Sunday 16 March 2003: Traverse of Slievemore
Sunday morning welcomed everyone with bright, hazy sunshine. Perfect conditions for a traverse of Slievemore, whose 671m summit can often be covered in cloud.
(Click images for full view)
After a rendezvous at the Strand Hotel in Dugort, the group set off (picture, right) led by principal guide Tomás Mac Lochláinn and three assistant guides.
The village of Dugort (Dumhach Goirt) is located on the north side of Achill Island and overlooks Blacksod Bay. It plays a key role in the history of Achill Island, and indeed was the location of Achill's first hotel in 1839. The Achill Mission Hotel was established as part of Rev. Edward Nangle's proselytising Achill Mission, which was set up in Dugort in 1834. The Mission lasted about 50 years and its benefits including the setting up of soup kitchens (particularly during the Famine years), a cornmill, schools, a small hospital, and even a newspaper.
This history was relayed to the group by lead guide Tomás as we rested on the slopes of Slievemore, admiring the view over Dugort's two beaches - the Silver Strand and the Golden Strand (picture, left).
The Silver Strand is also known as Barnyagappul Strand, from the Irish Trá Bhearna na gCapall (meaning the strand of the gap of the horses). In former times seaweed would be drawn from the shore by horses, to be used as fertiliser in the fields.
Further around the coast from Dugort, nestled under the shadow of Slievemore's north side, are Achill's famous seal caves. These are not the only caves in the area, though, as the group was about to discover. Further up the north-east face of Slievemore (picture, right) parts of the terrain can be treacherous underfoot due to holes and caves that are often covered over by heather. It is possible that one of these 'caves' was used as a hideout by local priest Fr. Manus Sweeney following the 1798 failed uprising. Fr. Sweeney was accused of collaborating with the French invaders and hid out on Achill for six months. On his capture he was tried and sentenced to death - he was hanged in the market square at Newport, Co. Mayo.