Only a road bridge stands between mainland County Mayo and Achill Island, Ireland’s largest island
Achill Island is at the edge of Ireland, peering into the vast Atlantic Ocean. Its windswept location has given way to a spectacular topography of vast sea cliffs, bare mountains and sweeping sandy beaches.
Achill boasts five Blue Flag beaches alone – a voluntary eco-label awarded to beaches that tick all the boxes for quality and cleanliness – and one of the best is Keem Strand. The strand lies within Keem Bay, a heavenly secluded valley at the very western tip of the island. During warmer months, the strand is a magnet for beach-goers and, when it gets cooler, it’s ideal for laid-back walks. You'll enjoy the views getting there from the stunning cliff-top road, and there’s a car park close to the beach itself.
The horseshoe-shaped bay is bordered by cliffs and there’s a breathtaking 1.5km (9 mile) walk along the top of the cliffs of Benmore towards Achill Head, the most westerly point of the Island.
On the other side of the bay lies Bunowna, which is now a deserted village. The reasons for its abandonment remain unknown but it was used as a "booley" – a place where people lived in summer to graze cattle on the side of Slievemore Mountain. Wander among the vacant cottages to gauge a sense of life there before, or attend a guided tour run by Achill Archaeological Field School.
Keem Bay once had a booming fishing industry and waters used to be filled with traditional fishing boats called "currachs". It’s suspected that artist Paul Henry visited the beach when painting his famous work Launching the Currach, which now hangs in the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin.
Continue exploring Achill Island by following the Atlantic Drive, which will lead you to villages such as Shraheens, Ashleam, Derreens and Cloughmore, along with many more outstanding spots on the island.
Geographical coordinates: Latitude 53.965278; Longitude : -10.192778 (note, if you use your car’s GPS to go directly to this point, you may not always remain on the Wild Atlantic Way route.)
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