Along the western shores of beautiful County Mayo you will find Ireland’s largest and most accessible Island. I’m nearly ashamed to say that this was my first visit to Achill but I will most certainly be back. We were travelling from Ballina that morning and we took the N59 west to make our way down to Achill. This is a beautifully scenic drive through Ballycroy National Park. Just before you come into Mulranny you take the signs for the R319 out towards Achill. The great western greenway runs along here and it reminded me to definitely make a plan to walk or cycle this fabulous trail.
It wasn’t long before we came upon Achill Sound and the Michael Davitt Bridge. (Michael Davitt was an Irish republican who was from Mayo and he founded the Irish National Land League). Polranny is the village before you cross over the bridge and its here you will find the railway hostel. Cross over the bridge and you are in the village of Achill sound. We stayed on the R319 to head straight to the west of the Island but we did pass signs for Ashleam Bay and Dooega- one of the five blue flag beaches on the Island. Around ten minutes later we we passing all the holiday homes and Keel lough where lots of kite surfers were having a ball. To our left was the beautiful Keel beach. We parked up the car and took our first steps on Achill Island.
Trawmore strand or Keel Beach connects the villages of Keel and Dookinelly. From here you have stunning scenery of the Minuan cliffs to the east end of the strand. This part of the Island is popular with watersports and surfers and there were plenty of them around on the day we visited. There is lots of accommodation around here including Achill Cliff house and camping grounds. Achill Island Golf club is situated here also. After taking a lovely walk on the beach we headed back to the car and headed for the famous Keem Bay.
Nobody had told me and Ali about the drive from Keel over to Keem Bay. It was an experience in itself. After you pass Dooagh Bay the road starts to climb. The drive itself was only about ten minutes but the scenery is out of this world! Ali unfortunately was on the side of the car nearest the cliff and I was told more than once to stop looking at the scenery and to watch the road! There are a lot of random sheep wandering the roads here so you do need to have your wits about you. At the end of the road you are greeted by the amazing Keem Bay- another blue flag beach. I forgot to mention that it was Easter Sunday on the day we visited the Island and this particular beach was really busy! As we walked down to the beach, people were passing us with some pretty interesting hats on them. They had made a circle on the beach and everyone seemed to be having lots of fun. This is thought to be the location of Paul Henry’s famous painting “Launching the Currach”. We also noticed groups of people walking up to Moyteoge head where there is an old look out tower. The views from up there would be amazing!
After another lovely walk on Keem beach we headed back the way we came (the road ends here so you can’t go any further) over the cliffs and into Keel again. We stopped in Gielty’s in Dooagh for a cup of tea and a sandwich and the place was packed! The service was quick though and the food absolutely hit the spot! When we arrived in Keel we took a right to make our way over to Slievemore and the deserted village. Unfortunately this is when the rain started so we couldn’t get great pictures. This piece of history is a must visit on the Island. The remains of over 80 cottages can be found here. Most of the cottages were one room dwellings where people would have lived, in the shadows of Slievemore, with their livestock during the summer months.
We followed the road around to the northern shores of the Island to visit Silver Strand and Golden Strand. These two beautiful beaches were a lot quieter than the other beaches on the Island but just as beautiful. The blueway Kayak trail is located here. You can Kayak between the two beaches past seal caves and bird colonies.
I have just touched on a few of the magical places that Achill Island has to offer. There are also some magnificent hikes on the Island and lots more to see and do. So don’t leave it too long before you visit this beautiful Island in County Mayo- you won’t be disappointed! I have attached a few links below to help you with your visit- as always- Happy Galavanting! xxx