The Dublin – Westport line was extended to Achill Sound in the 1890s and this was one of the so-called ‘Balfour Lines’. Arthur J. Balfour, who later became British Prime Minister, introduced an Act providing State assistance for the construction of light railways to disadvantaged areas in Ireland.
He himself visited Achill and was so struck by the living conditions in the area at that time that he personally insisted on the railway being extended to Achill.
The first station on this extension was Newport which opened in February 1894, followed by Mulranny, in August of the same year. The line to Achill was completed in May 1895. Although the line wasn’t fully completed in June 1894, a special train was ran caring the 32 bodies of the Clew Bay disaster back to Achill.
In September 1937, shortly after the official closing of the railway another special train ran to carry the 10 victims of the Kirkintilloch Fire Disaster in Scotland back home to Achill. this fulfilled a prophecy that the first and last train to Achill would carry coffins.
In 2010 the disused railway was transformed into the Great Western Greenway.
It is the longest off road cycling and walking trail in Ireland, stretching 42Km from Westport to Achill. Thousands of people use the Greenway each year and it has become one of the country’s most successful tourist/sport projects of the last few years.
The Greenway features breath-taking scenery and a rich historical background.
There are plans to extend the Greenway into Achill and out to Turlough. Please check out the videos on the Greenway in the video section of this App.