Discovering Ireland’s Wild West on Achill Island
A few months ago I came across a series of pictures from County Mayo and knew that we would have to make it over to this beautiful county soon. Luck would have it that my cancelled Morocco trip led to staying at a glamping site on our own private island and left plenty of time to explore. The highlight of the trip besides our wonderful accommodation? Achill Island. WOW. This place took my breath away. And despite the fact that the hubby was carsick the entire time he was raving about this beautiful little island for the rest of the week. If you are into deserted villages, secret beaches, towering cliffs, and pirate castles than this is the place for you!
What to do on Achill Island
We were only on the island for a day trip, but were able to cover quite a bit of ground on our trip! Whatever you do, don’t be afraid of the weather. It was foggy and misty the entire time we were there, but in some ways I think it made the island even more mystical. Read on to learn all of the places we really loved on our road trip around the island.
Growing up in the states, the oldest things I had come across were structures such as “The Alamo” which was built in the mid 1700s. Upon arriving in Ireland we started seeing things like “Established 1198” on pubs. Thinking about how old stuff is in Ireland is mind-boggling coming from a country that is only really a couple hundred years old.
The deserted village on Achill Island is another example of such a site. Archaeological records show that this area has been settled since around the 12th century A.D. But, there is a megalithic tomb near the area that dates back 5000 years. I’m going to let that sink in for a minute with a picture of a perplexed sheep who now inhabits this village.
Can you even picture what a person who lived here 5000 years might look like?
Okay, now that I’m over the fact that this place is ancient…did we enjoy the deserted village? Absolutely! We had a blast exploring all of the different deserted houses and imagining what life must have been like for the villagers. It’s about a 20 minute walk from the car park and there’s a lot of different areas to roam about. Because it was quite rainy and foggy when we were up there we made kind of a game out of the whole adventure. The hubs even pretended that there were ghosts in the fog overhang and pretended to hide behind one of the stone walls. In short, it’s a must see and if you have kiddos with you (like I did except he’s 30 years old) they will have fun roaming around.
White Cliffs of Ashleam
We were determined on our short day trip to make the most of our time on the island and set out to drive all the way around it. After not seeing a single car for over 10 minutes, I thought for sure we were in for a boring trip around the bottom of the island. But, lo and behold after driving on a windy road that one wrong turn would cause us to plummet into the ocean we came across these gorgeous cliffs. We pulled over to the side, prayed we weren’t going to get stuck in the muddy grass or blown off the cliff, and got out to take in the beauty. Watching the waves crashing up against these massive cliffs without another soul in sight is a memory that will be hard to forget. Even the hubs, despite his unbearable car sickness at this point, enjoyed the view.
Grace O’Malley’s Castle
Grace O’Malley (1530-1603) is a famous pirate queen who came to Irish fame after she spent her life attacking British ships and blockading Galway Bay from English transit. This tower was built as one of her strongholds protecting the waters surrounding Achill Island. How cool is it that we saw a pirate stronghold?! In short.. this island is made for kids into ghosts, pirates, and medieval structures (also known as us).
Do you love beautiful deserted beaches with turquoise water covered in a layer of mystical fog? If you answered no, well… I don’t know what to tell you. Because that scene that I just described is the most magical place I have ever been. I felt like I had stepped into my own version of Heaven. As I stepped out of our car after driving through clouds (literally) I was brought to tears with the site of the most beautiful beach I had ever laid my eyes on.
In fact, I was so perplexed that after taking these two pictures I pretty much didn’t take any pictures of this place. Instead, we just sat and enjoyed the beauty of this gorgeous country we are so fortunate to live in.
Below are all of the places I described. Pro tip: Pick up a map in the Achill Tourism office. We lost cell service multiple times and without the trusted paper map would have been pretty lost.
When to go
Achill Island is beautiful year-round. But, to make the most of your day I suggest going when it isn’t dark for most of the day. So, anytime from March – October is ideal.
Where to stay
I’m sure there are nice places to stay on the island, but since we loved our glamping site so much and the drive was only an hour away I would highly suggest this option. In fact, about half way to Achill Island we pulled off the road to take in the scenery (and to combat the hubby’s carsickness) and found this awesome walking path. As your driving down N59 from Claggan Island to Achill Island you’ll see a parking lot to your right and then will immediately find this walking path.
Hopefully this post has convinced you that Achill Island is a perfect mini Irish Road Trip. You really can’t wrong on this gorgeous stretch of the Wild Atlantic Way.