Achill Island, Ireland's largest island lies in the western part of the country, in County Mayo. It's not far from Connemara, quite famous and beautiful National Park and 200 km (125 miles) north from the most popular attraction of the Emerald Island - Cliffs of Moher. Achill Island has a lot to offer: the natural beauty with beautiful coast, imposing mountainous peaks and, in my opinion, the most spectacular sandy beach in Ireland - Keem Bay. However, surprisingly, for some reason, (just like the magnificent Skellig Islands and Benbulben Mountain) Achill Island is virtually unknown to visitors. It's usually omitted in the tourist guides about Ireland and there are no tours available from Dublin (although the tours include the nearby Connemara). I found out about it by coincidence while browsing photos on google maps and decided it's a place well worth visiting! I wasn't wrong! For me, Achill Island was definitely one if the most spectacular spots not only in Ireland!
How to get to Achill Island
Considering the fact that there are no daily tours from Dublin to Achill Island, you will need at least a weekend off to be able to visit it peacefully and enjoy it best. The easiest way reach Achill from Dublin is to drive, the road is straightforward from East to West and the journey takes around 4 hours. If you drive, do visit the nearby Connemara on the way!
If you don't have a car, it is possible to reach Achill Island using public transport but it will take some time and effort. First, you need to get to Westport or Castlebar and from there take an additional bus to Achill Island. If you want to have more freedom and love cycling, rent a bike in Westport, if the weather is nice, it would be a great option as Achill is quite big. For information and timetables on buses, visit Bus Eirann here. From the list, choose Westport and then you will be able to browse additional info about local services to Achill Island.
Visiting Achill Island
I was lucky enough to have organized a trip with a few of my friends. We rented a car and the cost of the whole journey, per person was ridiculously little. We started early in the morning and after around 3 hours we reached Achill Island.
What's interesting is that you will not even notice when you are on the Achill Island as it's connected to the mainland by a short bridge, it seems that you are just crossing a river.
It was early April and although the weather in Ireland can be capricious, we were extremely lucky. In Dublin, the rain was pouring down all day while at Achill there was not even one cloud in the sky. Cherry trees and other flowers had just woken up from a winter sleep and made the scenery so colorful.
Barren mountains were slowly getting greener and many sheep could be spotted on the way. The mountainous landscape was out of this world, covered in yellow-purple patches thanks to the heather and gorse bushes.
Our first stop on Achill Island was Keel Beach. Firstly, I thought that Keel was the tropical-like Keem Bay that I had spotted on google maps and wanted to see, however Keel Beach was really long and flat, not surrounded by the cliffs. I asked one of the locals and she said that Keem Bay is just behind the hill and it has this extraordinary exotic look.
Keel Beach is perfect for surfing. There's a club nearby and we saw there were quite a lot of people surfing there. If you are interested, visit Achill Island Tourism website here.
Keem Bay is where the postcards photos from Achill Island come from. It is worth stopping on the hill before driving down to the beach and walk around to admire it from the top. You will feel as if you were transferred to some exotic country. The shape of the beach reminds of the most famous beach in Europe - Shipwreck Beach in Zakynthos, Greece. However, the colors are different, it's greener in contrast to blue waters of the Shipwreck Beach.
The color of sand is quite unusual for Ireland - very bright golden in color, and the water is perfectly clear. All this creates the beautiful turquoise green shade of the beach. It's one of the clearest sea and most impressive sea colors in Ireland (the other one I've seen in Abbey Island, Kerry Ring, I will also write about it in the future).
The Keem beach is the way I like, quiet, peaceful, wild, no hotels and resorts around. It's in the middle of nowhere and is just simply spectacular. The surrounding cliffs and hills shield it from the wind and create a special micro-climate making it much warmer. In April, in Ireland, we were actually able to lie down on sand wearing only t-shirts! My favorite beach in Ireland without a doubt.
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