Lonely Planet Writer

The Irish beach that washed away 33 years ago has suddenly reappeared

Locals on an Irish island have been taken by surprise at the return of a beach that was washed away 33 years ago. Achill Island’s Dooagh beach vanished into the Atlantic Ocean in the spring of 1984, when storms washed the sand away leaving only rocks and rock pools behind.

Dooagh beach on Achill Island was washed away 33 years ago but has now suddenly reappeared. Image: Achill Island Tourism
Dooagh beach on Achill Island was washed away 33 years ago but has now suddenly reappeared. Image: Achill Island Tourism

Achill Island is a rugged and unspoilt peninsula off County Mayo in the west of Ireland. It’s the country’s largest offshore island, and is connected to the mainland by a short bridge. It has its fair share of history, having been a frequent refuge during the country’s various rebellions.

Beaches are formed by wave action transporting eroding material from elsewhere, and this works both ways. The residents of the village of Dooagh were surprised and delighted last month when a cold spell combined with wind blowing from the north led to hundreds of tonnes of sand and shells being deposited back in the area by the tide. This occurred over a nine-day period, and as a result, there is now a 300-metre stretch of golden sand again in place of the rocky coastline.

Dooagh beach on Achill Island was washed away 33 years ago leaving rocks behind. Image: Achill Island Tourism
Dooagh beach on Achill Island was washed away 33 years ago leaving rocks behind. Image: Achill Island Tourism

“We were hopeful because the sand had been coming into the bay under the water in recent years,” Sean Molloy of Achill Island Tourism tells Lonely Planet. “We were surprised and delighted and it has given a great morale boost to the village.  The only note of caution we have to sound is that the sands have only just come in and the beach is in a state of flux, so we don’t know how safe it is for swimming at the moment. It’s great for walking on though and all the wildlife has come back, which is wonderful.”

Dooagh beach on Achill Island was washed away 33 years ago but has now suddenly reappeared. Image: Achill Island Tourism
Dooagh beach on Achill Island was washed away 33 years ago but has now suddenly reappeared. Image: Achill Island Tourism

‘Murder She Wrote’ star, Angela Lansbury, visited the beach as a child in the 1930s, and artist Robert Henri bought Corrymore House on the hill above Dooagh in 1924. Prior to the beach vanishing, three hotels, 20 guesthouses and a number of restaurants overlooked the beach, but most apart from a few guesthouses were adversely affected when the beach disappeared and gradually closed down.

Locals in Dooagh are now anticipating that the newly-restored beach will attract visitors to the area in greater numbers. Sean Molloy says that while there are ten beaches on Achill and five of them are blue flag status, visitors always prefer to have a beach close to where they are staying.