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About Achill Island

Keel lake with Slievemore mountain in background

Achill Island on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way.

Achill Island is located in County Mayo on the west coast of Ireland. Its location on the Atlantic seaboard puts it at the heart of the Wild Atlantic Way, a 2,500km driving route along Ireland’s spectacular Atlantic coastline. Connected to the mainland by a bridge since 1887, Achill has long been one of the country’s most popular holiday (vacation) spots. As a result, is now one of the ‘must see’ destinations of the Wild Atlantic Way. The island of Achill occupies some 57 sq miles (148 sq km) and has a population of about 2700. Parts of the island are designated as ‘Gaeltacht’ areas,  where the Irish language is still used.

Beaches, Mountains, Cliffs & Bog

Visitors to Achill can enjoy five Blue Flag beaches* as well as numerous unclassified beaches and coves. These include Dooagh beach, located a short walk from the Achill Field School campus. (*Blue Flag is a European standard covering safety, cleanliness and facilities). Achill’s stunning landscape includes the iconic Minaun Cliffs in Keel and the 688m cliffs at Croaghaun, the highest sea cliffs in Ireland. Keem Bay, a perfect horseshoe bay accessed via a hillside road, houses a golden Blue Flag beach. Keem Bay is one of Achill’s four ‘Discovery Points’ on the Wild Atlantic Way. Two more Discovery Points to be found on the neighbouring islands of Inishbiggle and Clare. And a further four more Points in nearby Corraun and Mulranny.
Students relaxing on the beach at Keem Bay
Students relaxing on the beach at Keem Bay

Activities in Achill

Activities available for visitors to Achill include surfing, windsurfing, kitesurfing, stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, canoeing, fishing, hillwalking, horse-riding, scuba diving, rock climbing and much more. Cycling is particularly popular, with three looped trails available as part of the Achill Cycle Hub. Achill is home to the world-class Great Western Greenway, a 42km off-road track from Achill Sound to Westport. It follows the route of a long-disused railway line and attracts hundreds of thousands of users annually.

Achill hosts a very popular half-marathon in July in the village of Keel. Some less energetic activities available locally are traditional crafts such as basket weaving, alternative therapies and painting schools. Ireland’s oldest summer school, Scoil Acla, is based in Dooagh and teaches traditional Irish music and culture.

Inspiration for Artists & Writers

Achill’s stunning landscape, natural beauty and remote tranquility have long offered inspiration for artists and writers. These include Paul Henry, Robert Henri, Graham Greene and Nobel Prize winner Heinrich Boll. Boll’s 1957 book ‘Irisches Tagebuch’ (Irish Journal) documented life on Achill at that time. it includes a fascinating section on the Deserted Village at Slievemore, the site of some of the excavation and research work carried out by the Field School since its establishment in 1991.

Things to Do in Achill

As a popular holiday destination, Achill hosts many local festivals and events during the summer season. See for listings of festivals and events in Achill.

Keem Bay on the Wild Atlantic Way

Places and Facilities on Achill Island