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Achill Island – 5 Reasons to Visit Mayo’s Hidden Gem

Achill Island is one of the best places to visit in Ireland if you want to experience the beauty of the Wild Atlantic Way, traditional Irish culture and good craic all in one place! Located off the coast of the mainland of Ireland, Achill should be on your travel bucket list when visiting the West.

Achill island in Co. Mayo is a jewel in the crown of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way. With beautiful secluded beaches, the highest sea cliffs in Ireland, and the iconic Keem Bay, the island is the perfect place for a getaway. One of our favourite locations in the West of Ireland, Achill Island was also shortlisted by The Irish Times as one of the top 5 best places to holiday in Ireland.

Colin Farrell won ‘best actor’ at the Venice film festival for his role in the ‘Banshee of Inisherin’. The movie was filmed on location in Achill island, which certainly added to its charm. 

In this article we will explore everything that Achill Island has to offer as well as practical advice for your stay. We will do this by giving you 5 main reasons why you should visit Achill Island.

Keem Bay Beach Achill Island Co. Mayo
Keem Bay Beach Achill Island Co. Mayo

General Information for your stay at Achill Island

How to get to Achill Island

Achill is accessible by road via the Michael Davitt Bridge so you can drive over at any time. Here are the drive times from popular destinations in Ireland to the island:

  • Dublin to Achill Island: 4 hours
  • Shannon Airport to Achill Island: 4 hours
  • Belfast to Achill Island: 5 to 6 hours
  • West Airport Knock to Achill Island: 75 minutes

West Airport Knock is a great destination to fly into if possible. Located in the East of Mayo, the airport is close to all of the best attractions in the West of Ireland. You can organise car rental options before you arrive and you will avoid the busy traffic and motorway journeys from larger cities.

There are also rail services available from Dublin to Castlebar and Westport. You can then get a bus from either town in Mayo to Achill Island. Boats to and from Clare island to Achill can be organised if you wish to do a bit of exploring during your stay!

Getting around Achill Island

It is generally recommended to travel around the island by car, but you can also rent a bike or travel on the bus which operates seasonally. There are taxi services also available. A car will give you the most freedom during your stay, especially outside of the summer season when some public transport services are limited or unavailable.

Achill Island Co. Mayo
Achill Island Co. Mayo

Where to stay on Achill Island

Accommodation in Achill Island

There are plenty of accommodation options on the island, from an extensive selection of B&B’s, hostels, and guesthouses to self catering options. You may choose to go camping or stay in a caravan during your time in Achill. There are also hotels in Achill Island for those wishing to relax in the evenings. You can find out more about all of the types of accommodation as well as eating and drinking options on the official Achill Tourism website.

Achill is a very tourist friendly destination, the locals are the best guide to any area and make up the majority of the staff working in the service sector. Your barman, receptionist or waiter can give you great tips about the island, such as the best things to do and the best times to visit places of interest.

See more breathtaking views of Achill island, Keem Bay and a few friendly sheep!

#1. Why You Should Visit Achill Island – The Wild Atlantic Way

Achill Island is at the heart of the Wild Atlantic Way. If you are taking the coastal road trip I would highly recommend visiting Achill for a day, or even a weekend. The small island encompasses everything that is great about the Wild Atlantic Way including traditional Irish pubs and food, friendly seaside towns, stunning coastal views, the beautiful Irish countryside, historic sites and a magical atmosphere that you can’t get anywhere else in the world.

Tourist in Ireland - Wild Atlantic Way
Tourist in Ireland – Wild Atlantic Way

#2. Why You Should Visit Achill Island – Beaches on Achill Island

On a fine Summer’s day there is nowhere more perfect than Achill’s beaches; the crystal clear water and soft sand will make you forget you’re in Ireland. One of the best things about Irish beaches is that they are much more secluded than in other countries – you may have a whole beach to yourself when you visit!

Achill has 5 blue flag beaches

  • Keem Bay Beach
  • Tramore Strand beach
  • Silver Strand beach
  • Golden Strand beach
  • Dooega Beach

There is also a sixth blue beach nearby in Mulranny, the village which connects Achill Island to the mainland. The Blue Flag scheme is an international standard that recognises the cleanest beaches with the best water quality, environmental education management and safety services

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Keem Beach

Keem Bay was named the best Wild Swimming Spot in the UK and Ireland, and is located at the western tip of Achill Island. Nestled in between the slopes of Croaghaun mountain and Moyteoge Head, Keem Bay is the most popular beach for tourists due to its picturesque views and secluded atmosphere.

Keem Bay is almost uninhabited (the only building there is a former coastguard station) and it’s a very peaceful retreat; you’ll feel as though you are sitting on an exotic beach on a warm summers day.

In terms of activities, the bay is very popular for water sports and there are surfing schools in the local area. The beach is lifeguarded during the bathing season and more information can be found on the notice boards located at the beach. You can even try snorkelling on the Bluewater Trail at the bay!

The bay has a strong connection with fishing. It was the location for much of Achill’s shark fishing industry during the 1950s and 1960s. At that time the basking shark was a frequent visitor to the waters around Keem Bay and was hunted for its liver oil. Much of this fishing took place in currach’s, the traditional canvas-covered wooden vessels of the west of Ireland.

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Trawmore Beach

One of the best known and most photographed beaches in Achill, Trawmore beach (also known as Keel Beach) stretches 3km and is located at the foot of the Minaun Cliffs. The beach is popular with bathers and for water sports such as surfing and kayaking.

Important to know: The waters on the eastern half of the beach are dangerous due to treacherous local currents. Lifeguards usually patrol during the summer season and there are prominent safety notices that you should read before swimming in the sea. Avoid swimming in the sea if lifeguards are not on duty.

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Silver Strand Beach & Golden Strand Beach

On the north side of the island, the village of Dugort has two beautiful beaches. Both beaches face Backsod Bay and the Belmullet Peninsula.

The Blueway kayak trail is located in this area; visitors can paddle from Silver Strand to Golden Strand. You will see seal caves and bird colonies during your stay!

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Dooega Beach

Dooega is a picturesque fishing village which overlooks Clare island and the Atlantic ocean beyond. The beach at Dooega is called Camport Bay. There are many historic sites around the area, including two forts.

#3. Why You Should Visit Achill Island – Historical Sites on Achill Island

No trip to Westport or Mayo in general would be complete without a visit to Achill Island. The island was first inhabited almost 5,000 years ago and is the largest of all islands off the coast of Ireland. The people that have lived here for thousands of years have left their mark on the island. Below we have included some interesting locations you can visit.

Grace O’Malley’s Castle

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Grace O’Malley or Granuaile was the pirate-queen of Ireland. Grace was born on the nearby Clare island. The 15th century Kildownet castle became one of the strongholds of the pirate queen. The National monument is a tower house.

The tower house provided protection and defence and was also an important strategic location for the pirate queen.

The castle is an impressive structure of four storeys high that dominates the otherwise untouched area.


Named after St Damhnait who founded a church there in the 7th century, Kildamhnait castle has a rich history. There is a holy well just outside the graveyard of the castle.

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You can learn more about the history of Achill on the official tourism website, including a fascinating 17th century prophecy about the island’s former railway system that actually came true.

A great video explaining a brief history of Achill Island with stunning views!

#4. Why You Should Visit Achill Island: An Island of Arts and Culture

Pubs and Food:

There are plenty of pubs, restaurants, cafés and takeaway options on the island. You will get to enjoy traditional Irish dishes with the best of local produce and catch, as well as all of the modern dishes you would expect. Achill was an island of farmers and fishermen throughout the centuries and the delicious meals in Achill are evidence of Ireland’s firm reputation of producing high quality food.

If you are living in a self-catering accommodation there is a supermarket on the island for your convenience.

To add to its cuisine, County Mayo organises The Achill Seafood Festival in mid-summer around July, which offers the best delicious gourmet seafood in Ireland with plenty of restaurants and pubs participating in events.

This post first appeared on Travel Blog, Culture And Travel Vlogs From ConnollyCove, please read the originial post: here

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Achill Island – 5 Reasons to Visit Mayo’s Hidden Gem


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