Wednesday 16 October 2019

'Nearly every grain of sand has been taken away again' - Achill’s famous reappearing beach has retreated back to the sea

Recent stormy weather has once again stripped the sandy garments from the beach in Achill. Photo: Sean Molloy
Recent stormy weather has once again stripped the sandy garments from the beach in Achill. Photo: Sean Molloy

Mícheál Ó Scannáil

The sand of Achill Island’s reappearing beach has withdrawn back to the sea as stormy weather has left the shoreline’s boulders naked once again.

Dooagh Beach on the south-western extremity of Mayo’s Atlantic-beaten island made international news in May 2017 when it re-emerged from the depths. The freak tides washed up hundreds of thousands of tons of sand.

The beach, which had been reduced to a rocky terrain battered by the Atlantic Ocean, had enjoyed a golden covering of sand for the first time in 33 years, but the grains of time were quick to fall and the beach’s life was short lived.

Recent stormy weather has once again stripped the sandy garments from the beach and left only its craggy bones in its wake.

The sand of Achill Island’s reappearing beach has withdrawn back to the sea. Photo: sean Molloy
The sand of Achill Island’s reappearing beach has withdrawn back to the sea. Photo: sean Molloy

Set on the scenic island, the beach drew thousands of tourists after it made international news and business on the Mayo island boomed. Seán Molloy, manager for tourism on the island, said that locals could see the beach gradually retreating to the sea before, almost overnight, being swept back to the depts.

“It had been going over the last four or five weeks,” he said.

“It has being going since there were storms there over Christmas. There were just big rollers coming in and it was hammered all week, but the last few days now it has nearly taken every grain of sand away again.

“It’s more or less the same as before the sand returned, but there seems to be a lot of bigger boulders thrown up onto the beach that wasn’t there before.”

The media attention that Dooagh’s rebirth garnered increased tourism on the island significantly. Meltwater.com, a company that analyses media trends, reported that over 1.16 billion people around the world saw the story and employment increased on the island by almost 80 jobs, from 549 to 628.

Mr Molloy says that although the 300 metre beach was an allure for Irish holiday makers seeking childhood reminiscence and tourists from other countries looking to experience the rugged beauty of the Atlantic seaside, its disappearance offers an enticement in itself.

Sean Molloy (left) and his wife Etain O'Connor alongside Emmet Callaghan of Achill Tourism (centre)
Sean Molloy (left) and his wife Etain O'Connor alongside Emmet Callaghan of Achill Tourism (centre)

“A lot of people did come to the beach,” he admitted.

“But I think Achill being in the international headlines, it just brought a lot of people to show what Achill had to offer because we have five other blue flag beaches as well, so it wasn’t a critical piece of the puzzle but in 2017 it led to a huge increase. There was a 70pc increase in people coming into our two offices in 2017.

“I don’t think it will have too much of an effect though. Obviously we would prefer if the lovely beach and the golden sands were still there, but I think when you are on the wild Atlantic way and you look at it that point of view, it becomes about the power of nature.

"You have the cliffs and you have the other beaches and the sea and this time of year, an awful lot of people will come here just to see the huge waves and see them crashing on the beach, because they love just looking at the power of the sea. As natural phenomenon, OK the beach is gone, but you can see how they can really see what power the Atlantic Ocean has and that’s really beautiful in itself.”

The locals of Achill have become accustomed to the ebbing and flowing of their liquid-like sands, however Mr Molloy said that they had hoped the sand of Dooagh would last longer than they did on this occasion.

Local folklore suggests that the sands return every seven years but when they had to wait more than thirty last time, it was only right, they thought, that they would get a few decades of enjoyment from the beach.

Mr Molloy, originally from Mayo, answered the alluring call of home from the Atlantic and gave up his job in Dublin as a financial advisor. He said that the locals can’t help but to answer a similar call and although they wanted their beach to remain, they flocked back to see Dooagh’s bones once again.

“The beach was there for years and years up until about 1984 or 1985 and then in the 30 years between 85 and 2017, small bits of the beach came back for maybe a week or so, you could see the sand underneath the water so the sand obviously goes out into the bay and comes back in closer,” he beamed.

“Most people probably thought, because it was gone in the late 1940s and it was there for 20 or 30 years, I think maybe we thought that it would be back for 20 or 30 years, but it has only been there for maybe 20 months.

“I passed there this morning and so many people were back down looking at the shore and just marvelling over it because they would have seen the huge amount of sand that was there and it’s just gone now.

“It’s really something you have to see both sides to really appreciate the awesome power that the sea has.”

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