Keem Bay, Achill – Boycott and Basking Sharks

The term ‘boycott’, meaning ‘to ostracise’, owes its origin to the treatment meted out to Captain Charles Boycott, a British land agent, who was ostracised by the local community in the Lough Mask area of County Mayo, where he was both farmer and land agent and much despised by the local community.  While Boycott became infamous through his actions in the Lough Mask area this was not his first home in Ireland.  Following a short sojourn in Tipperary, it was in Achill, Co. Mayo that he established himself in Ireland having bought himself out of his army commission because of illness.  Boycott’s first farm was at the far western end of Achill in beautiful Keem Bay and from there he moved to Dooagh.

Keem (53.968507,-10.190535) (pronounced Kim) is by far the most exquisite part of the west coast of Ireland(I admit to bias) and although Boycott found it a difficult to place to farm he did have the benefit of living in a most beautiful part of the world.

What Boycott would not have realised was that he was also overlooking one of the nicest shore dives on the west coast.  A stroll down the beach and a short fin gives access to white sand, small reefs, spider crabs in abundance, trigger fish occasionally, lobsters and much more.  It was at this site that  I first really noticed light bulb sea squirts and have sought them out often since in other places.  Not regularly finding them and being no marine biologist I can only assume that they are somewhat ephemeral.

Keem Bay also played a significant role in the Achill basking shark fishery in that it was from Moyteoge Point (the tip of the land to the right of the beach in the picture of Keem Bay) that spotters sought the basking sharks and directed boats to hunt them and bring them back to Purteen harbour near Keel.

The dive is straightforward. Enter the water on the southern end of the beach and follow the cliffs out as far as you want to go – 15m is easily achieved.  Avoid going as far as Moyteoge Point as there can occasionally be tidal runs, not necessarily associated with the 3rd and 4th hours; in the 1990′s with two others I was caught in such a run doing a boat dive between Moyteoge and Achill Head and, but for an observant cox’n, would have been landing in New York several days later.  As it was were almost an hour in the water and about to ditch gear and try to climb ashore before we were picked up.

For the non-diver the walk from the beach along the cliffs towards Achill Head is rightfully regarded as one of the most spectacular on the west coast – equalled only by the walk up Slieve League from Teelin in south Donegal.

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