On the 7th of July the Achill Experience added a digital dimension to its cultural and historical attractions with the release of the Offline Tourist Tablet.
The Achill Experience offers a unique glimpse into life on Ireland’s largest island, based in the all-weather visitor centre which was opened in April. It includes Mayo’s first aquarium, featuring two themed salt water tanks and an open touch tank, so visitors can fully engage and interact with the local sea life. It also features a re-built Deserted Village Boley House common to Achill throughout the 18th and 19th Centuries, allowing visitors to step back in time to the famine era. Additionally there are displays and storyboards containing local information about Achill’s rich cultural history like the practice of “booleying”.
The Achill Experience has instantly become an integral part of the community. In the words of Majella Uí Ghallachobhair a local primary school teacher and vice chairperson in the Local Development Company in Achill Comhlacht Forbartha Áitiúil Acla (CFÁA) “The Achill Experience ticks a number of boxes in terms of being a positive development for Achill. For years the lack of an indoor facility was identified as a huge disadvantage in the area, as there was nothing for tourists to do when the weather was bad. A visit to the Achill Experience informs and educates about the marvellous plant and animal life living in the waters around Achill and also offers an opportunity to see at firsthand what life was like in a typical Achill home in times gone by.”
The Achill Experience wouldn’t be where it is today without a few key characters, such as Tom Honeyman the retired policeman who is now an Aquarist who offers each and every visitor his local knowledge about all the different types of fish in the newly opened aquarium. Tom says his favourite part of the Achill Experience is “meeting the public and giving them an insight into our varied marine life.”
Gerry Hassett along with other local fishermen are also essential to the success of the Achill Experience, as they deliver a variety of local marine life to the aquarium.
Another character who has contributed to the advancement of the Achill Experience is local historian, Tommy Boley McNamara. His family represents the strong links between Achill and Cleveland, as both his parents were born in Achill but emigrated to Cleveland to live the American dream, like many others did in the area. However the call from home was too strong, and the family came back to Achill after the depression. Since his return, Tommy has owned a hugely successful restaurant called the Booley House in Achill and has been part of many community initiatives including the Achill Experience. The response to Mayo’s first aquarium has been overwhelmingly positive, and Tommy believes “It has been really good for the community; the great thing is how many Achill locals have visited and loved it, so it’s been really encouraging so far. It’s only the beginning of the Achill Experience initiative.”
And the Achill Experience is already expanding. The Offline Tourist Tablets offer a digital, self-guided tour of the island allowing visitors to explore the history and beauty of Achill at their own pace. Best of all, no internet connection is required.
The user-friendly tablets are preloaded with information on the various sights and focal points of the Achill Parish and are available from the Achill Experience visitor centre in Crumpaun. Visitors to the island can pick up a tablet and learn about Achill’s history from detailed, local accounts, and when they’re finished, simply drop the tablet back.
The release of the Offline Tourist Tablet is an exciting innovation for Achill, merging the historic way of life on the island with the digital age and making the beautiful island more accessible than ever. Kenneth Deery, a key member of the Achill Experience development, wants the Offline Tourist Tablets to enable visitors to experience Achill in a very different and more informed way, using the cutting edge software and hardware of Apple’s iPad Air.
The release of the Offline Tourist Tablet has been made possible by the software expertise of Stubborn Goats Creative Services and funding from Údarás na Gaeltachta, and completes the first phase of the Achill Experience initiative. Terence Dever, CEO of Comhlacht Forbartha Áitiúil Acla (CFÁA) strives for constant improvement of the device and welcomes feedback on the it from “visitors and locals alike”, knowing in the future “there will be aspects of the stories that will evolve and there will be new stories.” The Offline Tourist Tablet promises to be an important addition to the tourist attractions of the area, allowing Achill’s cultural heritage to be shared with a wider audience than ever before.
The Achill Experience Visitor Centre is open from 10am to 5pm every day, and can be found in the Achill Local Development Company (CFAA) building in Crumpaun, Keel, Achill, Co. Mayo. Enquiries can be made on 098 43292, or by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. There is no need to book.