We landed quayside in lonesome Blacksod Bay.
It turns out we’re within spitting distance of a small but charming lighthouse and the world famous Old Smokehouse.
About 80 years ago Ted Sweeney was the lighthouse keeper and also the town’s weatherman. After analyzing the weather data one day in June with the help of two female clerks, he felt there would be a small weather window between two building North Atlantic storms coming their way.
In the meantime, at the Old Smokehouse, it just might have been the best hot smoked salmon I ever ate, but that didn’t turn anything upside down. What did became apparent when we met a fellow traveler in a little camper who motioned toward the lighthouse and told us his grandmother worked at the town’s only post office and wireless station, and he’d always wanted to visit where she’d worked. The post office was housed in this very lighthouse.
The weatherman and postal clerks didn’t know it then but their forecast put the D-Day invasion in motion when their message was sent from Blacksod Bay the 4th of June, 1944.
Our camper neighbor was proud of his grandmother and he’d come a long way to see the lighthouse and celebrate her role in D-Day.
Eighty years earlier, famine and poverty dogged Blacksod Bay and West Ireland in general. James Hack Tuke, a Quaker, saw that the land could no longer support the population and he organized and paid for a boat lift in 1883-1884 for some 3,300 Irish families.
They sailed to Boston and Quebec but the last place they saw in Ireland was Blacksod Bay.
A memorial commemorates those families and the ships they sailed away in. Each plaque shows the ship, the destination, and all the names of the crew and passengers.
The mass emigration in the 1890s probably explains how empty the place still feels to this day.
Heading up into the hills out of Blacksod Bay we found another major blow hole and one of 90 some promontory ring or cattle forts in County Mayo.
Dún na mBó, like most of these forts, is protected on three sides by sea cliffs. Stone walls were only constructed across the land at the narrowest part of the headland.
I’m sure they were exhausted constructing all these bloody walls all over creation.
Not much of the stonework exists but that blowhole sure has survived.
Next we crossed the bridge to Achill Island which, in reasonable weather, is one of the top destinations in County Mayo.
There is nothing reasonable about this weather but adhering to the EV paradigm we POR’ed, which sometimes works.
We passed through areas we assumed were picturesque and charming but for the fog and rain.
We reached the famous beach at the end of the island and parked to wait for Achill’s clouds to part.
We gave it an hour.
Sometimes the magic works, sometimes it doesn’t.
We cranked up EV and climbed back up the steep winding road over the mountain. The weather, if anything, was worse.
We were determined to rid ourselves of this sopping funk. We set our sights on another beach area called Silver Strand. With the rain hot on our heels, we wound our way down through the adventurous narrow serpentine access road where it was not yet raining, just threatening.
In the morning the water, spread thinly over the shallow sandy bay, had disappeared far out into the Atlantic.
There were warnings and life preservers laughingly distributed far inland around the edge of the huge sandy beach but then I realized given the wrong set of circumstances, like wind and storm surge, this whole bay could suddenly flood and trap people in rip tides. The life saving equipment started to make sense.
The hike across the soft sandy bay had to have been at least a kilometer and the footing was quite difficult.
Somehow we found people swimming further out in the freezing incoming waves. This I do not understand but they seem to be enjoying themselves.
The hike back was just as tough in the soft sand but Silver Strand, surrounded by mountains, still held surprises for us.