Achill Island island, at 20km by 19km, is Ireland’s largest island, with a population of 2,600 and boasting the highest sea cliffs in Ireland - a vertigo-inducing 688m tall.
Achill is the largest island in Ireland and its unique landscape has inspired many artists and writers, including Camille Souter, Robert Henri, Paul Henry and Heinrich Böll. Lashed by the wild Atlantic Ocean and carved by the windswept rain, Achill Island is a truly spectacular place.
Despite a causeway linking Achill to the mainland, it retains its far-flung feel: with soaring cliffs, rocky headlands, sheltered sandy beaches, broad expanses of blanket bog and rolling mountains.
It’s seen at its most dramatic in winter, when high winds and lashing seas buffet the heather and rhododendrons. Drive out across Achill Sound from the mainland into those wild Atlantic skies pouring colours across the mountains and you know you’ve entered somewhere special. Even the wild sheep blocking the roads seem less menacing.
Keem Bay, a perfect horseshoe bay with a Blue Flag beach at the head of a remote valley, should not to be missed - Until 50 years ago it was the centre for basking shark hunting. The precarious cliff-top road was only built in the 1960s. The route cuts through a seam of amethyst quartz in the cliff, so watch out for precious gems.
Allow yourself the thrill of Ahill’s Atlantic Drive, a 40km route around the shore roads, or better still, the Achill Cycle Hub trails along spectacular sea cliffs, Kildownet Church Castle and fine promontory forts.
A walk around the 80 to 100 stone cottages in the deserted village at Slievemore will linger, even maybe haunt you. This mountain settlement from early medieval times was abandoned only a few decades ago and a visit can be a profound and eerie experience.
The island is serviced by various accommodations options, click here for further details.
Top 10 things to do on Achill Island
- Achill has some of the best quality beaches in Ireland, winning several Blue Flag & Green Coast awards every year. Stunning Keem Bay is one of the most famous and has become one of the Wild Atlantic Way’s signature points.
- The majestic Atlantic Drive is a must-do, providing over 40km of spectacular coastal scenery. En route, you will see Kildownet Castle, where Pirate Queen Grace O’Malley once lived. The top of Minaun is an incredible 360° vantage point and is a popular spot to watch the last sunset over Europe, on New Year’s Eve.
- Get on your bike! Not only does the Great Western Greenway start (or end) on Achill, the island also has three looped trails, from 12km to 44km.
- Hike to the top of Slievemore (671m high) which provides breathtaking views of Achill Island, of the Atlantic Ocean, and of wild Erris across Blacksod Bay.
- Step back in time in the Deserted Village. Located at the foot of Slievemore, the village consists of 80-100 stone cottages and contains megalithic tombs dating back 5,000 years ago.
- Croaghaun (688m) is one of the highest sea cliffs in Europe, with stunning views over Keem Bay, Achill Head and the Benmore cliffs. Just mind your footing!
- Achill Island is ideal for outdoor adventures, such as windsurfing, cycling, scuba diving, golfing, hiking, fishing, surfing, hillwalking, horse-riding, and kitesurfing!
- All year around in Achill, you can enjoy festivals, events and activities in relation to traditional music, arts & crafts, and sports, to name just a few.
- Visit Achill Experience, where you can immerse yourself in the history and heritage of the island. Mayo’s first aquarium is also here, brimming with native fish!
- Achill Island is home to some beautiful tearooms and fine dining restaurants. Try some of the island’s locally sourced seafood, lamb, sea-salt and carrageen!