If you are travelling on the breathtakingly beautiful Wild Atlantic Way, you shouldn’t give Achill Island a miss. On a sunny day it really is a little piece of paradise – a truly unique place to explore around.
Achill Island is the largest off the coast island in Ireland located in county Mayo. The first time I visited there in May 2013, I got instantly mesmerized by the amazing scenery of sea, golden beaches and towering mountains. It’s needless to say, that after that I have visited again for numerous times.
If you are travelling from Galway/Westport direction the drive to the island is already beautiful. After driving through Newport (the ancestral home of the Hollywood beauty Grace Kelly), you will get to Mulranny, a little village with gorgeous views out to the sea. In 15 minutes you will reach a white bridge in a place called Achill Sound – you have officially arrived at Achill Island! It is good to remember that Achill Sound is a place with most services, so you might want to stock up on snacks over there. You can find a big grocery store, pharmacy, ATM and a post office.
If you only have a few hours to spare I would suggest focusing on the areas of Keel, Keem, Slievemore and Dugort. After passing Achill Sound, keep driving straight ahead and you will reach the popular holiday village of Keel. You don’t have to wonder for a long time why Keel is so popular. The beautiful long beach is perfect for leisurely walks and surfing. The lake in the village is used by kayakers and windsurfers. It is not just the sea and the beach that create this beautiful landscape. The Minaun Cliffs at the height of over 400 metres (twice as high as the Cliffs of Moher) are magnificent and truly impressive. If you have a bit of extra time, I would suggest driving up to the top of the cliffs. (If a 1999 Honda can do the climb relatively comfortably, your brand new rental car should have no problems at all!) You might be greeted by a few sheep roaming around the top of the cliffs, but the odds are you will have the place just for yourself. Enjoy the beautiful views across the island.
After Keel keep driving ahead the main road. You will pass another seaside village called Doagh. The road will start to gradually ascend and it also gets very narrow. Don’t be afraid of the drop on your left, just keep your eyes on the road and you will be fine. You will then reach my favourite place in the whole world – Keem Beach. It is only a small little beach and it’s likely you have seen many larger ones, but it is the combination of the mountains, the golden sand and the turquoise water sparkling in the sun, that does it for me. There is something magical about the place. In spring time the little lambs around you will make the experience even better. By the way, sheep are something you should be prepared for in the island. There are not too many fences around so you will be guaranteed to see at least a dozen sheep on the roads! It can be a pretty funny experience so have your camera close by, but at the same time remember to keep the speed down and drive safely.
Next you should drive towards the deserted village of Slievemore. The village has almost hundred little ruined stone cottages. These traditional cottages were used as ‘booleys’ – summer accommodation for farmers looking after their grazing animals. The whole reason for the village becoming deserted has always stayed as a bit of mystery to me, but I
keep going there often since there is something very interesting about the place. You can wander around the ruins and imagine what life used to be like hundred years ago. The views are once again breathtakingly beautiful!
After visiting the deserted village, just go back the way you came and turn to the road taking you to Dugort. Dugort has
two different beaches, my favourite is the larger one – the Golden Strand. It is a great place for water sports or just for taking a nice stroll. The view of Slievemore Mountain is so beautiful!
And that’s it then! The most amazing sights of Achill Island are covered. After a few turns you will be back at Achill Sound where you can start to explore other amazing places that county Mayo has to offer!
If you’re looking to see Achille Island, look no further! Authentic Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way Tour takes a stop at Achill Island as well as other wonders along this spectacular coastal experience.
Kati Lepisto is very passionate about the West of Ireland and especially the Wild Atlantic Way. She used to live in Galway City and knows it inside and out. She would be happy to help you with any inquiries regarding the West! You can email her directly at [email protected]