Wednesday, 20 June 2018


After days of solitude in Ballycroy, I head to Achill Island, where I find the same stunning scenery. Yet instead of contemplating my navel, the universe and all points between on a silent empty beach, I sit at Keem strand listening to the diesel rumble of the tea van’s generator.

With its turquoise waters and golden sand tucked into a tiny cove between the mountains, Keem will always be a spectacular beach, but now, under the wiggly metal Wild Atlantic Way logo statue, you can buy plastic toys and flat whites.

“Bloody great!” I hear you say.
Indeed, but not for me.

People are everywhere, and I'd rather be alone.

Everyone else seems more than happy to be part of a crowd, so acknowledging yet again how weird I am, I hit the road.

My drive into Achill passed as a melancholy song of faded tourist glory. Broken down hotels and boarded up pubs, and everywhere places called ‘lifestyle shops’, to attract the surfing crowds.

Everywhere has two contrasting sides, so I take a left turn to Doogort, and yes, great choice!

Here is the west of Ireland in its natural old-fashioned glory, ready and willing to embrace any tourists who happen to pass by. Such an admirably laid-back ethic was always going to fail economically, and now, by merely changing ‘West Coast of Ireland’ to ‘Wild Atlantic Way’ the miracle of marketing is working wonders.

Sitting on a rock at Doogort Silver Strand, I sup my soul food to the rhythmic
of gentle waves pulling pebbles. 

Just me and way down the far end of the beach, a mother and child.

Above a huge gull spirals on the thermals, its vast wings flapping not an inch.
The only sound: the ocean.

Much as I could sit here for hours, the noise of the water has hastened my need for a pee. In effect there are two states of middle-aged male existence: needing a pee or not needing a pee. Fuss not, I’m all medically checked out, as we men must keep an eye on our prostate glands.

Yoga helps with that, I find. Otherwise there’d be no way I could get down there for a look! Mind you, prostate cancer is no laughing matter.

Men in their 50s discover a new sense of urgency, as I do now, but no chance. 

An old fella with his Scottie dog has been keeping a disapproving eye on me for a while.

There's no natural cover, only a gap between two Portakabins, but no. That’d just confirm the old fella’s suspicions.

He would love that.

A couple of minutes later, knees locked together, I come upon Doogort Strand, an empty crescent of golden sands and foamy breakers. Banks of rushes border the grasses between me and the ocean, perfect for hiding behind methinks, so I race down there at top speed, discovering on the way the grass is completely covered in sheep shit.

As if approaching the winning tape 
I bundle through the rushes, 
which tragically don't turn out to offer any cover, 
and then I’m through them 
and charging onto boulders and rocks. 

My stumbling has broken my concentration.
I was not only focusing on the physical accomplishment of running on several different natural surfaces at high speed from a sitting start.

I was also using my well-practiced mental powers to instruct myself that

I do not need to go
I am in charge of my own body

I do not need to go

breathe ... kind of stuff.

Thinking is over. 
Now has to be the time for action. 

Feeling sufficiently obscured and past the point of control anyway, I do what I have to.

Then I stretch my arms wide, in triumphant relief, and turn to face the glorious Atlantic, noticing-for the first time to my left the two camper vans and families, sitting at wooden tables, sipping their tea.

None of them seem particularly disturbed by my unexpected floorshow, but I resist the quite strong temptation to take a bow, instead exiting stage left pronto.

It's hard not to love Doogort. Schoolchildren yell “Hi!” as I drive by, their mothers in rolled up trackies and well-loved T-shirts feeding carrots to donkeys at the roadside.

Everywhere I drive the powerful women of Mayo are out there working. On a lonely isolated bog, there she is, under the baking sun, cutting turf on her own; there she is, working a mower up that hellishly steep hill of a lawn, there she is, stepping out in her safety visor and hi-viz jacket, to strim the hedge.

While all this is happening, I am simultaneously writing this colyoom in my head.

Love scribbling.
I should probably give that a hashtag but I can't be bothered.

I'm so up my hole about being a writer that I manage to get lost. The road comes to an end by a pier beside one of those yellow signs showing a car falling into the sea.

That'll learn me to be a pretentious fool, but hang on, could that there be be Inis Bigle? I’ve visited it often from the mainland, and if it is, I can check exactly where I am on my nerdy ordnance survey map.

I make no excuses. I love maps and right now I'm adoring this one, because it’s telling me that is indeed Inis Bigle, and all I need to do is drive down here, turn left and left again.

For some sad reason I find it ridiculously pleasing that by using a blend of local knowledge, observation and map reading, I’ve gone from being utterly lost a minute ago to knowing exactly where I am, and how to get out of here.

Time to head to Newport for lunch! I deserve it!

©Charlie Adley

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