Achill Island

Discover Achill Island

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Achill Island : activities and sites to visit

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What to expect?

Achill (Acaill Oileán Acla in Irish Gaelic) is an island off the west coast of Ireland. Its size (24km for 19km long) makes it the largest and widest island in the whole of Ireland. Famous for its many archaeological sites, the island has been marked by the construction of many megalithic and Roman sites, as well as many forts. Add to this impressive scenery, majestic wilderness, diverse flora and fauna and you will know that the island is well worth a visit!

History of Achill Island

First inhabitants

Keem beach - © Stefano Viola

Keem beach – © Stefano Viola

According to archaeologists, Achill Island was first inhabited 5,000 years ago. From this period, the population has left its mark on the island: cereal crops, the construction of forts (now considered to be real tourist attractions)…etc.

In the 5th century, Achill Island did not escape Christianization: the population then erected 2 churches: one in Kildavnet, and the other in Slievemore. Today, there are few remains of these two constructions.

Achill Island : a land to flee Cromwell

Much later, Achill Island was successively controlled by many families and clans, the most famous of which were the O’Malley, O’Donnell and Gallagher.

In the XVIIth century, the massive expulsions of the English Cromwell in the north and east of Ireland led the Irish population to leave its lands to settle further west. Among this “fleeing” population, many families from Ulster then decide to settle on Achill.

Today, many cultural traces bear witness to this exodus, and Achill Island is still inhabited by many Ulsterians, so that there are 2 different Gaelic dialects on the island: the original dialect, and the Ulster dialect.

Visit Achill Island

An island with breathtaking scenery and a culture rooted in Gaelic traditions.

Achill Island – © Cristi

Achill Island – © Cristi

Achil Island offers fabulous scenery: its rugged coastline, Caribbean-looking beaches (minus the water temperature), deserted moorland, green hills and bare brown mountains are simply stunning.

The island, still inhabited, is a superb spot for travellers in search of wide open spaces. It must be said that the island has been particularly well preserved, and offers many activities to its tourists.

Starting with the Atlantic Drive, a road to take by car that overlooks the ocean. Many Irish people agree that it is one of the most beautiful circuits in Ireland! The road meanders along the coast, between land and sea: the panoramas are fabulous and really worth taking regular breaks, time to admire and take a few pictures!

The island has many incredible sites: we love its desolate landscapes, its steep cliffs (those of Croaghaun are incredible), its beaches with turquoise waters (like Keem Beach), or the fort of Grace O’Malley, a famous Irish pirate who lived on the island!

Achill Island also has the advantage of being a superb meeting place for budding hikers. You can easily walk around the island, take trails, explore its wide open spaces… with the assurance of meeting few people! It must be said that some areas of Achill Island are really worth the detour, but are still little known to the public: a great advantage for travellers wishing to enjoy a change of scenery while being isolated!

Don’t hesitate to equip yourself with a specific map for walking which lists all the hiking trails on the island! It’s a great way to treat yourself and dive into the heart of the Irish wilderness!

Finally, don’t miss the discovery of Dooagh beach, an Achill Island beach that disappeared more than 33 years ago, and which resurfaced in 2017! A direct consequence of a storm in 1984 that would have swept the beach! In 2017, Dooagh beach would have naturally resurfaced, due to weather and wind conditions, bringing sand back to the site of the forgotten beach. A phenomenon that has created fascination all over the world!