Ireland Travel Stories – Post Six – The Deserted Village, Peat and Wild Coastline

We wake up to the sound of sheep in the pasture in front of our Airbnb and a soft drizzle that Chris says is so fine it’s more like mist. I disagree. It feels like rain when we go outside.  I’m excited about the day. We’ve planned to see quite a lot and maybe even do some hiking if the weather clears.

I want to head to Keem first. The guide says there is a strenuous hike there to the highest sea cliffs in Europe – only for experienced hikers. We are not experienced hikers, but the view I imagine we might see appeals to me. The book says the weather can change very quickly once you are up there so to proceed with caution. We drive a winding road along the sea with the misty drizzle making it all feel very Irish to me. As we round the bend, we see the steep mountain we’d have to climb to get to the highest sea cliffs and a magical beach below. We decide not to hike. The mountain is shrouded in mist. Instead, we sit in our car enjoying the view for a while. Even though it is so gorgeous, I am not tempted to swim. It’s rainy and not very warm.


Our next destination is The Deserted Village at Slievemore.  The village consists of the remains of 100 stone dwellings, and one can almost hear the echoes of those who lived here long ago. I try to imagine what life would have been like. The mist lends an eerie air to the ruins of the stone cottages on the mountainside. The pamphlet says there is no simple answer as to why the village was deserted. The place feels mysterious.

We park next to a graveyard and walk to the village. There are sheep. The ground is spongy to walk on. It’s peat, I think. We noticed the night before, that many houses had their chimney’s smoking – it was cold enough for a fire. The smoke smelled different than it does at home. Chris asked our host, who told him that they burn peat and that is why it smells different. There are peat farmers on the island; he gets their peat from a local farmer. It dries very hard, like coal, he says. It certainly warms up the house. We sleep with the windows open to cool the room a bit despite the stormy weather outside.

Achill is characterised by its large expanses of blanket bog / peatlands. Peatlands are recognised as one of the unique features of Achill’s heritage. Bog or peat is largely made up of water with its solid matter consisting of partly decayed plant remains.

After we’ve finished at The Deserted Village, we head to our next destination, the top of Minaun, another viewing point. We drive up a mountainside. It gets progressively windier as we near the top. As we get out to wander around a bit, I’m glad we made the choice not to hike up to the highest sea cliffs at Keem. I believe there is quite a steep drop off and nothing to keep you from falling if the wind decides to be gusty. This mountain has a gentler slope. The wind is strong enough to feel like it would be good not to get too close to the edge of anything.  We can see the bay and figure we can pinpoint the general area of our Airbnb from there.

We drive along the coast – Atlantic Drive. It feels wild. There aren’t many houses. Just sheep and the sea cliffs and the rolling green hills. It is beautiful in a rugged way.  I breathe it in. I love this kind of scenery.

We decide we’ll stop at a couple of places on the way home, to learn about the local sea salt industry and the American Irish Distillery, but both are closed for the season. We’ll walk over to the pub close to our accommodation for dinner. It’s close. We’ll end the day with a Guinness. It sounds like a fitting end to another great day.

I don’t make it to dinner that night. I send Chris on his own. I’m not feeling great by the time we get back to our Airbnb. I bath. I throw up. I get into bed. Not the way I expected the day to end.

I’m more than half way towards my goal of posting 8 times in a month – just two more Ireland Travel Stories! This is in order to complete a project for Toastmasters – Level 4 in the Innovative Planning Pathway. 8 times in a month felt like a really tall order. It is starting to feel easy and fun.

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