Achill Island is the largest island off the coast of Ireland, measuring some 20km from east to west and 18km from north to south. Its famous rocky and mountainous coastline measures a total of 120km and includes Europe’s highest sea cliffs at Croaghan. Achill has two significant mountains, Slievemore (672m) and Croaghan (668m), while Minaun (466m) provides the dramatic cliffs at the Dookinelly end of Keel strand.
Achill has played host to a number of historical figures, not least of which was Gráinne Uaile, the 16th century pirate queen. Gráinne Uaile’s Castle (see image above) built at Kildavnet on Achill is an excellent example of a 15th Century Irish Tower House. Fr Manus Sweeney, a priest executed following the unsuccessful uprising of 1798, was born on Achill, while the notorious Captain Boycott was the owner of Corrymore House and estate on the west of the island. A local Achill man, James Lynchehaun, gained international notoriety after twice escaping police custody following an attack on an English landowner in 1894. His case formed the basis of J.M Synge’s play ‘The Playboy of the Western World’ and was dramatised in the film ‘Love & Rage’ in 1998. The Deserted Village situated on the slopes of Slievemore mountain has over 70 abandoned homesteads and is a haunting reminder of times passed.
Achill Island has long been an inspiration for artists and writers including the Irish landscape artist Paul Henry who spent almost ten years living and working on the island between 1920 and 1919. Another frequent visitor was the American artist Robert Henri, while in the 1950s the English novelist Graham Greene holidayed and worked in the village of Dooagh and the German nobel prize winning author Heinrich Böll lived and worked in Dugort on the north side of Achill Island.