley’s Kildamhnait Castle is a 15th-century tower house in connection with the O’Malley Clan, which was once a ruling family of Achill.Grace O ‘Malley, or Granuaile, the most famous of the O’Malleys, was born on Clare Island around 1530. [ citation needed ] Her father was chief of the Barony of Murrisk. The O’Malley was a powerful shipping family, which are traded in a great extent. Grace was a fearless leader and became known as a sea captain and pirate. She is said to have met with Queen Elizabeth I in 1593. She died about 1603 and is buried in the O’Malley family tomb on Clare Island.

Achill Mission

One of Achill most famous historical sites, the Achill Mission or “colony” in Dugort. In 1831, the Church of Ireland minister Edward Nangle founded a missionary assignment in Dugort.Uppdraget included schools, homes, an orphanage, a medical center and a guest house. The colony was very successful for a time and produced a regular Journal called Achill Herald and western witness . Nangle extended its mission in Mweelin, where a school was built. Achill Mission began to decline slowly after Nangle moved from Achill and finally closed in 1880 talet.Nangle died 1883rd


1894 Westport – Newport railway line was extended to Achill Sound. The railway station is now a hostel. The train provided a great service to Achill, but it also fulfilled an old profetia.Brian Rua O ‘Cearbhain had prophesied that “chariots of iron wheels” would carry the bodies in Achill on their first and last trip. In 1894, the first train on Achill railway through the bodies of the victims of the Clew Bay Drowning. This tragedy occurred when a boat overturned in Clew Bay, drowning thirty youngsters. They had gone to meet the steamship that would take them to Scotland for potato picking.

Kirkintilloch Fire

The Kirkintilloch Fire 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 in Kirkintilloch. This term refers to temporary housing for those who went to Scotland to pick potatoes, a walking pattern which was established in the early nineteenth century.


Kildamhnait on the southeast coast of Achill is named after St. Damhnait or Dymphna, who founded a church there in the 16th century. There is also a holy well just outside the cemetery. The present church was built in the 1700s and the cemetery contains memorials to the victims of two of Achill greatest tragedies, the Kirchintilloch Fire (1937) and Clew Bay Drowning (1894).


In 1852, Dr. John MacHale, Archbishop of Tuam aside in Bunnacurry for the construction of a monastery. A Franciscan monastery was built for many years provided an education for local barn.Ruinerna of this monastery are still seen in Bunnacurry today.

The Valley House

The historic Valley House is located in The Valley, close to Dugort in the north-eastern part of Achill Island. The current building sits on the site of a hunting lodge built by the Earl of Cavan in the 19th century. Its fame stems from an incident in 1894 in which the then owner, an English hostess named Agnes McDonnell, was brutally beaten and the house on fire, allegedly by a local man, James Lynchehaun. Lynchehaun had been employed by McDonnell as her country agent, but the two fell out and he was fired and told to quit their accommodation on her property. A long legal battle ensued, with Lynchehaun refuses to leave. At that time, in the 1890s, the issue of land ownership in Ireland politically charged, and after the events at Valley House in 1894 Lynchehaun was to argue that his actions were motivated by politics. He escaped custody and fled to the United States, where he successfully defeated legal attempt by the British authorities to have him extradited to be prosecuted as a result of the attack and burning of the Valley House. Agnes McDonnell suffered terrible injuries from the attack but survived and lived for another 23 years, dying in 1923. Lynchehaun said to have returned to Achill on two occasions, once in disguise as an American tourist, and eventually died in Girvan, Scotland, in 1937 . the Valley House is now a hostel and bar.

The abandoned village

Near Dugort, at the foot of Slievemore Mountain is the abandoned village.There are some 80 destroyed houses in the village.

The houses were built of stone unmortared, which means that no cement or mortar used to hold the stones together. Each house consisted of only one room and this room was used as a kitchen, living room, bedroom and even stable.

If you look at the fields around the abandoned village and right up the mountain, you can see the tracks in the “lazy beds”, which is the way crops like potatoes grown. In Achill, as in many areas of Ireland, a system called “Rundale” used for agriculture. This meant that the land around the village was rented from a landlord. This land is then shared by all the villagers to graze their cattle and sheep. Each family would then have two or three small pieces of land scattered about the village, which they used to grow crops.

For many years people lived in the village and then in 1845 famine struck in Achill as it did in the rest of Ireland. Most of the families moved to the nearby village of Dooagh, located by the sea, while others emigrated. Living by the sea meant that seafood can be used for food. The village was completely deserted and that is where the name “Deserted Village” came from.

No one has lived in this house since the time of famine, but the families who moved to Dooagh and their descendants continued to use the village as a “Booley village”. This means that during the summer season, would the younger members of the family, teenage boys and girls, to take the cattle graze on the hillside, and they would stay in the houses in the abandoned village. This practice continued until the 1940s. Boolying was also performed in other parts of Achill, including Annagh on Croaghaun mountains and in Curraun.

On Ailt, Kildownet you can see the remains of a similar fate by. This village was in 1855 when the tenants were evicted by the local landlord so that land can be used for grazing cattle, the tenants were forced to lease holdings in Currane, Dooega and Slievemore. Others emigrated to America.


Achill Archaeological Field School is based on Achill Archaeology Centre in Dooagh, which has served as a catalyst for a wide range of archaeological research on the island. It was founded in 1991 and is a school for students in archeology and anthropology. Since 1991, several thousand students from 21 countries come to Achill to study and participate in the ongoing excavations. The school is involved in a study of prehistoric and historic landscapes of Slievemore, which contains a research excavations at a number of places in the deserted village of Slievemore. Slievemore is rich in archaeological monuments spanning the period from 5000 years from the Neolithic to the post medieval. [2] Recent archaeological research suggests the village was occupied year at least as early as the 19th century, but it is known to have served as a seasonal occupation Booley village of the first half of the 20th century. A Booley village (a number which is in a ruined state on the island) is a village occupied only during part of the year, such as a resort community, a lakeside community, or (where appropriate on Achill) a place to live while tend flocks or herds of ruminants during winter or summer grazing. [3] Specifically, some of the people in Dooagh and Pollagh would migrate in summer to Slievemore and then go back to Dooagh fall. In summer 2009 field school excavated Roundhouse 2 on Slievemore Mountain under the direction of archaeologist Stuart Rathbone. Only outside the north wall, the entrance way and the inside of the round house was completely excavated. [4]

From 2004 to 2006 Achill Island Marine Archaeology Project, directed by Chuck Meide was sponsored by the College of William and Mary, the Institute of Maritime, Achill Folklife Centre (now Achill Archaeology 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 village, ice house and boathouse ruins, a number of anchors that had been salvaged from the sea, 19’s and later Currach pens, a number of traditional vernacular watercraft including a possible 100-year-old Achill yawl, and the remains of four historic shipwrecks . [5] [6]

Other points of interest

Despite some progress, the island retains a striking natural beauty. The cliffs of Croaghaun on the western part of the island is 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 among tourists and some locals as a surfing spot. South of Keem Beach ärMoytoge Head, with its rounded appearance drops dramatically down to the sea. An old British observation post, built during the First World War to prevent the Germans from unloading arms to the Irish Republican Army, is still on Moytoge. During World War II this post built by the Irish Defence Forces Look Out Post for Coast Watch service wing of the armed forces. It worked from 1939 to 1945. [7]

The mountain Slievemore (672 m) rises dramatically in the northern part of the island and the Atlantic Drive (along the south / west of the island), some dramatically beautiful views. On the slopes of Slievemore, is an abandoned village (the “Deserted Village”) the abandoned village is traditionally believed to be a relic from a village Gorta Mór (The Great Hunger of 1845-1849).

Just west of the abandoned village is an old Martello tower, again built by the British to warn of a possible French invasion during the Napoleonic Wars.The area also has about 5000 years old Neolithic tomb.

Achillbeg ( Acaill Beag , Little Achill ) is a small island just off the southern tip of Achill. Its inhabitants were relocated on Achill in the 1960s. [8] A plaque to Johnny Kilbane is on Achillbeg and was erected to celebrate 100 years since his first championship win. [9]

The villages Dooniver and Askill has very picturesque landscapes and the bike path is popular with tourists.

Caislean Ghráinne, also known as Kildownet castle, is a small tower house built in the early 1400s. [10] It is in Cloughmore, in the south of Achill Island.It is known for its associations with Grace O’Malley, along with greater Rockfleet castle in Newport.

Achill Island also has a coastal road along the southern part of the island with some beautiful views cliff.


While a number of attempts to establish small industrial units in the island has been made, the economy of the island is largely dependent on tourism.Subsidies from Achill people working abroad, especially in the UK, US and Africa leads many families to stay in Achill during the 19th and 20th centuries. [ Citation needed ] Since the advent of Ireland’s “Celtic Tiger” economy less Achill people were forced seek work abroad. agriculture plays a minor role and the fact that the island is mostly bog means that its potential for agriculture is limited largely sheep farming. In the past, fishing was a significant activity, but this aspect of the economy is small now. At one time the island was known for its shark fishing, basking in particular was fished for its valuable liver oil. There was a big spurt of growth in tourism in the 1960s and 1970s before the life was hard and difficult on the island. Despite the healthy visitor numbers per year, is the common perception that tourism in Achill has slowly declined since its heyday. Currently the largest employers on Achill are two hotels. [11] In late 2009, Ireland’s only Turbot farm opens in Bunnacurry Business Park.


Most people on Achill are either Catholic or Anglican (Church of Ireland).There are three priests on Achill and eight churches [ clarification needed ] in total.

  • Catholic:
    • Bunnacurry Church (St. Joseph)
    • The Valley Church; Open only for certain events.
    • Dookinella Church
    • Currane Church
    • Pollagh Church
    • Derreens Church
    • Dooega Church
    • Belfarsed Church
    • Achill Sound Church
  • Church of Ireland:
    • Dugort Church (St. Thomas Church)
    • Innisbiggle Island church


Hedge schools were in most villages in Achill in different periods of history.A university founded by the missions to Achill in Mweelin. In modern times, there used to be two high schools in Achill, Mc Hale College and Scoil Damhnait. But in August 2011, the two schools merged to form Pobail Coláiste Acla. For primary schools, there are nine national schools including Bull Dartmouth NS, NS Valley, Bunnacurry NS, Dookinella NS, Dooagh NS, Saulia NS, Achill Sound NS, Tonragee NS and NS Curanne. National schools closed include Dooega NS, NS Crumpaun, Ashleam NS.


  • Achill railway station was opened May 13, 1895, but finally closed on October 1, 1937. [12]
  • The Great Western Greenway is a greenway rail trail that follows the line of the former Midland Great Western Railway branch line from Westport to Achill through Newport and Mulranny. [13] It has proven to be very successful in attracting visitors Achill and the surrounding areas.
  • Bus Eireann 440 daily commute to Westport and then from the islands scattered villages.
  • Bus Eireann provides transport for those areas that secondary school children
  • There are many Taxicab and Hackney carriage services on the island


As a popular tourist destination Achill has many bars, cafes and restaurants offering a full range of food. But the island’s Atlantic City seafood is a specialty at Achill with common foods including lobster, mussels, salmon, trout and winkles. With a large sheep population Achill lamb a very popular meal on the island too. Moreover, Achill a large population of cows that produce excellent beef. [ Citation needed ]


Achill has a Gaelic football club competing in the championship and Division 1C Mayo League. There are also Achill Rovers who play in Mayo Association Football League. [14] and Achill Golf Club. [ Citation needed ] Card games, inklusiveWhist and 24 card game is also popular on Achill. [ Citation needed ] The island’s main leisure outdoor center Achill Outdoor Education Centre . [15] Achill Island barren landscape and the surrounding sea provides an ideal location for outdoor activities such as surfing, kite-surfing and sea kayaking. Fishing and water sports are popular among tourists and locals alike. Regattas featuring a local vessel, Achill Yawl, have been popular since the 19th century, although most of the current dinghies, unlike their traditional working boat ancestors, have been structurally modified to encourage increased speed under sail. The island’s waters and stunning underwater sites sometimes frequented by divers, but Achill unpredictable weather in general has prevented a commercially successful recreational diving industry.


In 2011 the population was 2569. The island’s population has declined from about 6,000 before the Great Hunger.


The table below presents data on Achill Island population is taken from theDiscover Islands Ireland (Alex Ritsema, Collins Press, 1999), and the census of Ireland.

Historical population
Year Pop. ±%
1841 4901
1851 4030 -17.8%
1901 4825 + 19.7%
1951 4906 + 1.7%
Year Pop. ±%
1996 2718 -44.6%
2002 2620 -3.6%
2006 2620 + 0.0%
2011 2569 -1.9%
Source: John Chambers. “Islands – Change in population 1841 – 2011” . Retrieved February 24, 2015.


The “Deserted Village” at the foot of Slievemore was a Booley village;seTranshumance

The location of the village is relatively protected

The most famous of these earlier seen in “Deserted Village” Ruins near the cemetery at the foot of Slievemore. Even the houses of the village form a relatively comfortable class of residence, even as recently as a hundred years ago, some people still use “Beehive” style house (small circular single-roomed dwellings with a hole in the roof to let out smoke).

Many of the oldest and most picturesque inhabited cottages are from operations in the Congested District Board for Ireland -a body set up around the turn of the 20th century in Ireland to improve the welfare of the residents of small villages and towns. Most of the houses in Achill at the time was very small and tightly packed together in villages. CDB subsidized the construction of new, more spacious (but still small by modern standards) home outside the traditional villages.

Some of the recent building (1980 onwards) on the island fits so nicely into the landscape as the previous style whitewashed raised gable houses. Many homes have been built, but many of these houses have been built in prominent scenic areas and has damaged the traditional view of the island lying empty for most of the year.

Notable people

  • Charles Boycott (1832-1897) – unpopular landowner from whom the term boycott arose.
  • The artist Paul Henry stayed on the island for a number of years in the early 1900s.
  • Thomas Patten from Dooega died during the siege of Madrid in December 1936th
  • English writer Honor Tracy lived there until his death in 1989
  • Singer James Kilbane live on the island.


Heinrich Böll: Irisches Tagebuch , Berlin 1957
Kingston, Bob: the deserted village of Slievemore , Castlebar 1990
McDonald Theresa: Achill: 5000 BC to 1900 AD Archaeology History Folklore , IAS Publications [1992]
Meehan, Rose: The Story of Mayo , Castlebar 2003
Carney, James: Playboy & Yellow lady 1986 Poolbeg [16] Hugo Hamilton Island Talking, [17] in 2007, Kevin Barry: Beatlebone 2015

See also

  • Achillbeg
  • Achill oysters
  • Achill Sound
  • A skill
  • Bunnacurry
  • Connaught Irish
  • Darren Fletcher
  • Dooagh
  • Dooniver
  • gallowglass
  • Innisbiggle
  • James Kilbane
  • Kevin Kilbane
  • List of RNLI stations
  • Mid West Radio
  • Nevin (surname)
  • Saula
  • Wild Atlantic Way


  1. Jump up ^ “Island Change in population, 1841 – 2011”. 28 January 2013.
  2. Jump up ^ “Achill Archaeological Field School 2009”. Achill Archaeological Field School . Archived from the original The 28 February 2009. Retrieved March 7, 2009.
  3. Jump up ^ deserted village, Slievemore, Achill Island , Retrieved February 17, 2008.
  4. Jump up ^ Amanda Burt, a member of Achill Field School, summer 2009.
  5. Jump up ^ “Achill Island Marine Archaeology Project | Institute of Maritime History “. February 20, 2012. Hämtat20 March 2012.
  6. Jump up ^ “Meide, Chuck and Kathryn Sikes (2014) Manipulating Maritime Cultural Landscape: Vernacular Boats and economic relations in the nineteenth century Achill Island, Ireland Maritime Journal 9 (1).115-141 “. 18 June 2014. Retrieved 18 June 2014.
  7. Jump up ^ See Michael Kennedy, “Protection Neutral Ireland (Dublin, 2008), p. 50
  8. Jump up ^ Jonathan Beaumont (2005), Achillbeg: The Life of an island , ISBN 0-85361-631-0
  9. Jump up ^ “Login to Facebook – Facebook.” Facebook .
  10. Jump up ^ “Irish Castles Grace O’Malley.” .Pulled 06/13/2016.
  11. Jump up ^ “Achill Island (Co. Mayo)”. Retrieved 20 March 2012.
  12. Jump up ^ “Achill station” (PDF). Railscot – Irish Railways . Archive (PDF) from the original September 26, 2007 is taken. Eight September of 2007.
  13. Jump up ^ “Home.” Great Western Greenway . Retrieved ten August 2011.
  14. Jump up ^ FAI Club Portal for Achill Rovers
  15. Jump up ^ Dave Jordan. “Achill Outdoor”.
  16. Jump up ^ James Carney. “The Playboy & yellow lady”. Open Library.Retrieved 20 March 2012.
  17. Jump up ^ island Talking Hugo Hamilton in the footsteps of Heinrich Böll, 50 years after