In May, I set off on a challenging trip to try to circumnavigate Achill Island in a single day. The challenge was not so much the distance (between 70 and 80km) but timing the strong tidal currents so that they could be used to my advantage. There were 3 "tidal gates" to work out...
I left Achill sound on the start of the ebb tide in beautiful sunshine and almost no wind. The tide, though only beginning to ebb helped be to spit out the Bulls Mouth, before heading West by Doogort. I can never pass Annagh Strand without calling in to the the old Megalithic Fort, and the magical Lough Nakeeroge (Lake of the earwigs!) Its also the last break you get before taking on Achill Head and Saddle head- some of the highest cliffs in Western Europe and a bumpy ride on even the calmest of days. These headlands also formed my second tidal gate, I caught the south-going tide as the wind picked up and conditions became a wee bit "sporty".
After the wildness of the Western cliffs, the sheltered beach in Keem seems like paradise on a day like that. It wasn't always so peaceful though- not so long ago a busy Basking Shark fishery was based here. Happily now, those gentle giants are protected here. I put my feet up a bit too long in the sunshine of Keem, and realised that now I was unliklely to reach my 3rd and critical tidal gate on schedule- the strong stream at Darby's point, guarded by Achillbeg gets up to over 4kts, and you don't want to be working against that!
My luck was in though, and a nice NW breeze picked up to a force 3 or 4 and I surfed a beeline for Achillbeg and its massive Bronze-Age promontary forts, leaving the majestic Minaun cliffs away to my Nprth to be revisited at a more leisurly pace another day. To right the twin Arches of bills rocks reminded me of a great paddle out there last year.
The surf shot me towards Clew Bay and by the time I was passing Kildavnet castles one of Granuaile's many piratical strongholds, I had a strong flood tide still working with me- no harm, as the wind had picked up and veered Northerly-straight in my face. Nine and a half hours after leaving it, the new bridge at Achill sound came back into view, and the Mars bar in my pocket gave me the last burst of energy I needed to complete a memorable paddle.
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