Achill-henge is a rather controversial structure with a very interesting story behind it. It first came to my attention through a post on Boards.ie and, so fascinated was I with the conversation around it, that I had to see it while I was in Achill last year.
According to locals, it was put up in 72 hours. A team of construction workers erected it in 2011, led by property developer, Joe McNamara, who is noted for his protests against Anglo-Irish Bank and the government’s handling of the financial crisis. He drove a concrete mixer truck into the gates of Leinster House in 2010 and parked a cherry picker outside in 2011 with the words “Anglo Toxic Bank” on it. He was made to move both vehicles, but “Achill-henge” won’t be moved as easily.
Some consider it an eyesore, others an amazing sight. The argument that it impacts negatively on the surrounding landscape is one that could be debated as, unless you’re standing on a hillside, Achill-henge is obstructed from view, located in a hollow and surrounded by a dirt bank all around.
How to get to Achill-Henge
I was surprised, but happy, to find Achill-henge listed on Google Maps. The exact location is pin-pointed. Here’s a little bit of advice on getting there though.
There’s a road runs up to within 1/2 kilometre of Achill-henge. After that, it quickly turns into a rough, stoney track that could tear the sump out of a car. If you’ve a 4×4 or an SUV, then you might (as I did) manage to make it as far as the barn at the end of the track where, if there are no other cars, you can park at the side, being careful not to restrict the local farmer’s access. Or, if you have a motorbike and you’re a bit of an adventurer (as my partner is), then take the bike up. Don’t blame me if your pillion stops breathing on the back of the bike (as I did) though.
The best place to park is down by Pollagh church before you take the turn up the narrow road for Achill-henge. From there, it’s just over a kilometre of a walk to the structure. Someone has made up signs with a photo of Achill-henge on them, and you’ll see them on the road.
If you do decide you want to run the risk of pulling the bumper off your car on the dodgy track (see photo above for an idea of the surface), then I can’t stress the importance of not blocking the farmer from going about his work. The last day I was there, a couple parked their car in front of what looked like a quad track. It was, indeed, a quad track. As I was on the way back, they were leaving, and the farmer was on his way up to the track, sheep dog tucked into a crate on the front of his quad. Had the couple been a minute later back to their car, they’d more than likely have gotten an earful from the farmer. Being an avid hillwalker, I’ve been so disappointed this year to hear of landowners restricting access to lands because of people’s daft behaviour parking in front of gates, leaving gates open, disobeying signs that forbid entry, and taking their dogs onto lands where they’re not meant to be.
Which reminds me….there are no signs at Achill-henge forbidding dogs, but there are lots of sheep up there. Please don’t bring a dog, even if it’s on a lead. Dogs generally aren’t into any sort of architecture anyway, even unusual, controversial ones.
Once you’ve reached the barn, walk straight on for approximately 250 metres directly to the ‘Henge’.
Achill-henge would make an amazing exhibition space or outdoor gathering area. And one artist, Joe Casin, used the space for an art installation ‘Our Nation’s Sons’ back in 2013.
The art installation has been removed, but these interesting sketches (below) remain on the interior of the structure.
There are two camps of people – those who consider it an unsightly, pointless structure that merits little time spent at it, and those who see it as an outstanding achievement and take numerous photographs of it from all angles. You can guess which camp I’m in.
And what of Joe McNamara? Well, I just discovered earlier that he has built another ‘Henge’ in the UK that’s been dubbed ‘Unhenged’.