Discover Achill

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Keem Bay

Surely the jewel in the crown of Achill Island - Keem Bay was recently voted the best beach in Ireland and it’s not hard to see why. Tucked away at the very far west of the island, on a good day you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re actually in the Caribbean and the drive down is just as exhilarating! Be sure to pull over half way down for the ultimate photo opportunity!

Minaun Cliffs

If it’s the view you’re after then you can’t leave Achill without taking the drive to the top of Minaun (it’s where the transmission mast is located).  The views are just amazing and watching the sunset from here is nothing less than spectacular.

To get here head towards Achill Sound and just after Ted's Pub in Cashel take a right turn (signposted 'Barr an Mhionnain'). Follow this road and take the right fork all the way to the top (and have the camera at the ready).

The Atlantic Drive

Achill is at the heart of the Wild Atlantic Way, the longest defined coastal route in the world and the Atlantic Ocean never ceases to disappoint.  For the most picturesque scenery and more amazing photo opportunities jump in the car and take an hour out to enjoy the Atlantic Drive around the south of the island.  On a calm, sunny day the ocean appears as a still glass lake or even better take the drive on a more stormy day and witness the magnificence and power of this mighty ocean!

To get here head towards Achill Sound, take the right turn just before the Sound, the signpost shows the logo of the Wild Atlantic Way (WAW). Simply follow the road and enjoy the scenery.

Hiking through undiscovered Achill

Achill is a firm favourite for hikers and two highlights for anybody looking to get a little off the beaten track are walks to Croaghaun and Annagh Bay. 

 

It’s always been a little mysterious how people travel from all around the world to visit the beautiful Cliffs of Moher but did you know that the highest sea cliffs in Ireland (and indeed the 3rd highest in Europe) are right here in Achill and are known as Croaghaun.  The golden eagles, from which Achill was named are now long gone and were last spotted here in 1900 but this is now the home for the island’s many peregrine  falcons.  The view from the top of the cliffs are phenomenal, next stop New York!  

 

Another little known part of the island is hidden behind Slievemore Mountain,  Annagh Bay is usually only the domain of the odd sheep herder and it is steeped in myth and legend.  When making your way over the headland you will discover the secret beach sitting just below Ireland’s lowest corrie lake.  This is undiscovered territory entirely separate from modern civilisation.  Well worth the trip but don’t be tempted to stay here after dark, Annagh Bay is well known to be the most haunted place in Achill. 

Dugort Beach

Dugort Beach, also known as The Silver Strand, is a quiet and perfectly formed beach in a beautiful setting overlooked by the magnificent Slievemore Mountain.  An ideal setting for a quick dip or even better just spending a few hours building sand castles with the children and looking out for starfish and crabs, this is one of the loveliest beaches on the island.   Why not take a stroll to the old pier where seals and dolphins are regularly spotted.

Grace O'Malley's Castle and Kildownet

Grace O’Malley or Granuaile as she was known, was the Queen of Irish pirates back in the 1500s.  She had the most fearsome reputation and her legend remains to this day.  In July 1593, Grace O’Malley travelled to England to meet Queen Elizabeth I, the two most powerful women in the British Isles, refusing to bow to the Queen of England, it is said she is the only woman to ever commit an act of such rebellion and to keep her head!   

 

Situated next to the castle is the ancient church and cemetery at Kildownet.  The remains of the church are thought to date from the 12th century.  The cemetery here is the home of two very sad events and Achill’s greatest ever tragedies.  The Clew Bay drowning of 1894 where young people from every village on the island gathered together to travel to Scotland where they would work the harvest.  They set off from Achill in boats known as hookers.  One of the boats, the Victory, had over 100 islanders on board.  With the excitement of reaching Westport and seeing the much larger steamer ship they all rushed up from the hull and over to the side of the boat, when tragedy struck and the hooker capsized.  The passengers, mainly girls as young as twelve, screamed as they struggled to stay afloat.  Within a few hours, thirty bodies lay side by side at Westport Quay.  The devastation brought to Achill on that day lasted a lifetime as almost every family on the island lost a loved one.  In 1937 another tragedy hit when ten boys from Achill, working as harvesters in Scotland, died in a terrible fire.   The Bothy in which they had been locked for the night caught fire with no chance of escape.  

 

If you do happen to visit Kildownet or the castle, take a few moments to sit down and look over the water and listen to the absolute silence…it really is beautiful.

Slievemore Mountain

Achill’s iconic mountain, Slievemore, stands proudly overlooking Black Sod Bay in Dugort.  At a height of 671 metres the peak is best reached by setting off from the far end of the Silver Strand Beach or alternatively from the Deserted Village end.  Climb time is approximately 3 hours and the views from the mountain are breathtaking and well worth the effort.  Pick a good clear day and you will see there really is nowhere quite like Ireland!

The Deserted Village

A settlement of between 80 and 100 houses which have been completely deserted for the last 70 years.  The village dates back to 1750 but archaeological digs have discovered this was a settlement from as far back as 5000AD!  The villagers began to abandon their homes here in 1848 due to the famine and the subsequent non payment of rent during the tenure of Sir Richard O’Donnell.  The remains of the old cottages can still be seen here today and the atmosphere is unique and leaves you wanting to know more of the people and how they survived this sad and dark period in Ireland’s history.

A boat trip to Inishkea

The uninhabited Inishkea islands are some of the least visited of Ireland’s island outposts. Once supporting a thriving community the islands of Inishkea North and Inishkea South were completely abandoned in the 1930s after a boating tragedy where ten of the young islanders drowned in a freak storm just eight years previously.  The islanders relied almost entirely on the ocean for their livelihood and it was decided the conditions were just too dangerous for human life because of the unpredictable and eratically changing weather.  Some of the houses still stand on the beach today having been derelict for over eighty years.  The beach here is amazing, the whitest sand and clearest waters you will ever see.  There is a really special magic here on these two remote outlying islanders.  The boat leaves Dugort pier weekly throughout the summer but is always weather dependent.

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