Cliffside – Achill

posted in: Travel | 0

There is a beach three miles out from Dooagh on Achill Island, a little cove with sand and turquoise blue waters. The road that goes there is narrow and winding, with just enough space to let two medium cars pass by each other without having to get out of each other’s way. It climbs steadily nestled in the side of the rocky hill, with sheep grazing on both sides, and offers postcard worthy panoramas with every step. As a pedestrian, one hears the wind whistling gently in the ears, smells the salt of the ocean and sheep manure, and can almost feel the rhythmic rushing waves crashing against the rocks even on a still day. There are numerous springs fed by the constant wool of clouds that clings to the peak of the mountain. They trickle gently down-slope finding their way guided by gravity, and even the smallest thread of water shapes the rocky cone of the massive, leaving a streak of green among the grey and brown of the bare aggregate the island is made of. If one listens past the wind, one can hear these streams fall onto rocks by the road, the island talking to itself.
The walk to the beach is strenuous and hot in a wool sweater, but cold without one because of the wind. The hike up the side of the hill past the beach is even more so, but the view of the other side is worth it. The road doesn’t go any further than this small cove, so the land beyond the beach is wild, inhabited only by curious hikers and sheep. Even the birds find little of interest on the way up, which is why the house on the crest seems out of place.
On the very line of the horizon as seen from the road, there is an Irish stone house breaking the contour of the hill. It can’t be an actual residence because climbing the slope with groceries would be a feat of endurance. Yet is stands there, gloomy and gray, sentinel over both sides of the cliff, for on the other side of this hill the land ends.
After the brisk climb, finding my way through the bog and trying hard not to step in too many sheep patties, I could hear my heart thumping quickly in my ears and an ache in my head throbbed in sync. Perhaps I was breathing too fast. The view opened up above the crest of the hill and a cold wind began to blow straight on. Where the water was blue and sparkled behind me, the ocean in front was a rain-cloud gray and small rain was coming in with the wind, slowly covering the horizon and advancing on the water like a mist. I realized I should begin the descent just in case the rain got heavy, so my cliff side meditation was cut short by the weather.
The way down was not the same way I went up. I followed the sheep trails with each step, trying to walk around the wet mush that crisscrossed the slope. I knew that the rain would make the bog wetter so I hurried with small steps. Drops began to fall, the wind became brisk and cold, and the sun was completely covered, yet the water that lapped at the sand in the cove was still a brilliant blue, perhaps a little greener than before.

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