Achill Island – you’re gorgeous. I think I’m in love with you!
Unbelievably spectacular viewpoints, hundreds of sheep, gorgeous Keem beach and tonnes of adventure is what I remember the most about my brief but unforgettable time on Achill Island, Ireland.
And just by chance, I ended up visiting one of the most beautiful destinations in Ireland. I visited Ireland for the first time in 2017 to attend TBEX, one of the biggest conferences for travel content creators. After the conference, I along went on an epic road trip with Fáilte Ireland on the Wild Atlantic Way.
Out of many places that I visited in Ireland, Achill Island surely stands out in my memories. It is so because I got to experience stunning empty landscapes where for miles I didn’t see anyone other than us.
One of the things that I loved about Achill Island is that you can see some seriously stunning views because of its many high cliffs.
Achill Island also has Europe’s third highest sea cliffs on the northern slope of Croaghaun Mountain. The icing on the cake – Achill Island has a stunning white sand beach and is the perfect destination for adventure enthusiasts.
Achill Island Travel Video
Don’t want to read the entire post? Here’s a quick video that I made about this lovely island which will give you a virtual tour of Achill Island and will surely make you smile towards the end as I enjoy my glass of Guinness beer. Watch it with music, please!
Achill Island, Ireland – A Quick Travel Guide
Where is Achill Island?
Achill Island is on Ireland’s West Coast in Mayo County. It is on Wild Atlantic Way – a 2500 KM long trail that goes along the Atlantic Ocean in Ireland. This route can be covered in many different ways – driving, cycling, hiking and even kayaking. Achill Island is just after Newport and right before Belmullet.
If you look at the map of Achill Island, you will notice that it is on the West Coast. In fact, it is one of the must visit places on Ireland’s West Coast as per many websites!
Achill Island Map
Here’s a simple map of Achill Island that I have created for you and marked some points of interest to give you an idea about where to go.
How to get to Achill Island?
Achill Island is connected to the rest of Mayo County by Michael Davitt Bridge. There are numerous ways you can reach here; depending on how much time you have on your hands.
To reach Achill Island, we cycled from Newport (just a little ahead of Westport) to Mulranny on the Great Western Greenway trail and from there we did the rest of our journey by road. We could have cycled the entire way to Achill but had to return our rented bicycles.
If you’re slightly adventurous, I highly recommend you cycle from Westport or Newport to Achill and enjoy Mayo County’s Great Western Greenway Trail – but do remember to pack light. It is 42 km from Westport but shorter from Newport and Mulranny – so you can either break up your journey or cycle a shorter route like we did.
To make things easier, you can opt for an electric bicycle instead of a regular one. We rented ours from Clew Bay Bike Hire and yes we had opted for the electric ones too.
If you’re traveling with a group of 5+ people, then I highly recommend you consider booking a luxury coach by Kerry Coaches. The seats are spacious and there is WiFi on the board.
If you’re traveling solo or in a pair, it makes more sense to rent a car to experience the Wild Atlantic Way and reach Achill Island by driving. You can check this site to get an idea and comparison of the car rental prices. If you do end up renting a car, be sure to experience the drive from Galway to Clifden on the Wild Atlantic Way.
There is also a bus (Route 440 on Bus Éireann) that runs from Westport to Achill Island every day. The ticket costs €7 and the total journey time is usually 1 hour. I highly recommend you book your ticket beforehand.
Achill Island Accommodation
While I was on Achill Island, I stayed in a place called Pure Magic, which had a wonderful atmosphere. It is surely not a high-end resort but a cozy hotel that will make you feel at home.
Pure Magic has an in-house bar, which was buzzing with people while we were there. The sitting area had games, guitar, a fireplace and light music. To make things better, Pure Magic has delicious food. I highly recommend you order cheese garlic bread with your beer and later eat their signature wood oven pizzas for your meal.
My room at Pure Magic had everything that I needed – a comfortable bed, towels, toiletries, hairdryer, etc. I was so comfortable here that I could have happily parked my butt here for at least a month – if I wasn’t on a fixed itinerary.
You can also check out Bervie Guesthouse near Keel beach. This is where some of my friends stayed and absolutely loved the hospitality. If you see their reviews on TripAdvisor, you will see nothing but praise.
Achill Island Weather Information
Like rest of Ireland, Achill Island is cold and the warmest months are July and August where the temperature is around 14°C but can range from 11°C – 17°C. The second warmest months are June and September with 12°C normal temperature but can range from 10°C to 15°C.
The coldest months are January and February where the normal temperature is 6°C but can range from 3.5°C to 8°C. I visited Achill in the month of October and somehow enjoyed the weather because it wasn’t as cold as where I live in Germany.
If you’re visiting Achill Island then be sure to pack a rain poncho because it can rain anytime. Carry something to cover your head and ears and layer up.
Achill Island is 87% Peat Bog
This has nothing to do with travel information but I found it really interesting that Achill Island is 87% peat bog. You don’t know what is peat bog? Even I didn’t but I learned on this trip that it is a wetland that accumulates peat.
Peat also known as turf, is a deposit of decayed plant material and this gradual accumulation works as a carbon sink. When I say gradual, I’m talking about thousands of years! Peat can be used as a source of fuel but is not renewable and is “fossil fuel”. In early days this turf (or peat) was used in fireplaces and is still used in some rural parts of Ireland. Isn’t it interesting?
Things to do on Achill Island, Ireland
Here are some of the most interesting places to see and things to do on Achill Island, which you will surely enjoy. I was on this island for a short time but I have also included information with the help of locals about things that I couldn’t do here but you should try doing them.
1) Drive to Keem Bay and chill on Keem Beach
Imagine a white sand beach that looks like it belongs on a tropical island, but is in the middle of Ireland’s cold cliffs. Yup, this is exactly what Keem Bay looks like. Keem beach is in the middle of cliffs of Croaghaun and Benmore, which are quite high and they create a spectacular viewpoint.
In fact, Croaghaun mountain creates the third highest sea cliffs in Europe, but not towards Keem Beach but on the other side of the island. We will talk more about that in one of our next points.
As we drove towards Keem Bay, we were rewarded with Keem Beach’s spectacular views at literally every twist of the road. Believe it or not, we even saw dolphins in the water as we approached the beach.
“How can this be real?” was my first thought and I was the first one to run out of our bus as soon as it stopped here. We did not really have time to snorkel here but this beach is the site of a Blueway snorkel trail.
2) Visit Keel Beach and try Kitesurfing or SurfingWhile Keem Beach is sandy, Keel beach, on the other hand, has more pebbles than sand. The proper geographical term that can be used to describe Keel beach is “shingle beach”.
Keel beach is also known as Trawmore Strand and is popular for plenty of watersport activities such as kite surfing, sea kayaking, windsurfing, etc.
3) Stand up Paddle Boarding on Corrymore Lake (Lough Acorrymore)
Stand up paddleboarding (SUP) is one of the most interesting adventure activities that I tried recently and I did not want to stop.
Firstly, the spot – Corrymore Lake is absolutely gorgeous and you should totally spend more time here than just paddle boarding.
Like most of the points of interest on Achill Island, you may not be able to locate Corrymore Lake on your own on GPS but you will have to ask the locals.
Secondly, you HAVE to try stand up paddle boarding with Pure Magic Watersports regardless of your age, weight or adventure level because it is a lot of fun [AND they will make it easy for you]. It is also known as stand up paddle surfing and involves standing on the board instead of sitting on it. It also involves using a paddle to move around.
4) See the Stunning Sunset near Corrymore Lake
The best sunset that I saw in Ireland was on Achill Island and it was on THIS spot. This is right next to the Corrymore Lake.
Just walk around the lake and you will see a spot where you see the coast and the sea cliffs in the distance. Trust me, the cliffs do turn golden during the golden hour of the sunset. Insane, right?
Considering how much it rains in Ireland and on Achill island, I really hope you get to experience this stunning sunset without any clouds covering the cliffs. As you can see, we were there on an especially cloudy day but the clouds did not hide the cliffs.
If you’re doing Stand up paddle-boarding in the early evening, then you will be pleasantly surprised to see this amazing sunset after you’re done.
5) Visit The Annexxe Inn to Experience the Irish Pub culture
No visit to any part of Ireland is complete without experiencing a local Irish pub. Achill Island has a lot of pubs but I recommend you visit the Annexxe Inn and drink a glass of Guinness beer (or more).
This lovely pub was full of Achill Island’s locals who were extremely friendly. It’s the perfect place where travelers can mingle with the locals. Be ready to laugh a lot because Irish people usually have an amazing sense of humor. Ask them any question and you will most likely hear a hilarious answer in a seemingly formal choice of words.
6) Eat a Pizza at Pure Magic
While you’re in Ireland, you will get plenty of chances to eat Irish food but I urge you to head to Pure Magic for at least one meal and eat a wood oven pizza. The atmosphere here is super chill and the food is unbelievably good. We also tried the cheesy garlic bread here that was really good.
This recommendation of eating a pizza in Pure Magic actually came to me from an Irish traveler that I met in Killarney. He said, – “if you visit Achill Island, you MUST visit Keem Beach and eat a pizza in Pure Magic”. Yep, Pure Magic is the same place that I suggested earlier in this article as a place to stay on Achill Island.
7) Head to Dugort and see Silver Strand and Golden Strand (beaches)
Dugort is a blue flag beach that’s lesser known if compared to Achill Island’s Keem and Keel beaches. It is also known as Silver Strand or Pollawaddy Strand and is under Slievemore Mountain’s shade.A very interesting thing about this beach is that it is the spot for a quick ceremonial dip on New Year’s Day. I wonder how the locals can even think of taking a dip in the cold Atlantic Ocean on one of the coldest days of the year.
A little ahead of Silver Strand is also Achill’s Golden Strand, which is a small blue flag beach that looks over to the Blacksod Bay. Golden Strand is also known as Barnyagappul Strand, which means beach of the gap of the horses.
8) Cycle on the Great Western Greenway Trail
As mentioned in how to reach Achill Island section, the Great Western Greenway is a 42 KM trail for cyclists and hikers, which is from Westport to Achill Island. We did a part of this trail on our bicycles and absolutely loved the experience because there was a lot to see.
9) Enjoy the Beauty of Achill Secret Garden
Achill Secret Garden belongs to Bleanaskill Lodge and is a dreamy garden that’s hidden in a small bay by the Atlantic coast. This garden has around 8 themed chambers and a boathouse where you can try some snacks. You can visit this garden only in the months of June, July, and August after making an appointment.
10) Experience Magic at Woodland Faerie Trail
If you’re visiting Achill with children then I’d suggest you visit Woodland Faerie Trail at the Valley House. For €2 per person, you can enjoy this themed trail with lots of games and fun activates that can be enjoyed on the way. There are small faerie houses with tiny doors and tiny bridges that you can see on the trail. Although this can be covered in less than an hour, it is recommended that you don’t rush through it and be here for long.
11) Explore a Deserted village – SlievemoreA village that was abandoned not many years back, Slievemore has now become a tourist attraction on Achill Island. This village has around 80 stone cottages that were used as summer accommodation primarily to let the owners’ cattle graze in summer grassland. Some say that it was abandoned during the potato famine in 1845.
Ireland has many deserted villages and Slievemore is one of the more recently abandoned one. This village is located on the slopes of the Slievemore Mountain, close to Dugort.
12) See Kildavnet Castle of Grace O’Malley – the Pirate Queen
Kildavnet Castle a.k.a. Carrickkildavnet Castle is one of those places that you should visit only if you’re interested in its history. Don’t expect an elaborate castle here – it is just a single ruined tower.Visiting Kildavnet Castle can be very meaningful for you if you already know about the Pirate Queen Grace O’Malley. Grace’s tower is on the Wild Atlantic Way so you don’t really have to go out of your way to visit it but can stop here for 10 minutes while you’re driving in or out of Achill Island. Kildavnet Castle is at the tip of Achill Sound – the waterway that separates Achill Island from the mainland.
13) Hike around Croaghaun to see Europe’s Highest Sea Cliffs
Croaghaun Mountain is 688 meters high has the third highest sea cliffs in Europe and the highest in Ireland and Great Britain. The only way of seeing these cliffs is by hiking around Croaghaun or from the sea.
Croaghaun cliffs are actually three times the size of the more popular Cliffs of Moher in County Claire. Croaghaun is towards the west side of Achill Island and the hike to the top is not easy. The Corry Lake is in the middle of these cliffs and can be seen during the hike.
14) See Bellacragher Bay
This isn’t technically on Achill Island but is outside the main Island. Make sure you stop here when you enter or leave the island. It is an extremely scenic spot where we stopped for a few pictures and later Mulranny Tourism informed me that it’s Bellacragher Bay.
The Irish meaning of this bay is ‘The Bay of the Plundering’. It is so because the stories of piracy and smuggling are part of its history. Spots as pretty as this should surely be a part of your Ireland itinerary.
Honestly, my brain is overflowing with my newly acquired information about Irish history and I’m not sure how much I can remember but for me, Bellacragher Bay is a pretty spot which deserves a few minutes’ of your time so that you can admire the beauty.
Have you visited Achill Island in Ireland?
Thanks to my friend Kristen Gill for clicking the cover photo and many amazing pictures of me on Achill Island.
Enough about my experience, I’d love to hear about yours now. If you have visited County Mayo’s Achill Ireland and have a few recommendations or pictures to share, just leave a comment on this post.
Before you leave this page, check out my travel video that I made in County Mayo’s nearby town – Westport. It is also on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way.
Disclosure: I explored Achill Island with Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland on a press trip but all opinions and bad jokes in this article are mine.