Deserted Village, Achill Island, Co Mayo, Ireland
The Deserted Village at Slievemore consists of some 80 - 100 stone cottages located along a mile long stretch of road on the southern slopes of Slievemore mountain. While some of these dwellings were occupied as summer 'booley' homes within living memory, the area itself is rich in archaeological artefacts including megalithic tombs dating from the Neolithic period some 5,000 years ago. Local field systems and site remnants indicate that settlement in this area dates from at least early Mediaval times.
Slievemore is the largest and most recently abandoned of several 'booley' settlements on Achill Island. The practice of booleying, or transhumance, was continued in Achill long after it was abandoned in other parts of Ireland and western Europe. It refers to the practice of living in different locations during the summer and winter periods, primarily to allow cattle to graze in summer pasture. The cottages at Slievemore were used as summer dwellings within living memory by families from the villages of Dooagh and Pollagh. However, the larger story of the Deserted Village at Slievemore is more complex than the abandonment of booleying.
The Deserted Village at Slievemore is a haunting reminder of times past. An hour spent meandering from cottage to neighbouring cottage, along the ancient track and through adjacent fields with their lazybed ridges and furrows is a journey back in time. Sheltered under the slopes of Slievemore and hidden from the 21st century, this tranquil corner of a remote island is a perfect place for quiet reflection and remembrance.
An Archaeological Field School is held annually at the Deserted Village under the guidance of a local expert, and it is hoped that this research will yeild yet further clues as to the history and former inhabitants of this most evocative of villages.