What to do with the stones of Achill

photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of Achill Island stones

Yes, it’s true: I collect stones.  Not in a scientific or geological sort of way but I just pick ones up that catch my eye. Momentos I suppose. I have a load of them on a window sill in the studio but actually, I don’t remember where most of them come from. I have a piece of lava from Mount Etna in Sicily but other than that… they’re just stones.

But each one is beautiful in its own way and they are reminders to me that I should get out of the studio and go for a walk on a beach or maybe – climb a mountain.

And Achill Island is a great place for would-be stone collectors. There are at least four different coloured stones there: purple, grey-green, orange and white. The geologists would tell you that the basement rocks of Achill are among the oldest in Ireland: Pre-Cambrian, over 600 million years old, primarily schist, gneiss and quartzite. So that explains that.

Photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of Deserted Village in Achill Island

I was there recently, doing an artist’s residency at the Heinrich Böll Cottage in Dugort (such a great privilege).

There is a deserted village nearby on the slopes of Slievemore with about 70 stone cottages that were abandoned around the time of the Irish Famine. I thought I might explore there and perhaps continue with my Tinteán Tréigthe paintings, a series of empty fireplaces in abandoned homes in the West of Ireland.

But as it happens, there were no fireplaces to be found in these cottages. They must’ve had the fire in the middle of the floor with the smoke escaping through a hole in the roof. So, back to the stones.

It seemed to me that there was a whole new world to be seen in these stones – entire continents! So this might be my next area of artistic research. Any advice? Favourite rock perhaps? Leave a comment down below.

Photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of a rock in Achill Island, Co Mayo




  1. .

    But I don’t use the window cill

    There is a lovely oval stone, pear size, of two tone style that acts as a paper-weight

    At present, there are six in my pocket – my comfort blanket or worry beads, regularly taken out and clanked together as I walk or wait.

    If there is a headstone that draws a connection in a cemetery that I might visit, I will leave one of the stones from my pocket. At funerals, one of my stones will be dropped into the hole. If I find somewhere relaxing or memorable, another stone will be left.

    The number in my pocket rarely drops below 4 – there are many replacements in the desk drawer. I think only once did they drop below 4 when I gave the full collection to someone as their comfort.

    So the short answer to your query is – touch them, often

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I had to remove a section of dry stone wall on Inis Mor once, to let some cows out of a little field and move them to the other side of the island where there was more grass. Afterward, we had to repair the wall. A friend of mine who was directing the work was really good at wall building, an artist you might say. I asked him who taught him and he said, “the stone. You just have to listen to it.” As good advice as any. 🙂


  3. I went for a stroll along Kiliney beach with my wife a few years back…. all the while picking up interesting stones and putting them in my back pack.
    By the end of our walk I could barely carry the load. ‘
    ‘Ye eejit’ declared Bean MhicA. “What’re you going to do with them?”

    They are safely lodged in my little London garden alongside stones from Greystones, Occitane, Basque Country and anywhere else I find a beautiful stone.

    So there you are!


  4. I was surprised to read that you collect interesting stones on beaches, because I do that as well (note to readers: I am one of Eoin’s brothers).

    Perhaps many people do, as there are so many fascinating pebbles to find,with the strangest colours and markings; you’d really wonder how they came into being.

    I tend to look for granites, as I heard many years ago that granites from all over the place can end up on your local beach – as I live in Dublin, then Dublin and Wicklow granites predominate, but Ailsa Craig granite, from Scotland, is found here too.

    That is a fantastic photo of the deserted cottages on Achill; it is difficult to capture the lazy-beds, you need a slanting sun, but you did it.


    • Thanks Cóilín, well there’s all sorts of interesting rocks on Achill – primarily schist, gneiss and quartzite – I’m not sure if there was any granite. Geologically speaking, it’s a very special area, something to do with glacial deposits etc. If you’d like to learn more, see: file:///C:/Users/Owner/Downloads/1043-3960-1-PB.pdf
      slán tamaill, eoin


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