Achill Island Signal Station, County Mayo

Achill Signal Station can be seen in the centre of the picture. (Image courtesy of Bing Maps).

The Achill Island signal station is located at 195m OD, on a low ridge that lies between Slievemore to the east and Croaghaun to the west, the two large mountains that dominate the western half of the island. The site offers fine views to the north towards the signal station at Glosh and to the south towards the signal station on Clare Island, but the views to the east and west are blocked by the adjacent mountains.  The site is accessed from the western end of the lane that runs through the famous Deserted Village on Slievemore.

The signal station consists of a partially collapsed signal tower set within a rectangular stone walled enclosure. A lime kiln is located in the west of the enclosure, the foundations of a small rectangular building are located in the north west corner of the enclosure and a small sub-circular foundation, that may belong to a later hut is located immediately south of the signal tower. A small quarry is located around 60m to the south east of the signal station and it is likely that much of the building stone for the Signal Station derived from that location.

The southern wall of the signal tower at Achill Signal Station. 

The signal tower measures 5.85m across and has largely collapsed. It only consists of the semi-basement level, and parts of the ground floor level, surrounded by a large spread of rubble. The southern wall features the remains of the ground floor windows, whilst the eastern features the distinctive bowing out in the centre that indicates the presence of the chimney within the wall.

The interior of the southern wall showing the flared window edges and the joist holes of the ground floor. One of the ground floor alcoves can be seen at the left of the shot.

Within the structure the eastern wall features a pair of alcoves flanking a ground floor fireplace, the southern wall features the lower portions of the flared edges of two ground floor windows, the western wall is devoid of features and the northern wall has largely collapsed with just traces of the flared outer edges of the ground floor windows and some of the joist holes of the ground floor remaining visible. These features allow for the tower to be orientated; the first floor doorway would have been located on the western wall, with the fireplaces and alcoves located on the eastern wall and with the paired windows located on the northern and southern walls.

Achill Original
An early 20th century photograph of the signal tower at Achill Signal Station provided by local resident Michael O’Connor (unknown photographer).

An early 20th century photograph of the signal tower confirms this arrangement and shows a narrow rectangular machicolation over the doorway and the back of an apparently square bartizan over the south east corner.

The southern wall of the enclosure showing the surviving part of the wall set at the base of a shallow ditch. 

The enclosure measures 54m by 27m and is defined by the low remains of a stone wall with a simple entrance one third of the way along the southern wall. The wall stands at the base of a shallow ditch, presumably where the mountain peat was removed to expose the underlying solid geology to provide a better foundation to build on.

The overgrown lime kiln located to the west of the signal tower.

The remains of a lime kiln are located 12m west of the signal tower. It appears as an oval hollow 3.25m long and 2.7m wide with a depth of around 0.7m. The sides are grassed over but occasional stretches of intact stone work pokes through the grass suggesting it may be well preserved beneath the foliage.

The low foundation of the rectangular building located at the north west of the enclosure.

The foundations of a rectangular building can be seen at the north west corner of the enclosure. The foundation measures 7.5m by 3m and is presumed to be an original element of the signal station.

The foundation of the small oval hut located immediately south of the signal tower.

To the south of the signal tower lies the foundation of a small oval hut. The huit foundation measures 5.7m by 4.5m and consists of a ring of collapsed stone work. The foundation resembles a similar feature found to the west of the signal tower at the Clare Island Signal Station and both features are suspected to be secondary additions, probably constructed after the Signal Stations were abandoned by their original occupants.

The famous clergyman and author Caesar Otway visited the site in the 1830’s, a couple of decades after the site was abandoned. A brief account is included in his book ‘A tour in Connacht’ which highlights the exposed nature of this site, a characteristic it shares with the majority of the other Signal Stations;

‘What a lonely spot! What a horrible solitude! When the driving tempest sending up the spray of the Atlantic billows, and sending down the almost incessant rain from the clouds, roared in wrath, and, as it were, said “I want to wash away these fellows;” and yet there is no account of any of these weather-beaten men committing suicide’ (Otway 1839).


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