Beach reappears 33 years after being washed away

Posted at 4:56 PM, May 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-08 16:56:09-04

Dooagh, Ireland — A beach that was washed away by storms more than 30 years ago has reappeared off the west coast of Ireland.

The sands at Dooagh on County Mayo’s Achill Island vanished in the winter of 1984, leaving nothing but bare rock and rock pools.

But over the course of a few days in April 2017 the Atlantic returned what it had stolen, depositing thousands of tons of sand and creating a brand new 300-meter golden strand.

The storms of 1984 “completely took every last grain of sand off the beach,” said Sean Molloy, of Achill Tourism.

But last month, “in the space of about eight or 10 days, these very strong winds came from the north,” he explains.

“Apparently what that does is, it blows the surface water back, because this is a south-facing beach. The sea then takes the sands underneath and brings the sands up.That’s what I’ve been told.”

This YouTube video from March 2017 shows what the beach looked like before the sands arrived.

Achill is the largest island off the coast of Ireland and its 57 square miles of rolling bogland, dramatic cliffs and pristine — if windswept — beaches have inspired writers including Graham Greene and Heinrich Boll.

With a population of fewer than 3,000, the main economy is tourism and the arrival of the new beach has given things an unexpected boost.

“It’s lovely,” said Roisin Lavelle, owner of Teach Cruachan B&B which overlooks Dooagh Bay. “Mostly all you see is waves and rocks, so it has been been really lovely to see a big expanse of sand now.”

It’s also coincided with a stretch of warm spring sunshine on a coastline known for its temperamental weather. “The weather is fantastic, it’s been good for the last week or so now,” adds Lavelle.

Molloy estimates that Achill receives around 150,000 to 180,000 visitors a year, but the sunshine and the new beach is “a great tourist boost.” This past weekend “looked like a bank holiday weekend, so many people came.”

But while the beach is ideal for an Atlantic stroll, Molloy isn’t recommending people slip into their Speedos just yet.

“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.”

It’s best to leave the swimming to the dolphins which regularly arrive in Dooagh Bay in large numbers.

“A lot of people come to Achill to look at the power of nature because you see the cliffs and the boglands and the beaches and mountains and whatever,” Molloy said. “This is just one very vivid example of the power of nature.”

And with the high spring tides over and the sunshine still holding, islanders are hoping their new beach is here to stay. Laughs Lavelle: “That’d be the icing on the cake, if we get the weather now!”