Achill is the largest island off the West Coast of Ireland and its beauty holds no bounds. Every corner you take on every road on this beautiful island has a hidden gem. It is part of the Wild Atlantic Way, which I am learning more and more about as I spend more time travelling it here in Ireland. The beauty of what I have seen so far has far outweighed my expectations, not to say I didn’t expect it to be beautiful, I did, as I have been told by enough people of its beauty, but to fully appreciate what they mean you just have to visit and see for yourself.
I am hoping with my blog to give an indication of the beauty that lies within, I have always been a nature enthusiast, since a small child I loved to study wild flowers and loved the wildness of the hills and seashore, especially the waves which have held a special place for me over the years but nothing compares to the wildness of Irelands’ West coast.
The Wild Atlantic way was finished -and opened in 2012, it was a huge feat and covers 2500 km (1500 miles) of the Western coastline, with roads taking you to the very tip of the straggly bits! And also onto its own islands, of which there are many. As you can see if you look at a map of Ireland the outline shows the straggly way it is shaped and that is part of its beauty with all the islands off the coast and the jagged coastline it makes for some really wonderful discoveries.
Anyway back to Achill Island, which is just one of the 365 islands seen from Croagh Patrick in Clew Bay. As already mentioned it is Ireland’s largest island and it is connected to the mainland by a bridge over the causeway named Achill sound. It has everything from spectacular walks and drives, beautiful beaches, glorious cliffs and plenty of crashing waves. It is the hub for many sport enthusiasts from sea angling to wind surfing, surfing, hiking, kayaking, canoeing and general walking with no other aim than to enjoy the wonderful scenery.
It is a very Irish speaking community, most of the signs in Ireland tend to be bilingual but in this area they are just in Irish so if you don’t understand any Irish you won’t understand these signs, it is very difficult to even guess at what some of them mean, it looks like a very difficult language. Most of the people who live in this area are families who have lived here for generations and are very proud of this wonderful island.
On my trip around the island I came upon lovely little castles, fishing ports, cliffs and pretty villages all tucked away in the outermost points. I went to Mulranny first which is at the mouth of the Curraun peninsula which leads on to Achill island, a beautiful town with a small castle and pretty little fishing port, bear in mind all these villages and towns have fantastic views out to sea one way and inland the other, with the amazing mountains on the island and the other fantastic mountain ranges across the bay.
After Mulranny I drove along the coast for a quite a few miles stopping every now and then to admire the views, take a walk on the beach or just take some pictures, it was a pretty wild day when I visited and the wind was particularly strong, with bouts of misty rain and low cloud, but I think it all added to the wildly dramatic setting I found myself in at each turn. After crossing the bridge onto Achill there are turnings off the main road which are still part of the WAW and you just have to go down them all, as you never know what you will find. I travelled all the roads from Bleanaskill, Ashleam, Dooega then back to Bunacurry and off on another road to the deserted village at Doogort, which is a range of houses, a school, church and other buildings in varied states of dilapidation from many years ago during the famine when everyone moved out to be nearer the coast so they could eat seafood.
Then on to Keel, Dooagh and finally Keem beach, the views along the cliffs from Ashleam to Dooega are simply stunning, there are many viewing points along this road and I stopped at them all, I even took this gravelly road that leads all the way down to the beach, it was fantastic down there and because the weather had been rough, the sea was really rough with many white horses and waves crashing against rocks, I wish I had videoed it’s splendour.
After seeing all this I found it hard to move on but had to finish the trip, when I got to Keel beach where the huge mountain overlooks the beach, I was amazed how wonderful it looked. I could only take a quick walk on the beach here as the wind was so strong it was blowing me back off the beach, but I just had to have a quick look, then on to Dooagh (I love the names of the places in Ireland, Dooagh is especially fab) with another lovely beach. And then the drive of the trip, along a cliff edge with winding roads around the mountain, down to Keem beach, which is absolutely beautiful, flanked both sides by huge mountains and cliffs. It was very scary driving so close to the edge, if one sheep had crossed in front of me I was going over the edge!!! It was much better when driving back because I was in the inside and it really didn’t feel scary at all.
I loved every minute of my trip to Achill but again didn’t manage to see everything; I would definitely come back here to this wonderful part of Ireland.
The video which I have included is from the Achill tourist site and it gives a lovely explanation of Achill by one of its residents.