With its majestic mountains, spectacular landscapes, and pristine beaches, Ireland’s Achill Island has always been a popular European tourist destination. However, since April, the rugged 57-square mile island of just 2,600 residents has gained worldwide fame thanks to the ‘miraculous’ return of a beach that was washed away over three decades ago.
The chain of events began in 1984 when residents of Dooagh, one of the five settlements on the island, awoke to a startling sight: their beautiful sandy beach had been washed away by strong Atlantic storms. In its wake were rocks and rock pools, and for 33 years, only trace amounts of sand returned to the once unspoiled shores. The area’s thriving tourism industry slowly petered away, and the handful of beachside hotels, pubs, and restaurants gradually shuttered as well.
Then, around Easter this year, something magical happened — An unusual ten-day tide blanketed the barren 300-meter (984-foot) stretch of rock beach with hundreds of tons of soft golden sand! Scientists from the National University of Ireland, Galway suspect that the sand had been gathering offshore for months and was transported to the beach by the high winds and powerful waves.
The locals are delighted to have their beach back, especially as it is attracting hordes of visitors wishing to witness the power of nature, with their own eyes. JJ McNamara, the owner of Achill Cliff House, hopes the beach’s revival will attract surfers back to the region. However, Sean Molloy, manager of Achill Tourism, cautions against venturing into the chilly waters just yet, saying, "Because of the sand coming in, we don't know how safe the beach is now because currents could be changed and it'll take a little bit of time." He instead recommends visitors enjoy the soft sand and leave the swimming to the pods of dolphins that frequent the area.
Dooagh residents hope the beach’s revival also means the return of sand eels, a popular local delicacy, which was unable to survive the inhospitable rocky environment left behind by the 1984 storms. Clumps of seaweed called “the wrack” have also landed ashore again, a boon for the area’s farmers who use the briny plants to fertilize their land.
Ironically, this is not the first time Dooagh Beach has pulled a disappearing and reappearing act. It vanished in the 1890s, for over 30 years, before returning in 1927. However, the locals are optimistic that this time around, the beautiful sand is here to stay.
Resources: wikipedia.org, theguardian.com,independent.co.uk, irishtimes.com