Walking, Achill Island in Co. Mayo
There are many interesting and varied walking routes around Achill.
Hillwalking is particularly popular in Achill and because most of the mountainous area in Achill is 'commonage', it is easily accessible for unrestricted hillwalking.
There are two noteworthy peaks on Achill Island, Slievemore mountain (671m) and Croaghaun (668m). Croaghaun cliffs are claimed to be the highest in Europe. Minaun (466m) is another peak on Achill Island, while the Curraun Peninsula has two impressive peaks, Polranny hill (452m) and Curraun hill (524m). From Curraun hill can be seen stunning views across Clew Bay to Croagh Patrick and northern Connemara. There is a large forested area and several small lakes, criss-crossed by a number of trails, in the valley between Polranny hill and Curraun hill.
Minaun is the third highest mountain in Achill and is situated in a place called Mweelin near the village of Dooega. The mountain is covered in bogs, rocks and heather near the summit. There is a steep but safe road which brings you straight to the top.
Start your walk at the bottom of the "Booster Road" which forks off to the left as you drive from Dooega to Cashel. You can park your car at lay-bys situated at the bottom of the road and half way up if you think the whole walk is too long.
On the top of Minaun, as you come to the end of the tarmacadamed road, you can see three masts before you. Local people refer to them as "the booster". One of them has a twinkling red light on it which can be seen shining brightly on a clear night.
As you climb you can see the beautiful Clare Island in the distance to the south. On a clear day the whole of the island is outlined on the horizon. It looks very picturesque and far away over the blue sea. On such a day, on the very top of the island, a small white-washed lighthouse glistens in the sunlight.
If you look in the opposite direction almost the whole of the island of Achill can be seen to the north. The villages now seem so tiny and there are many different colours across the landscape, from blues to hazy reds, yellows and greens. The view is breathtaking. The blue sea looks endless. The village of Dooega is painted like a picture beneath you to the east.
After leaving "the Booster", continue to climb following a path which is marked out by stones. Follow the path for one mile approximately until you come to the statue of Mary. A person of Irish ancestry who has a passion for Ireland, a woman named Melody Waters, made the Achill statue of Mary possible. She lives in Santa Rose, California, and started a raffle, sold jewellery - anything to make money - and handed over the proceeds for the statue.
With the Cathedral Cliffs on the Keel side of the mountain, and Mweelin on the other side, the statue was especially put there to be high over the whole island, a blessing to all its inhabitants. As you pass by the statue, about ten feet on, clumps of stones come into view. These are the funeral stones.
Long ago Kildownet Cemetery, situated in the upper part of the island, was the only cemetery in Achill.
There were no roads in Achill then, just paths, and when people from the lower part of the island wanted to get to Kildownet they used to climb Minaun, cross it, and go on to Kildownet.
Climbing the mountain carrying a coffin was a very strenuous and exhausting task. People would rest every so often and when they did they made a pile of stones which marked their resting place.
Past the funeral stones make a left turn and continue your walk for about three miles until you come to the top of a paved road. You can see the whole of Dooega from this spot. Follow this paved road until you come to the main Dooega-Cashel road. Turn left here to return to where you started. The whole of the walk covers about 7 miles and is peaceful and thoroughly enjoyable.
You are coming to the end of your walk when "the booster" road comes into view again. If you look to your left, along this stretch, through the trees and bushes, you will see the ruins of some historic buildings.
During the nineteenth century in the hard times of the Famine a Protestant clergyman called Edward Nangle came to Achill. He set up a soup kitchen and a Mission in Dugort. When he was well established in Dugort, he decided to build a hospital, a college and a minister's house in Mweelin.
The church can no longer be seen today because there is a house built on the site where it stood. When the Protestant families living in the area moved away the church was closed down and the surrounding land sold. The hospital built to care for the ill in the area closed too, but the roofless ruins still stand.
The minister's house was a big house similar to a landlord's house. The college, named "Trinity College" was situated near the minister's house and because of it Mweelin was once known as "College Town". The college ruins can be seen just before you reach the end of your walk.
Duration of the walk; 3 hours approx.
By Margaret Gallagher and Michelle McNulty © Reproduced with kind permission from 'Muintir Acla', Spring 1997.
All walks are taken at the person's own risk