Achill Island is situated at the most western point of Co. Mayo. The Island has a short bridge that spans a narrow channel that has some of the strongest sea currents in Europe. Arriving onto the Island you are transported to a timeless setting that boasts bogs, moorlands, mountains, megaliths and 5 Blue Flag beaches. You can throw yourself into any of the numerous activities that are available or just sit and take in the scenery as the weather and skies change by the minute. The area is agricultural and sheep and cattle roam freely often settling for a cosy snooze in the middle of the road.
Just 4 kilometres from Achill Shore View, along the Atlantic Drive is a castle of Granuaile, the notorious Pirate Queen. Just beyond this are two delightful small harbours where boats can be organised for trips to Achill Beg, (a smaller island that is definitely worth a visit) and Clare Island. This whole seascape is part of the spectacular Atlantic Drive. Towards the end of this loop, which offers one extraordinary vista after another, is the Minaun Drive. This steep climb by bicycle, car or on foot is not to be missed as it is the only place on the Island where you have a birds eye view of the entire landscape from Clew Bay to the mountains of North Mayo.
Throughout the year the Island hosts many festivals. From the St Patrick’s day battle of the bagpipe bands, the Achill 1/2 Marathon, Feile Bia na Mara (an annual seafood festival), the Achill Holistic Adventure, Scoil Acla (a week-long celebration of Irish music with master classes and gig rigs), the Achill Walks Festival, the Achill Yawl Festival, ‘Achill Give it a go’ weekends, Yoga and Cycling weekends and the very popular Heinrick Boll weekends there is something to suit every taste. For up-to-date listings of events in the area Achill Tourism and the Mayo News are great sources of information.
The Island also has many opportunities to get involved in enjoying the outdoors with a large selection of water sports on offer – swimming, surfing, kite surfing and kayaking. Other outdoor pursuits such as cycling the Island or the Great Western Greenway, walking, hiking, horse riding and just lazing on the beautiful beaches are also available.
If you are more inclined to the finer things in life the Island has at least 15 very interesting galleries and gift shops that sell unique arts and crafts, paintings, photographs, sculpture, pottery, clothing and lots more. Many of the artisans are living locally on Achill. There is also a wonderful farmer’s market every Friday morning where you can buy fresh local eggs, preserves, baked goods and garden produce. Locally smoked salmon and mackerel can be purchased directly from the smoke house during the fishing season.
Dining is another treat. Try making time for a fine dining meal at ‘Ferndale’ (Reservations required), the ‘Bayside Bistro‘, or the ‘Cliff House Hotel’, a Pizza with pizazz at ‘Pure Magic’ or marvelous pub grub at ‘Gieltys’ or ‘Mastersons’ of Dugort and close by at Ted’s Pub in Cashel. During the day coffee, home-baked snacks and lunches can be had at ‘The Village Bakery’ in Achill Sound or ‘The Cottage’, ‘The Beehive’ or ‘Gieltys’ coffee shop which are located further up the Island.
At night you can sample the local brew at any of the many pubs that scatter the Island, each of them offering their own flavour and entertainment. Feel free to join in the live music sessions or create your own at Lynott’s – the smallest pub on the Island – or the Valley House bar. Many other pubs around the Island also offer music.
If you fancy going further afield boat trips are available to Achill Beg and Clare Island. Westport is 45 minutes away with its host of shops and Westport House. Ballycroy Visitor’s Centre is 30 minutes by car. The village of Mulranny is 15 minutes and has fine dining at the hotel and also day access to the hotel gym and swimming pool facilities. Just beyond Mulranny you can enjoy lunch or an evening meal at the very popular “Nevin’s Newfield Inn”. Their courtesy car will pick you up from the Greenway.
Belmullet is a 1 hour drive and can be visited en route to the Ceide Fields – an ancient site and visitor centre. You might also enjoy a visit to Croagh Patrick – Ireland’s sacred mountain – Louisberg, Killalla, or Leenane, the gateway to Connemara.