A day trip to Achill Island, Ireland’s largest island, is a must when visiting the island’s west coast.
Located in County Mayo, Achill Island is easily accessible from the mainland via a 740 ft (approx 220 meters) swing bridge.
It’s home to hundreds of sheep, gorgeous sandy blue flag beaches, and the third-highest sea cliffs in Europe. The island of Achill really makes a great day out from Westport or Galway.
The Atlantic Drive on Achill Island is part of Ireland’s stunning 2500 km Wild Atlantic Way. With its rocky headlands and cliffs, this drive is not only one of the best stretches of coastline on the Wild Atlantic Way but was even named one of the world’s most scenic drives by National Geographic.
Did You Know?
Achill Island is home to Croaghaun Sea Cliffs, the third-highest sea cliffs in Europe, after Hornelen in Norway at 860 metres (2,820 ft) and Cape Enniberg on the Faroe Islands at 754 metres (2,474 ft).
Standing at an impressive 688 m (2257 ft) tall, these sea cliffs are not to be missed when exploring Achill Island.
At 688m, the Croaghaun cliffs are actually nearly three times taller than the world-famous Cliffs of Moher in Co Clare (214m or 702ft) and almost 100 meters higher than the famous Slieve League cliffs in Donegal.
The best way to see these cliffs is to hike around Croaghan Mountain. Apparently, it isn’t the easiest of hikes; but the views are meant to be worth it!
The horseshoe-shaped Keem Bay is a sheltered beach situated in a valley between the cliffs of Benmore to the west and Croaghaun Mountain to the east.
Keem Bay is said to have been blessed by St. Patrick during his stay on Croagh Patrick. According to legend, St. Patrick looked out from the mountain, saw the beautiful golden beach at Keem Bay and declared that no one would ever drown in its waters.
During the summer, basking sharks, often accompanied by a pod of dolphins, can be seen in Keem Bay.
This beach is part of Ireland’s Blueway which means it’s an excellent place for snorkelling.
It was an incredibly windy day, the day we visited. As I was travelling by bus as part of a Globus Choice Tour, the bus could only park at the top car park, so to get to Keem Bay meant a walk down, and you know what that means, yes there’s a fairly steep walk back uphill to get the bus.
However, it was not a challenging walk, but the wind that day as you climbed the hill was strong, and sheep would wander into your path.
The 15th-century Kildamhnait Castle is a tower house associated with the infamous O’ Malley Clan, who were once a ruling family of Achill.
Can You Walk Around Achill Island?
The island is 15 miles (24 kilometres) long and 11 miles (18 kilometres) wide, so walking around the whole island on a day trip to Achill Island would be a bit of a challenge.
But the island is an excellent place for those that enjoy a good walk. Hillwalking is particularly popular on Achill Island as most of the higher ground is common ownership, so it’s accessible to everyone.
What To Do In Achill Island When It Rains
I was lucky with the weather when I visited Achill Island. Still, on every Irish travel itinerary, it’s always a good idea to have a rainy-day backup plan that does not depend on good weather.
So if you don’t fancy putting on your rain jacket and embracing the bad weather, why not visit the Achill Experience Aquarium & Visitor Centre or enjoy a massive plate of fish and chips and a pint of Guinness in a local pub?
Where To Eat On Achill Island
Gielty’s Bar and Restaurant is allegedly the most westerly pub in Europe and does a mean fish and chips. But make sure you’re hungry, as these portions are enormous.
Do You Need A Ferry To Get To Achill Island?
Achill Island has been connected to the mainland by a bridge since 1887, so there is no need to worry about ferry timings or scary crossings; just drive straight onto the island.
Getting Around Achill Island
You will need some form of transportation to get around Achill Island.
On A Tour
I could have taken a country bike ride or learned how to make Irish soda bread, but instead, I chose to take a day trip to Achill Island as part of my Global Choice Tour in Ireland. Check out this post on what’s is like to travel from Dublin to West Coast Ireland on their new Travel by Design: Green with Envy Tour.
Renting a car in Ireland is a great way to explore independently. Check here for prices and availability on car rentals in Ireland.
Don’t fancy driving; you could always take the public bus (seasonal services). Check bus schedules to Achill Island here.
Are you feeling super fit? Consider exploring Achill Island by bicycle. See here for bicycle rentals.
How Long Does It Take To Drive Around Achill Island?
Allow yourself at least two to two and a half hours to get around Achill Island. And I guarantee you’ll be making plenty of photo stops.
Can You Stay On Achill Island?
A day trip to Achill Island not enough? If you want to stay, there is a wide variety of accommodation to be found on Achill Island, including hotels, bed and breakfasts and rental accommodations.
Check here for accommodation suggestions.
For More Posts On Ireland, Check Out These
A Day Trip To Inishmore, Aran Islands
What Does It Cost To Live In Dublin?
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Disclaimer: I was a guest of Choice Touring by Globus on their Green with Envy: Ireland By Design Tour from Dublin to West Coast Ireland, but all opinions expressed here are my own. A big thank you to Globus for this fantastic opportunity.
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We certainly want to travel along the Atlantic Way when we finally embark on our Ireland road trip. So we would need to make sure we visit Achill Island and see that part of this great road trip route. Good to know we won’t need to worry about ferry timings to visit. Great idea to have a rainy weather backup plan too!
I am a big fan of Ireland. especially the Atlantic Way. Achill Island looks fabulous. I definitely would enjoy biking there.
The Wild Atlantic Way has been on my bucket list for a while. I will keep this post in mind for when I visit Achill Island
My husband did a different road trip through Ireland this summer, but he didn’t hit this part of the country. The Wild Atlantic Way looks UNREAL!
The Wild Atlantic Way is soooo high on my bucket list (even if they drive on the different side of the road, and you have to shift gears with your left hand) …and I don’t have a clue how to pronounce Kildah…Kildamhnait castle.
Visit out of season and there won’t be much traffic! And you forgot to mention the sheep that stray on to the roads!!
Wow I wouldn’t have known there was so much to do on this island! And cliffs taller than the Cliffs of Moher? I’m in! It’s nice you can drive straight onto the island too. That always makes planning a bit easier.
Yes, I love islands but not keen on boats so this is perfect for me!
I lived in Ireland 7 years and never knew about this place! I’ve pinned it for when I visit again as it looks amazing!
Hiking Croaghan Mountain to see the cliffs sounds amazing! As does snorkeling, but I bet the water is cold. We did a road trip around Ireland this summer but didn’t make it to Achill Island. Next time!