Famous People and Achill Island – Living The Wild Atlantic Way

Achill Island Great Places to Stay!


Achill Island’s remote location and inspirational landscape has attracted a number of interesting characters throughout its history.

The 16th century pirate queen, Granuaille (Grace O’Malley), had a base at Kildavnet Tower on the east coast of Achill Island. From this castle, and others along the Co Mayo coastline, she is said to have controlled the waters of Ireland’s western seaboard.

In the 19th century the notorious Captain Boycott settled in Keem Bay and later at Corrymore House, on the slopes of Croaghaun. Apparently a particularly hated land agent, Boycott moved from Achill to Ballinrobe, Co Mayo, in 1877. It was there that local tenants protested by shunning him, giving rise to the term ‘to boycott’.

The Irish landscape artist Paul Henry first came to Achill on a two-week holiday in 1910. He ended up staying for nine years, the most formative of his career, and painted many famous images of Achill scenes. These include his several ‘Potato Diggers’ paintings and ‘Launching the Currach’, a scene he undoubtedly witnessed at Keem Bay. Henry wrote at length about his experience of Achill in his autobiography, ‘An Irish Portrait’.

Other painters to have drawn inspiration from Achill Island include the American Robert Henri, who resided in Corrymore House every summer from 1924 to 1928. Henri painted mainly portraits of local people, particularly children, whom he would pay for sitting for him. The artists Percy French, Charles Lamb, Derek Hill and Desmond Turner have all worked on Achill, while contemporary artist Camille Souter still lives and works on the island.

The English novelist Graham Greene visited and worked on Achill during the 1940s. He is said to have finished the novel ‘The Heart of the Matter’ in a cottage in Dooagh. German writer Heinrich Boll, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1972, first visited Achill in the 1950s. He wrote an account of life on Achill at the time, entitled ‘An Irish Journey’. Boll was so enchanted by Achill that he returned most summers for the next 15 years, to a cottage in Dugort.