Achill 20km by 19km, is Ireland’s largest island, with a population of 2,600 and boasting the highest sea cliffs in the country at a vertigo-inducing height of 688 metres.
Although a causeway links 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 is seen at its most dramatic in winter, when high winds buffet the heather and rhododendrons and seas lash the shoreline. Drive out across Achill Sound from the mainland into those wild Atlantic skies pouring colour 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, a route which cuts through a seam of amethyst quartz in the cliff, so watch out for semi-precious gems.
Allow yourself the thrill of Achill’s Atlantic Drive, a 40km route around the shore roads, or better still, the Achill Cycle Hub trails along spectacular sea cliffs, past Kildownet Church Castle and some fine promontory forts.
A stroll around the 80 to 100 stone cottages in the deserted village at Slievemore will linger with you, perhaps even haunt. 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 types of accommodation, click here for further details.
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