Article from Lewis' Topographical Dictionary 1837
Achill, a parish, in the barony of BURRISHOOLE, county of Mayo, and province of CONNAUGHT, 14 miles(W.) from Newport-Pratt ; containing 5277 inhabitants. This district comprehends the islands of Achill and Achillbeg, and the peninsula of Coraan Achill.
The island of Achill, which is largest off the Irish coast, is situated in the Atlantic Ocean, and is separated from the mainland by a narrow sound, of which the southern part, at a place called Pollranney, is fordable at low water. It is bounded on the north by Blacksod and on the south by Clew bays, and is 16 miles in length and about 7 miles in breadth, forming a line of coast about 80 miles in circuit, and comprising 46,401 statute acres, chiefly the property of Sir Richard A. O'Donnell, Bart., and partly belonging to the Marquees of Sligo.
The western side is mostly a precipitous range of cliffs, but the eastern is in every part well sheltered. Achill Head, a bold promontory, is situated on the south-western extremity of the island, in lat. 53 58' 30"(N.), and lon. 10 12' 20" (W.); and at the northern extremity is Saddle Head, at the entrance of Blacksod bay. Between this and the smaller island of Achillbeg, which is described under its own head, is a channel called Achill Hole, where vessels drawing ten or twelve feet of water may ride in safety in all states of the weather.
The peninsula of Coraan Achill, also called the Hook of Achill lies to the east of the island, and is connected with the mainland by the narrow isthmus of Pollranney; a powerful tide runs in the sound at the narrows called the Bull's Mouth. The surface is very elevated, rising into lofty eminences, of which the highest is the hill of Coraan, 2254 feet above the level of the sea. There is but little arable land, which is chiefly in the valleys and near the shore. In addition to the mountains of Coraan and Slievemore is Menal Hill, on which is a precipice rising abruptly from the sea to the height of 700 feet. Till within the last fifteen yeas there were no roads in this retired district; the Sound is about a mile cross, and a house has been built and a ferry boat established for the accommodation of travellers. There are several good and safe harbours; and the Fishery Board built a landing pier at this place.
Keel is a coast-guard station, and is one of the six that constitute the district of Newport; and at Dugrath there is another, which is one of the six included in the district of Belmullet. The living is a rectory, in the diocese of Tuam, and in the patronage of the Archbishop: the tithes amount to £100. There is neither church, glebe-house, nor glebe: divine service is performed at the house of Achill mission, at Dugarth, twice every Sunday, in the English and Irish languages. In the R.C. divisions this forms a separate and distinct parish: there are two places of worship, one at Kildavenet and the other at Dookenella, but no regular chapel has been built.
There are schools at Dugarth, Slievemore, Keel and Cashel, in which about 380 children receive instruction; also two pay schools, in which are 80 boys and 6 girls. There are remains of old churches, with burial-grounds attached, at Kildurnat and Slievemore; and at the former place are also the remains of an ancient castle, which originally belonged to Grace O'Malley.
Achill Beg an island, in the parish of ACHILL, barony of BURRISHOOLE, county of MAYO, and province of CONNAUGHT, 22 miles (W.) from Newport-Pratt: the population is returned with the parish.
This island is situated on the western coast, and on the north side of the entrance of Clew bay; it is separated from the larger island of Achill by a narrow sound, which in some parts is fordable and almost dry at low water.
The western shore is very wild, and, in consequence of the swells running to a great height, is unapproachable even in the calmest weather. It comprises about 200 statute acres, the property of Sir Richard A. O'Donnell, Bart.; a small portion of the land is arable, and the remainder is rocky pasture. A coast-guard station has been established here, and is one of the six stations constituting the district of Westport.