Keem – Achill Island, County Mayo

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Words and Photos by Maureen McCoy

One of the most popular beaches on Achill Island although never over-crowded is the picturesque Keem. The first view of this strand set in a steep amphitheatre under the Benmore cliffs is from high above on the vertiginous road that winds up from Dooagh village. With the sun lighting up the deep water, the colours range from bright turquoise darkening to teal green against the vibrant bright green grass on the slopes of Benmore. Although a popular beach, Keem is never crowded and even at the height of tourist season you can find a quiet swim here.

It was from this strand that fishermen would launch their curraghs in search of Basking sharks, right up until the 1950’s. Swim around the rocks to the left of the beach where at low tide several secluded sandy coves are revealed. Family swimming.

Excerpt from Wild Swimming in Ireland 2016, ISBN 978-1-84889-280-4

Getting there; from Belfast take the M1 then A4 through Enniskillen and continue on to the N16 to Sligo. From Sligo take the N4 turning onto the N17 and heading towards Tobercurry and Charlestown. Just past Charlestown take the N5 to Castlebar, from here take the R311 to Newport then onto the N59. At Mulrany the R319 brings you over the bridge and onto Achill, follow this road right to the end and you arrive at Keem beach.

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Google maps; https://www.google.co.uk/maps/place/Keem+Beach/@53.967365,-10.1966858,16z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x485996667294571f:0x75ee86cee21e0970!8m2!3d53.9671631!4d-10.1928951

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Mayo Shipwreck – Inver

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Words by Maureen McCoy

Photography by Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media

At the height of summer, in the townland of Inver, west Mayo, a fleet of bicycles of various sizes and colours lie in the grass verge, above a tiny beach and pier. These belong to a group of children and young teens paddling and rock-pooling in the last of the evening sunshine before heading back to holiday homes and barbeque dinners.

South of the main Inver beach and looking out across Broadhaven Bay towards Belmullet with Ballyglass lighthouse glinting in the distance, this tiny beach can be found. From here, take a stroll further south along the shore, over rocks and puddles providing safe haven for baby jellies and tiny crabs, marooned by the out-going tide, finally coming to this melancholy sight; the slowly decaying mass which the local children have dubbed “the Pirate Ship” (some say; “The Black Pearl”).

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The rusted metal of winches and pulleys and the wood creaking in the gentle breeze, now in its final resting place, the carcass lists toward the sea as if trying to return. The fat hull now breaking away with each storm and the ships ribs exposed revealing the internal organs. A tap, a valve wheel; traces of paint still clinging in protected grooves, the beauty of the silvering wood and the crafted joints now tearing apart to look like teeth of some ancient sea creature. Sea-weeds, anemones and limpets claim a home on the broken remains of a boat which must once have cut through the waves with speed and grace. Now, the sea begins to reclaim her for her own.

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On the 15th September 2015, the Irish News displayed the plight of a similar shipwreck, in Magheraclogher beach, Gweedore, Donegal. “Eddies Boat” has been a tourist attraction for some time, but now the wreck has become unsafe and may have to be removed. The boat that has been drawing tourists since it was washed ashore in the 70’s, may soon be no more.

Link to Irish News article

Who knows how long this Mayo shipwreck will stand the wash of daily tides and so if you wish to visit her, do so, soon. Back at the pier take a swim, either along the shore or strong swimmers might want to head across the 800m or so across to the small, private beach on the opposite headland.

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Perhaps we should take the chance to see and savour all that we can; for all our perceived mastery of earth and sea and sky, Mother Nature will never be conquered, like the children, we can only play and admire the fleeting glimpses we are privileged to view.

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On the Pullathomas 50km cycle loop from Barr na Tra on the R314 between Belmullet and Belderg. South of the village of Inver a sign from the loop road brings you to a small turning circle.