Achill is Ireland’s largest island. Despite being connected to the mainland by bridge, when you’re in amongst its vast blanket bogs, soaring sea cliffs, secluded sandy beaches, rocky headlands and rugged mountains, it can feel a world away from civilisation – despite civilisation being less than an hour away in Newport. This feeling of isolation only doubles when winter closes in.
While the island is a walkers’ and cyclists’ paradise, particularly during those few fine summer days, one of the most striking features on Achill is the Deserted Village at the base of the Slievemore Mountains. The Deserted Village was one of several communities, concentrated in the west of Ireland, whose inhabitants, when faced with the brute force of the Great Famine, had little option other than to pack up and leave, thus turning them into an empty uninhabited shell and Ireland’s original ghost estates.
Today, you can visit the village and see the ruins of the 80-odd houses that still survive. And if you take part in one of the country’s most scenic 13-milers, the Achill Half-Marathon, your route will even allow you to follow in the footsteps of those who left this village, albeit travelling a lot faster.