Atlantic Drive, Achill, Co Mayo
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Achill Island and the Currane Peninsula, on the west coast of Mayo are among the most remote and scenic areas in Ireland. Some of the local roads that follow the coastline and boast some of the most spectacular views of the area are known as 'The Atlantic Drive'.
The Atlantic Drive - two circular routes, one on the Currane Peninsula and another on Achill Island.
Loop 1: Currane Peninsula
A 20km loop with few hills and perfect for cyclists. From Achill Sound take the R319 over the bridge to the mainland. To the left is the Railway Hostel once the final station on the Achill railway line which is now the Great Western Greenway.
Continue through Polranny, Tonragee and Owenduff to Mulranny with the Greenway and the tidal waters of Bellacragher Bay on the left. On the right are Polranny Hill (452m), Curraun Hill (524m) and an extensive area of forestry accessible on foot via a network of paths – see Ordnance Survey Map No. 30.
At the junction with the N59 at Mulranny village turn right and after 200m take a sharp right following the signs for the 'Atlantic Drive' and Curraun.
This coast road along the cliff edge has spectacular views of Clew Bay and its reputed 365 islands. To the left is Mulranny beach and village and across the bay is Croagh Patrick (764m) to the south-east. Mwreelrea, Sheefry and the Maamturks are due south and to the south-west Clare Island and Achill Beg. There’s many parking areas along this narrow, twisting road - perfect for picnics or to stop and take photographs. One lay-by is at the site of a Spanish Armada memorial commemorating the shipwreck of San Nicolas Prodaneli at Toorglass in 1588.
Drive through Dooghbeg and Bolinglanna into Currane, where a copper mine was once worked and where the founder of the British police force, Sir Robert Peel, once lived.
Continue through Currane following shoreline. On the right is Curraun Hill and across the water to the left Kildavnet Tower, a 16th century tower house used by Granuaile, the legendary pirate queen. At the junction with the R319 turn left towards Achill Sound, your starting point.
Loop 2: Achill Island
A 19km loop with several steep climbs which cyclists will find more difficult.
Starting at Achill Sound, drive on to the island. 500m from the village turn left (signposted for The Atlantic Drive) and continue through the villages of Shraheens and Derreens to Cloughmore. Pass the ancient church and graveyard at Kildavnet, close to the Tower and lifeboat station. At the T-junction, with Darby's Point to your left and Achill Beg straight ahead, turn right with views over the Atlantic to Clare Island and Achill Beg. Take time to park, take photographs or just sit and listen to the waves crashing below.
Inland to the right you’ll see the grass-covered ridges and furrows of the 'lazybeds' - ancient cultivation ridges for potatoes or cereal crops running parallel to the slope to aid drainage. Their existence on this remote coastline demonstrates how far settlement spread in former times. On the left, between the road and the sea, is further evidence of habitation with no fewer than three promontory forts.
The road between Cloughmore and Ashleam meanders for about 4.5km before climbing a small hill to a vantage point over Ashleam Bay – a small, pebbly cove enclosed by cliffs 80-100ft high. The road descends in a series of hairpin bends overlooking the bay.
Continue up the valley and either turn right to Ashleam village and back to Achill Sound, or left to continue on the Atlantic Drive and the village of Dooega – a picturesque fishing village with one of Achill's Blue Flag beaches.
On the main road there’s a left turn to Minaun Heights - a hill-top viewing point with breath-taking views of the Island and Blacksod Bay and the Mullet Peninsula to the north.
Back on the main road travel back to Achill Sound via Glendarry Woods, or Keel and Dooagh.