Achill Facts & Figures

An unordered collection of facts, figures and statistics relating to Achill, Co Mayo, Ireland. This page is intended as an at-a-glance resource for journalists preparing articles or reports involving Achill.

Principal sources are:

McNally, Kenneth – Achill Island (1973, David & Charles)
McDonald, Theresa – Achill Island: Archaeology, History, Folklore (1997, IAS Publications)

  • Achill is the largest island off the Irish coast. Some 15 miles from east to west and 11 miles from north to south, its total area is about 57 square miles. Location is approximately 54 degrees north and 10 degrees west. Its coastline covers over 80 miles. (McNally p38)
  • The parish of Achill includes Achill Island, Achill Beg island (now uninhabited), Inishbiggle island and parts of the Curraun Peninsula.
  • Achill Island is joined to the County Mayo mainland by the Michael Davitt Bridge, a 200 yards long swing bridge that was opened in 1888 (McDonald p18)
  • Achill is the most mountainous island off Ireland. Its peaks include Slievemore (2,214ft / 671m), Croaghaun (2,192ft / 668m) and Minaun (466m). The Curraun Peninsula includes Curraun Hill (524m) and Polranny Hill (452m).
  • The north-east face of Croaghaun features almost perpendicular cliffs “said to be the highest sea cliffs in Europe” at c.2,000ft (606m) (McDonald p25).
  • Croaghaun also houses five corries lakes, one of which – Lough Bunnafreva West – is perched precariously at 1,500ft above sea level (McDonald p20). This area also has the lowest corrie lake in Ireland, Lough Nakeeroge East, at just 16m above sea level.
  • Achill Island has five Blue Flag beaches – Keem Bay, Dooega, Dugort (x2) and Keel (Trawmore Strand). (Source: An Taisce) The strand at Keel is 1.5 miles long (McNally p39) or, according to the Ordnance Survey, 2 miles / 3.3km
  • The waters off Achill hold a number of sea angling records:
    • In 1932 a porbeagle shark weighing 365lb was caught with rod and line by Dr O’Donel Browne, an Irish big-game fisher. The head of this specimen was mounted and is displayed on the wall of the bar in the Achill Head Hotel, Keel. (McNally p62)
    • Other record fish caught off Achill include a 5.5kg Tub Gunard caught near Bullsmouth in 1973, and a Blue Shark caught off Achill Head in 1959 weighing 93.4kg (McDonald p24, quoting Irish Records & Specimen Weights, 1995)
  • Achill has enjoyed continuous settlement over a 5,000 years period (McDonald p1). Megalithic tombs on Achill, principally on the southern slopes of Slievemore, have been dated to the Neolithic period, 5,000 years ago (McDonald p27)
  • The Annals of Loch Ce in 1235 make reference to ‘Eccuill’, or Eagle Island. The name ‘Achill’ is generally interpreted as an anglicised form of ‘aquila’ from the Gaelic acaill. Though there is no documentary evidence, undoubtedly the island’s association with the eagle goes far back into folk history. (McNally, p13)
  • Achill was the last breeding place (in western Ireland) of the white-tailed sea eagle, the species being recorded there as late as 1875. The golden eagle became extinct in Achill about 1915; the last reliable sighting was on Slievemore mountain in 1910 (McNally p60)

Population of Achill Island, 1841-1991:

1841: 4,901
1851: 4,030
1861: 4,424
1871: 4,948
1881: 5,060
1891: 4,677
1901: 4,825
1911: 5,260
1926: N/A
1936: 4,808
1946: 4,918
1951: 4,906
1956: 4,493
1961: 4,069
1966: 3,598
1971: 3,129
1979: 3,089
1981: 3,190
1986: 3,148
1991: 2,500

Source: McNally p178 / CSO, Dublin