Killala kayakers at twilight

An enchanting scene awaited me on a walk around Killala Harbour at dusk. Kayakers paddling in the calm lagoon beneath the world-class architectural heritage of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Killala’s Round Tower; their voices echoing across the stillness of a beautiful August twilight.

It was a magical scene of evolving shadows as the kayaks glided softly through the gloaming towards the old Killala railway station; the gentle strokes of the paddles in harmony with the quietude. Only the trails of returning ripples were visible as the kayak paddlers faded into the melting light.

The gentle lapping of the spring tide against the curving harbour wall was a scene of serenity; so near, but yet distant from the fury of the Wild Atlantic, concealed beyond the River Moy estuary sandbars and Bartra Island, where the rolling waves meet their fate on the pale sands of Killala Bay.

Sheltered by Bartra, a rampart of undulating sand dunes, Killala harbour, at high tide, is a haven for watersports; safe from the heaving seas and breaking ocean waves.

The ebb reveals an entirely different world of mudflats where waders such as the ever-increasingly rare curlew feed on intertidal plants and algae.

A plaque on the harbour wall recalls that The Elizabeth and Sarah sailed from Killala to Quebec in May 1847. It was one of the so-called coffin ships that left Ireland during The Great Famine on which so many men, women and children died before ever reaching the promised land.

Killala is now connected to New York by a $300m fibre-optic undersea cable. Taking advantage of this high-speed digital connectivity to the world, Killala may someday soon see a reversal of the scourge of emigration as city-dwellers, seeking a better quality of life, bring their dreams and business ideas to the beautiful shores of Killala Bay.

By Anthony Hickey

Follow writer and photographer, Anthony Hickey, as he travels around his native Co. Mayo, Ireland.

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