Introducing Achill Island (Eire’s Largest Island)

Sponsored by Globus Journeys

Regardless that I lived in Eire for 12-months again in 2003 that included a whole lot of weekend getaways and a full 2-week lap of Eire taking in lots of the prime factors of curiosity, I’d by no means even heard of Achill Eire till three months in the past.

Coastal road sloping downhill towards the ocean
Atlantic Drive on Achill Island

That’s the great thing about journey, at all times discovering new locations, experiencing totally different adventures, and creating new reminiscences that final a lifetime. And over the previous 20+ years of journey a few of my favourite moments have been on the lesser-known locations!

On the subject of tourism in Eire, locations that come to thoughts are the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, the Cliffs of Moher, and the Ring of Kerry. And I consider experiences like listening to conventional Irish music in a pub, consuming Fish n’ Chips, visiting a fortress, exploring the cities of Dublin and Galway, tasting Irish Whiskey, sipping on an Irish Espresso, and naturally, a pint of the “black stuff”, Guinness.

Man sitting on a grass hill overlooking a beach
Discovering the great thing about Achill Island

I like all that about Eire. However one other real connection I really feel is to Eire’s pure magnificence. The rolling inexperienced hills, the dramatic cliffs, the picturesque valleys, and the rugged and rocky Atlantic shoreline. 

I by no means get uninterested in coastal street journeys and have been lucky to expertise a number of the finest on this planet just like the Nice Ocean Highway in Australia, the Backyard Route in South Africa, and the Pacific Coast Freeway in California. 

West Coast Eire is breathtaking. And on my current 8-day tour of Eire in partnership with Globus, one palace they launched me to was Achill Island. 

A large rock and lady on a cliff edge overlooking the ocean
Wild and delightful

After I lived in Dublin, we explored the well-known Ring of Kerry and Dingle Peninsula that are stunningly lovely and a must-do. However they’re each closely visited, particularly the Ring of Kerry because the street on the Dingle Peninsula can’t be navigated by the massive tour buses!

What I cherished about our day on Achill Island is that we principally had the island all to ourselves! 

The place is Achill Island?

Achill Island is a distant island off the coast of County Mayo, on the west coast of Eire, about an hour’s drive (26 miles) from the charming city of Westport (which we used as a base). It’s additionally near the cities of Newport, and Castlebar.

Drive instances from different widespread locations to go to in Eire embody:

  • Galway – 2 hours (75 miles)
  • Dublin – 4 hours (177 miles)
  • Belfast – 4.5 hours (202 miles)
  • Cork – 4.5 hours (202 miles)
  • Ring of Kerry – 5.15 hours (233 miles)
Man sitting on a grassy hill overlooking the ocean
Virtually on their lonesome

It occupies an space of some 57 sq miles (15 miles from east to west, 11 miles from north to south), and its shoreline measures over 80 miles. This is among the most westerly islands in Europe.

This island varieties a part of the Wild Atlantic Way, a coastal route that stretches 1,600 miles alongside the Irish west coast from the Inishowen Peninsula in County Donegal to Kinsale in County Cork and is split into 14 levels for simpler orientation, a kind of levels consists of Achill Island.

A white bridge spanning across water
Michael Davitt Bridge

Departing Westport, our drive took us by Newport and Mallaranny earlier than crossing Achill Sound over the 740 ft lengthy Michael Davitt Bridge that connects the island to the mainland. 

About Achill Island

Rocks on a beach with a dramatic cliff surrounding it
Beautiful sheltered seashores like at Keem Bay

Achill is on the coronary heart of the Wild Atlantic Method and is Eire’s largest offshore island. It’s recognized for hovering sea cliffs, rocky headlands, rolling mountains, ever-changing Atlantic skies, and sheltered seashores – Keem Bay is among the 14 Signature Discovery Factors that span the 1,600-mile route.

It has a historical past of human settlement that’s not less than 5000 years previous. Stays of megalithic tombs and monuments recommend settlement within the third or 4th centuries BC and has been a frequent refuge throughout Eire’s varied rebellions.

The present inhabitants is about 2,500 folks (numerous sheep, too), and the village of Keel is the island’s major heart of exercise, with different retailers and providers scattered all through.

Sheep grazing on a cliff overlooking the ocean
A number of the pleasant locals

The 2 highest peaks are on Slievemore (671m) and Croaghaun (668m), probably the most westerly peak. Its cliffs are the very best sea cliffs in Eire and the third highest in Europe, and might solely be seen by mountain climbing round or to the summit, or from the ocean.

Two-thirds of the island is roofed by peat bathroom (a kind of wetland) and this most likely accounts for the comparatively low variety of plant species, and why bushes are nearly fully absent from the island

A landscape of green grass and a blue lake
Fairly surroundings all over the place

It’s thought the identify Achill is the Gaelic phrase ‘acaill’, that means eagle. One of many earliest references to Achill got here in 1235 when the Annals of Loch Ce refers to ‘Eccuill’ (Eagle Island). Nonetheless, the final reported sighting of an eagle was in 1912.

A man standing on rocks taking photos of the ocean
Wild and rocky shoreline on the Atlantic Drive

Achill’s distant location and distinctive panorama has attracted an extended checklist of fascinating characters, artists and writers looking for inspiration, together with writers Heinrich Böll and Graham Greene.

The movie, The Banshees of Inisherin, was filmed extensively on Achill Island, and The Venice Movie Competition awarded Colin Farrell ‘Greatest Actor’ for his position. The film My Sailor, My Love, was additionally filmed on location and can hit cinemas in Eire and the UK in early 2023.

Achill Island has lengthy been a preferred water-sports and strolling vacation spot, and provides a variety of lodging, eating and leisure choices.

Exploring Achill Island

A coastal road sloping down towards a beach

Probably the most versatile solution to discover is by automobile. This manner you possibly can uncover all of the hidden gems at your individual tempo, go by the small cities and villages, and meet the locals.

Or you are able to do it like I did, as a part of an extended group tour of Eire. On day 3 of my 8-day Eire journey with Globus we visited from Westport, and it was a particular spotlight of the entire Eire journey! So far as I’m conscious, Globus are the one present massive tour bus operator who visits Achill Island on their Green With Envy Tour.

big tour bus driving along a coastal road in Ireland
Our Globus tour bus on Achill Island

From Westport, we drove the N59 to Mallaranny, then the R319 all the best way to Keem Bay. Alternatively, as a substitute of following R319 from Mallaranny to Achill, you possibly can take the signal posted Ocean Rd which curves clockwise across the Curraun Peninsula and provides beautiful views of Clew Bay and out to sea.

Then when you cross Michael Davitt Bridge onto Achill, minimize left to select up Atlantic Drive signed Wild Atlantic Method which follows the southern shore passing by the little fishing village of Dooega.

Rocky and rugged coastline in Ireland
Surroundings alongside the Atlantic Drive

Love biking? It’s also possible to cycle round Achill. The island has three looped trails, and the Great Western Greenway is a biking and strolling path that runs across the Japanese and Northern stretches of Clew Bay in Co Mayo. This path follows the route of the famend Westport to Achill railway which closed in 1937. Go here for bicycle rent suppliers. 

Day Journey from Westport

However first, espresso (Irish model)

A hand holding up a glass of coffee
Irish Espresso with a view!

After departing Westport, our morning cease was for our routine Irish Espresso repair at Alice’s Harbour Bar & Restaurant, simply throughout the Michael Davitt Bridge.

This bar & restaurant is part of the Achill Island Lodge, a household run 3-Star Lodge overlooking the ocean, and in addition provides seasonal meals together with native seafood, and their in depth menu is on the market all day.

For those who go to in your return within the afternoon, why not take pleasure in a pint of Guinness whereas watching the solar set over the water.

People sitting in a cafe
Alice’s Harbour Bar & Restaurant

Persevering with on from Alice’s alongside the Atlantic Drive, we witnessed beautiful views of the rocky shoreline, sea cliffs and bays and with our educated tour information Helen understanding the scenic spots for images, we stopped at a number of the finest vantage factors for views.

Large rocks on the edge of the coast
A rugged coastline with a gorge and blue ocean
Man sitting on grass overlooking a rock formation and ocean
Man standing on a rugged coastline overlooking rocks

We handed by the White Cliffs of Ashleam. These white, chalk cliffs encompass picturesque Ashleam Bay and are about 30 meters in top. 

Man standing on a cliff overlooking a bay of water
Searching over to the White Cliffs of Asheam
A bay inlet of rocks, sand and water
Ashleam Bay Seashore

Lunch at Gielty’s Bar & Restaurant 

A white pub

Lunch was taken at Gielty’s Bar & Restaurant on the fringe of Dooagh village. The final pub on the street of pubs in Achill Island on the street to Keem seaside, Gielty’s is the most westerly pub in Europe and the one pub within the space with Sky Sports activities (in case you possibly can’t miss your sport).

We sat down of their cozy bar & espresso store on the entrance which has a unbelievable panoramic view of Clew Bay. I selected nicely with one among my favourite Irish dishes, a humongous Beef & Guinness pie, washed down with a Smithwicks Irish Ale. 

A large pastry of pie on a plate with potato and a glass of beer
HUGE Beef & Guinness pie

They provide breakfast, bar meals, a full-dinner and so they use regionally sourced produce and get contemporary fish from their very personal boat. They’re additionally famend for his or her conventional music classes most evenings of the week. 

I grabbed a espresso to go to sip on the street as we took in additional surroundings, which was surprisingly fairly good. For extra locations to eat and drink on Achill Island go here. 

Keem Bay

Overlooking a beach from a grassy clifftop
Keem Bay

Following the Atlantic Drive across the picturesque shoreline, a short time later we arrived at what could be the spotlight of our day on the island.

On the western finish of the island is Keem Bay and The Strand (seaside), which has been named as probably the most lovely seashores in Europe.

A beautiful beach with blue water and golden sand
The Strand Seashore (Keem Bay)

Rising up in Australia and having spent loads of time in Southeast Asia and Hawaii, I’m used to seeing beautiful seashores, however I don’t anticipate to see them in Eire. 

Keem Bay jogged my memory of Wineglass Bay in Tasmania considerably, not essentially the form, however its remoteness and turquoise water. It was just about uninhabited, and the one constructing is a former coastguard station perched on the cliff. I now know why it’s acknowledged as probably the most picturesque bays in Eire.

A building perched up high on a cliff

Positioned on the head of a valley between the cliffs of Benmore to the west, and Croaghaun Mountain to the east, the Strand Seashore (Keem Seashore) is one among Achill’s 5 Blue Flag seashores – a world customary for seashores with a standards that features water high quality, environmental training, environmental administration, and security and providers.

A sheep grassing on grass overlooking the ocean
The sheep adore it right here too.

Fashionable for water sports activities and beachgoers through the hotter months (there are lifeguards throughout bathing season), within the cooler months it’s good for a gradual amble alongside the sand – thoughts you, one among my journey associates, Jon, who likes chilly water immersion remedy decided to jump in and he stated it was most likely about 50F.

A beach with a lifesaver shed, and people walking up the path

The water did look very inviting, however I used to be joyful to take all of it in from the sand and clifftop. Even the views strolling right down to the seaside from our parking spot on the prime of the winding street have been beautiful! 

Man standing on grassy cliff overlooking a beach
Coastal road sloping down toward a beach

This was our longest cease of our day, and I might love to come back again right here within the hotter months for some rise up paddle boarding or kitesurfing. 

NOTE: it was fairly windy and funky after we visited in late September, put on layers and applicable gear irrespective of the time of 12 months on your go to to Achill Island.

Different Factors of Curiosity on Achill Island

We didn’t fairly have a full day to discover the island, however if in case you have extra time, or presumably keep in a single day someplace, it has lots to supply and beneath are another points of interest and issues to do on Achill Island.

Extra Seashores

Aerial view of a beach with golden sand and dark blue water
Keel Seashore. Picture courtesy of

As I discussed, there are 5 Blue Flag seashores on the island, and so they provide a number of the very best quality seashores in all of Eire.

  • Keel Beach – one of many greatest seashores on the island with clear water. A couple of retailers close by and widespread for browsing.
  • Trawmore Strand – a 3km lengthy stretch that’s probably the most well-known and photographed seashores and widespread with bathers and watersports together with browsing, windsurfing and sea kayaking (watch out for sturdy currents on the jap half).
  • Silver Strand Beach, Dugort – On the north aspect of Achill and faces Blacksod Bay and the Belmullet Peninsula.
  • Dooega Bay Beach – also referred to as Camport Bay, Dooega is a picturesque fishing village with south-facing views throughout the Atlantic.

Minaun Heights Viewing Level

Aerial view of a bay and beautiful beach with a rocky headland
View of Trawmore Seashore from Minaun Heights. Picture by

Positioned near the middle of Achill Island, the 466m excessive Minaun Heights provides spectacular views over the island and is among the key stops alongside the Atlantic Drive. On a transparent day, you possibly can simply see the tropical-looking Trawmore Seashore and Keem Bay and the peaks of each Slievemore and Croaghaun.

You possibly can drive to the highest by way of a steep and slim street (walkers and cyclists additionally use the street), and from the carpark it’s a few 15-minute stroll to the height.. 

The Abandoned Village (Slievemore)

Slievemore is the biggest of a number of ‘booley’ settlements. Booleying refers back to the observe of residing in numerous places through the summer season and winter durations, primarily to permit cattle to graze in summer season pasture.

The Abandoned Village at Slievemore consists of some 80 – 100 stone cottages situated alongside a mile lengthy stretch of street. A number of the dwellings have been occupied as summer season ‘booley’ properties, and the world can be wealthy in archaeological artifacts together with megalithic tombs relationship from the Neolithic interval some 5,000 years in the past. 

Blueway (kayaking & snorkeling)

Positioned on the north and western shoreline at Dugort and Keem, The Blueway is a community of water trails the place you possibly can expertise quite a lot of water primarily based actions similar to kayaking and snorkeling, in a protected managed atmosphere.

Kildavnet Fortress

A tall, stone, rectangular shaped castle

Kildavnet Castle is situated on the south-eastern shore of Achill Island, and the placename actually means “the small church of Davnet” and refers back to the seventh century Saint Dympna who constructed a small church right here.

The fortress is alleged to have been in-built about 1429, and is a wonderful instance of a Fifteenth-century Irish rectangular tower home. It’s best generally known as the house of its most well-known tenant, the legendary pirate queen Granuaille (Grace O’Malley).

The place to Keep in Westport

Two beds in a hotel room
My room on the Westport Plaza Lodge

We spent two nights on the Westport Plaza Lodge, ideally situated within the coronary heart of Westport and steps away from retailers, eating places, and Westport Home. This 4-star resort is a stunning place to stick with massive rooms and a high quality bar and restaurant for breakfast and dinner.

When in Westport, don’t miss exploring the Westport Home and revel in some stay music over a number of pints at The Porter Home Pub. If you wish to keep on Achill Island, here is a listing of choices.

I hope this submit impressed you to discover the west coast of Eire, the surroundings is spectacular and I encourage you so as to add this space to your checklist of issues to do in Eire.

For extra details about my 8-day tour of Eire with Globus, remember to try this submit for all the main points.