Achill Island

       
Achill Island

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Achill Island in County Mayo is the largest island off the coast of Ireland, and is situated off the west coast. It has a population of 2,700. Its area is 148 km2 (57 sq mi). Achill is attached to the mainland by Michael Davitt Bridge, between the villages of Gob an Choire (Achill Sound) and Poll Raithní (Polranny). A bridge was first completed here in 1887, replaced by another structure in 1949, and subsequently replaced with the current bridge which was completed in 2008. Other centres of population include the villages of Keel, Dooagh, Dumha Éige (Dooega) and Dugort. The parish's main Gaelic football pitch and two secondary schools are on the mainland at Poll Raithní. Early human settlements are believed to have been established on Achill around 3000 BC. A paddle dating from this period was found at the crannóg near Dookinella. The island is 87% peat bog. The parish of Achill also includes the Curraun peninsula. Some of the people of Curraun consider themselves Achill people, and most natives of Achill refer to this area as being "in Achill". There are between 500-600 native Irish speakers in Achill parish. In the summer of 1996, the RNLI decided to station a lifeboat at Kildownet.

Despite some development, the island retains some striking natural beauty. The cliffs of Croaghaun on the western end of the island are 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 with tourists and some locals as a surfing location. South of Keem beach is Moytoge Head, which with its rounded appearance drops dramatically down to the ocean. An old British observation post, built during World War I to prevent the Germans from landing arms for the Irish Republican Army, is still standing on Moytoge. During the Second World War this post was rebuilt by the Irish Defence Forces as a Look Out Post for the Coast Watching Service wing of the Defence Forces. It operated from 1939 to 1945.

The mountain Slievemore (672 m) rises dramatically in the north of the island and the Atlantic Drive (along the south/west of the island) has some dramatically beautiful views. On the slopes of Slievemore, there is an abandoned village (the "Deserted Village") The Deserted Village is traditionally thought to be a remnant village from An Gorta Mór (The Great Hunger of 1845-1849).

The plaque to Johnny Kilbane is situated on Achillbeg and was erected to celebrate 100 years since his first championship win. Just west of the deserted village is an old Martello tower, again built by the British to warn of any possible French invasion during the Napoleonic Wars. The area also boasts an approximately 5000-year-old Neolithic tomb. Achillbeg (Acaill Beag, Little Achill) is a small island just off Achill's southern tip. Its inhabitants were resettled on Achill in the 1960s.
The villages of Dooniver and Askill have very picturesque scenery and the cycle route is popular with tourists.
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