Achill Island
© Tourism Ireland.
Achill Island

A Family Holiday on Achill Island, Ireland

I'm really, really bored,' said eight-year-old Savanna a few days ago. We were sitting in a holiday cottage where we've stayed more times than I can count. The cottage is on Achill Island in County Mayo, off the west coast of Ireland, which we have visited, in Savanna's words, 'hundreds of times'. She was delighted. 'It's great,' she said. 'There’s ab-sol-ute-ly nothing to do.'

'So you want to go home?' I asked her. She was adamant. 'No. It's really, really great being bored.'

I'd never really thought about it before, but some of our best family holidays are very, very boring. It's not that we don't do anything on them. It's that there's nothing we have to do. On Achill, there are no cinema or cultural activities of any kind. There's just outside – fields, beach, cliffs – to be clambered over, if the weather's good enough. 

It's completely different to our regular city family life, where even the eight-year-old twins have a calendar to mark all their appointments. Recorder club, going to tea, Brownies, school fête. No point keeping a diary on Achill. Wouldn't be anything in it.

Perhaps it's also something to do with being on an island. Some years ago, the tourist office on Norfolk Island, off the coast of Australia, dreamt up a slogan to attract visitors to its sleepy shores. The posters read - 'Norfolk Island. The Most Boring Place in the World!' Visitors number increased substantially. The BBC, not believing Norfolk's claim, canvassed people to see where they found most boring. Interestingly, most named places they kept going back to.

The truth is, we all like being bored on holiday, because we're increasingly entertained at home. We want to get up late, slouch around, wonder what on earth we're going to do today. And for my teenager, being bored is a badge of honour. It's obligatory for someone her age. I know when she gets home she'll boast to her mates about just how boring both the place, and her parents, are.

But there’s another side to it to. In a recent interview, Cressida Cowell, author of How to Train Your Dragon, said she was inspired to write by spending summer holidays as a child on a small, uninhabited Scottish island where there was nothing to do. So instead of kids’ clubs, waterslides, soft-play areas, rooms with play consoles and activities, activities, activities, she spent her holidays ‘drawing and making up stories’.

Inspired by this, we’re going to pack really lightly for our next trip. No more essential toys, essential games, essential bits of electronic kit. We’ll take paper and pencils, to draw or write with. I’ll report the results back to you. Fingers crossed, one of us will pen a bestseller. And when we're looking for somewhere else to go, and the kids say, 'That looks so boring,' I'll save a link to the page. Nothing like having nothing to do.

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