Ireland: Achill Island

If I had to pick a highlight of our Wild Atlantic Way road-trip around Ireland, I’d have to say Achill Island would be it. With just 128km of coastline, it’s like a miniature Ireland all wrapped up in one spot. As keen hikers and lovers off all things bumpy in the landscape, Achill offers some truly beautiful scenery.

I also loved the village of Keel which looked like it would be more at home in southern Spain with its white walled houses dotting the road side. The light also happened to be stunning when we went for a wander so that always helps with the appreciation of a place. There’s no denying a bit of bad weather can take away from a destination, you only have to look at travel review sites for proof. “Hotel was amazing, staff couldn’t have been nicer, scenery was gorgeous, rained while we were there…..1 star”. I remember the cafe I used to work at got a negative review because of the “outside insects”, as if we had a switch inside and released them specially to bother the customers πŸ™‚ Check out this article for a hearty chuckle on this subject.

Anyhoo I digress, back to Achill, back to loveliness. We arrived on the island, not by boat but by the Michael Davitt Bridge which only ever so slightly makes you think you’re not actually on an island. There’s something about taking a boat that really seals the deal right?

We got to our accommodation late in the afternoon and were greeted by the friendliest of hosts. She was waiting for us outside when we pulled in and came over to us as we got out of the car. She then promptly dropped a stone from her mouth and excitedly waited for us to throw it down the driveway so she could give chase. I am of course talking about the property’s canine companion who was just the cutest little doggy. The human host arrived shortly afterwards and said we were now doomed to play fetch with stones for the rest of our stay haha. Sure enough the dog would sit outside our lovely little AirBnB guest house, massively guilt-tripping us with her puppy dog eyes you couldn’t say no to.

“Play? Fetch with stones? Play? I love you. Play?”

With a little bit of daylight left, we decided to go for a spin to the western side of the Island. I saw on my phone that we were going to be passing Lough Acorrymore and it looked pretty interesting on the Satellite view. Gemma drove us up the gravel road and we arrived just in time for a rain and wind shower that was a bit rough going. It quickly cleared and we were free to explore the lake that lies around the back of Croaghaun. The rocky hillside rising up behind the lake does little to reveal the immensity of the sea-cliffs beyond, the third highest in Europe.

As with many places in the Irish countryside, purple gorse is abundant and it was particularly beautiful around the shore of the lake. There’s a little bit of hydro engineering work on the Southern edge of the lake which takes a little bit away from the natural setting but if I hadn’t mentioned it, you wouldn’t guess from the photos below. We were blasted by a couple more rain and wind showers while we explored the area before getting back into the car to warm up.

The stream flowing out of Lough Acorrymore
Beautiful views down towards Keel and the southern edge of Achill Island.
Gemma exploring the grassy lower slopes of Croaghaun.
Quite the beautiful little lake.
Obligatory Instagram lady in yellow jacket standing next to a lake photo. The things I ask a pregnant lady to do! πŸ™‚

After getting our body temperatures to return to something resembling normal we made our way back down to the main road. We could either go left and return to our cosy abode for the evening and play fetch with the doggy OR we could venture on. I was hopeful for the latter, I think Gemma would have been happy with the former haha. I managed to convince her that it would be totally worth it and by some miracle, the food Gods made it so. We were concerned that it was getting late and there was a likelihood we wouldn’t find anywhere open by the time we got back into the town.

Imagine my delight when we reached Keem Bay and were greeted with the glorious sight of a chipper van! Here at the end of the road, quite literally where the road runs out, was our saviour. Delicious hot chips and burgers and Boxty (Irish potato pancakes) and yum! There’s something about finding food in the randomest of places that makes it taste so much better.

We relaxed in the car for a little while, looking out on the ocean and watching the locals come and go for their evening swim. As the sun started to dip below Croaghaun we made our way back up the steep cliffside road and returned to our accommodation.

Like much of this trip, our stay on Achill was all too brief and we left the island knowing there was so much we hadn’t seen. We’ll definitely be returning to this place again and seeing what the view is like from the top of Croaghaun, it certainly looked like a fun hike!

A little home at the end of the World.
That large white building used to be the Irish Coastguard HQ in the area but is now a home for the elderly. Not a bad spot to spend your retirement eh?

8 thoughts on “Ireland: Achill Island

  1. What a stunning place. Would love to get over to that part of the world one day….so beautiful, and such a contrast to South Australia (not saying South Australia isn’t beautiful…just not that green at the moment)

  2. I manage to get a week or two in Achilles most years. Beautiful, haunting place. Brilliant photographs, James, especially of the purple Heather.
    Keep it up!

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