From Achill Island to Westport

"The Nature, whose sweet rains fall on unjust and just alike, will cleance me in the great waters and with bitter herbs make me whole" (Wilde)

A place becomes unforgettable if it’s able to change your preconceptions and prove that the extraordinary does exist if you make the effort to look around. When you think about water for example, the characteristics that you were taught in school immediately come to mind - that water is colorless, odorless and tasteless. Of course this refers to water found in a bottle, not that which drips from the trees after a good downpour, one that soaks the soil, erodes the rock and rests silently among the reeds. Here in Ireland is the real water. Always with colour, smell and most definitely taste and lots of it. Here, the water is beautiful.

If you look out from Westport onto Clew Bay, looking towards Clare Island, you can sometimes see a storm in the distance, venting its anger on the ocean, with its dark cloud suppressing the earth, almost in a bid to imprison it under its weight. Yet instead of running away, you’re drawn to it, wishing you were on the ferry that you spot in the distance slowly approaching the island, soaking yourself in that cobalt blue liquid. As if nature remembers that you're part of her and that from her you derived.

Then when you get to Achill Island, after crossing the small bay of Mulranny, the first of six in the area to be awarded with a blue flag, you start to think that the water in Ireland has a soul. Arriving at Keel beach, endless golden sands whose waters reflect Dooega head, you have the feeling you’re walking on a quilt made of sand, sewn together with stone buttons and you’re reminded of being a child, running and jumping onto your parents’ enormous bed, comforted by its softness and warmth. That must be why you feel at home here, the family you can see in the distance, laughing on the shore, seem so part of the place as to almost be a vision. And you want to put your flag next to that blue one, as if to say “I was here”.

After the village of Dooagh, Keem beach awaits you. Dominated by Mount Croaghaun that whisks you away from the modern day and catapults you into its own time. It’s a beach that appears to be eternally wet, because here the ocean meets with a silent stream. A type of wonderful limbo in which to philosophize or decide. It therefore has an explanation, that calmness of the sheep you encountered on the side of the road: meditation. And you're not surprised to see some high up, at Accorymore lake, black, silent and enclosed by the cliffs that lead to Mount Croaghaun. The beach at Doogort, as opposed to Keel beach, is instead a sort of fading brush stroke that merges into the green grass on one side and the ocean on the other. And it’s so big that a motocross bike can trace over its evolution, like a drawing over a painting.

The blueness of Achill has another way in which it connects to the green of the mainland: the old railway line that connected Mulranny to Westport, closed in 1937 and has now become the Great Western Greenway, an 18 km cycle track soon to be 42km (the longest in the country). Cycling at sunset, through otherwise inaccessible land, is like going backstage at the theatre of nature. You feel like a privileged spectator and you can’t not give thanks.

You can always find the genius in Mayo, in the etymological sense of the productive forces of life and beauty. It can be seen on the foreshore of a beach, it stands in your way together with a flock of sheep, it shakes your hand in a restaurant, it’s the light filtered through the stained glass by Harry Clarke that adorns Newport’s church. But more than anything, it’s the music. Irish music, that of Matt Molloy's in Westport. A music that annuls differences, engulfing people of all sexes and ages, a music that transports its listeners to a magical place, a music that has identity, because it behaves like water, quenching your thirst and reaching every corner of your heart.

DAY 2 < - > DAY 4


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