I cross a bridge no longer than the lengths of a few cars, its purpose almost frivolous. And yet I find myself to be wrong. No matter how small the detachment, how short the bridge between two lands, you can find a world away from this world so quickly and simply. Accessed by a road bridge from the Currane Peninsula in County Mayo, Achill Island is Ireland’s largest island. While the country is one large island, Achill Island is merely a miniscule piece of its whole.
Littered in Megalithic tombs, forts and ruined watchtowers, I begin driving through this piece of Ireland trapped back in time. The road signs are all in the Irish language, only furthering my stress as I master driving on the wrong side of the sidewalk and reading a language I can’t make sense of at all.
Atlantic Drive winds for 40 kilometers on the island, taking you past cliff-clinging sheep and dramatic overlooks. A sheep and I have a stare down as I wait to make sure he doesn’t want to jump in front of my wheels. Naturally he sheepishly declines the invitation to bolt.
When you have found a place that feels so far removed from the rest of the world that it very well could be its end, you seek out that ending point. For Achill Island, that point is Keem Beach, the furthest tip of the island to the west. The beach resides in Keem Bay, a horseshoe shaped opening to turquoise waters. A few locals wander the sands, enjoying a “balmy” day where the wind is whipping like an eggbeater on high but seemingly light enough for these residents.
Having reached the end of Achill, I begin the journey back to the world I know. Before departing, I stop at the Deserted Village at Slievemore. At first glance, Slievemore Mountain appears to be scattered in countless stones. These are not just stones, but former lives.
The homes are not well insulated, open-roofed and exposed to the elements. I peek into the lives of strangers. Formerly summer residences, the village was abandoned in part due to the Famine. I don’t feel like someone overstepping my bounds here, poking my head in windows I shouldn’t be. Rather the former residents almost cry out for their stories to be told, even if a pile of crumbling stones must do the talking. Juxtaposed to this silent, yet eerie village is a graveyard, filled with old and young graves. If I know anything about the Irish, their superstitions are a vital part of life. Perhaps the residents of Achill wanted to contain all of the spirits to one section of this large, yet tiny land.
I head off of Achill, back to the mainland, via my sidewalk roads. Crossing that bridge, I feel attached yet again. It’s funny how we prefer detachment, even on islands off of islands. Achill Island wishes you were here…