Connacht / Mayo / Wild Atlantic Way

Achill Island – 15 Top Things to Do

Visiting Achill Island

With its golden beaches, wild, rugged landscapes and laid back vibes, it’s no surprise that Achill Island has been a popular holiday destination for the Irish for many years. However, with the growth of social media and more recently, the success of The Banshees of Inisherin (filmed on Achill, as well as Inis Mór), the allure of Achill Island is quickly spreading far and wide.

If you’re planning to visit this stunning part of Ireland, you’re in for a treat. Fans of nature and outdoor adventures are particularly drawn to the island, where there’s no shortage of opportunities for swimming, hiking, surfing and other watersports. Add in an abundance of history, charming traditional pubs and delicious food and you can’t go wrong!

Ireland’s largest Island

Located in County Mayo, along the west coast, Achill is the largest of Ireland’s islands.  Since 1887 the island has been connected to the mainland by bridge, making it easily accessible for anyone wishing to visit and explore its raw beauty. 

The island is definitely a highlight along the Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s longest scenic drive. And while it’s possible to see a lot of the island in one day, it is best appreciated over two or three days. However, most people find that no matter how long they spend on Achill Island, it’s not enough. So if you’re unsure when planning, go for more time, not less! 

Top Things to do on Achill Island

1. Beach Hopping

Mayo is home to nine Blue Flag beaches and five of these are located on Achill Island – Keem Beach, Trawmore (Keel) Strand, Dugort Beach, Golden Strand and Dooega Beach. So, it’s no exaggeration to say that Achill is home to some of the best beaches in Ireland. 

Secluded Keem Beach is the most remote and picturesque of these beaches. Many consider it to be one of the top thing to do on Achill Island. Nestled in the folds of the Croaghaun mountain and reached by a winding and scenic coastal road, it is certainly a sight to behold.

Keem Beach has received many awards in recent years and along with Trawmore Strand has also been listed in Lonely Planet’s recently published list of 10 of the best beaches in Ireland.  So whether you fancy a walk, a swim or just a few photos be sure to check out at least one or two of Achill’s beautiful beaches.

2. Soak Up The Views From Minaun Heights

For some of the best views of the island and surrounds, head for Minaun Heights.  At a height of 466m the Minaun Cliffs offer stunning panoramic views over the island, including Keel Strand below the cliffs and out to Clare Island in the distance.  

You can hike up if you prefer but there’s also a road leading right to the top of the cliffs so you don’t even have to exert much effort for this one. The road up is steep and narrow in parts though, so take it slow and be prepared to meet other vehicles (and sheep!) along the way. There is plenty of parking beside the transmission masts at the top, which are easily visible as you approach. 

From the car park you can already get some incredible views but take the path leading further along the cliffs and they only get better. You’ll also come across a statue of the Virgin Mary, some 19th century ruins and funeral stones. I visited just after sunrise and had those breathtaking views all to myself.

3. Visit Film Locations From The Banshees of Inisherin 

Corrymore Lake

As mentioned above, The Banshees of Inisherin was filmed extensively on Achill Island and there are a number of sites that will no doubt be of interest to fans of the film. 

Achill Tourism have put together a handy map of the Achill locations used in the Banshees of Inisherin, some of which you are likely to visit anyway. For example the beach scenes and Colm Doherty’s house were filmed at Keem Beach and Corrymore Lake was the location for Mrs. Mc Cormick’s cottage. The lake was also a scene of tragedy in the film but shush, no spoilers!

Other sites required a bit more Hollywood Magic to bring them to life. Real life Purteen Harbour bares only a slight resemblance to that which appeared in the film. JJ Devines Pub was also fully constructed for the movie and was later removed. However, it’s location at Cloughmore is incredibly scenic and still worth a visit while around touring Achill Island.

4. Conquer Croaghaun

Reaching a height of 688m, the Croaghaun Cliffs are the highest cliffs in Ireland and the third highest in Europe. Believe it or not, they are actually three times the height of the Cliffs of Moher. It’s pretty hard to take in their true scale as they don’t have a vertical drop like the famous Co. Clare cliffs though. They are also over 80m higher than Slieve League cliffs in Donegal, which are often thought to be Ireland’s highest. 

The reason Croaghaun cliffs are not as widely known, no doubt relates to the fact that they are also much harder to reach, being inaccessible by road. So if you want to see these spectacular cliffs for yourself, bring your hiking boots and prepare to trek for a while. I promise, it’s worth every bit of effort for the views that await you. 

Park at either Keem Bay or Corrymore Lough to hike the cliffs. Both options offer spectacular views. However, parking at Corrymore is the better option if you also want to take in Annagh Bay too. More on that shortly!

5. Cycle The Great Western Greenway

If you love a good cycle route, then The Great Western Greenway might be just the holiday challenge you’re looking for. Ireland’s original greenway, the route is 42 km long, linking Achill Sound and Westport. 

The multi award winning cycling and walking trail follows an old railway line, which closed back in 1937. Travel though woodlands, bogs and farmland passing dramatic landscapes along the way with views of Clew Bay, Croagh Patrick and the Nephew Beg Mountains. Don’t worry, you don’t have to take on the entire route in one go. There are a number of entry and exit points, so you can choose to do a smaller section if preferred. 

6. Explore the Deserted Village of Achill Island

Wander through the haunting remains of the Deserted Village, located on the southern slopes of Slievemore. The settlement contains the ruins of up the 100 traditional stone cottages and can be accessed at any time. 

The dwellings were most recently used as summer booley homes, until the 1940s. Booleying was the farming tradition of temporarily moving cattle to high land for grazing. The families would live here for the summer months and then head home to Dooagh and Pollagh. Achill Island is thought to be be one of the last places in Europe to use this practice. Further study of the site has shown that settlement in the area dates back to early Medieval times. 

We took a tour of the village during our stay. Our guide provided insight into the history of the settlement and the lives of those who lived there. So if you’re a curious sort, I’d definitely recommend adding the tour to your list of things to do on Achill Island. During July and August tours take place daily on weekdays. 

7. Hike to the Summit of Slievemore

View of Slievemore across Dugort Beach

If you’re up for some more hiking, you can pair your visit to the Deserted Village with an ascent to the summit of Slievemore (from the Irish Sliabh Mór, which translates to big mountain). At 671m, it’s the second hightest peak on the island after Croaughaun and pretty hard to miss as you travel around Achill Island. 

This is a challenging climb without a clear route so be prepared with appropriate footwear, gear, snacks and water. However, on a clear day you’ll be rewarded with magnificent views across Achill, to Belmullet Peninsula, the Nephins and more.  

8. Sample the Whiskey at Achill Island Distillery

Book a tour at Achill Island Distillery for a behind the scene look at Ireland’s first island distillery. The distillery is the home of IrishAmerican Whiskey. Founded in 2015 the brand is one of only a small number of Irish owned and family run Irish Whiskeys.

If you’re a serious whiskey aficionado you can even become part of the brands journey through the Achill Island Cask Programme. Members can add their own finishing touch to their cask in the last years of maturation. 

9. Take In The Scenery Along Achill Island’s Atlantic Drive

Overlooking Ashleam Bay surrounded by white cliffs with mountains in the background.

The white cliffs of Ashleam Bay

If hiking is not your thing and or you’re pushed for time, you can still experience plenty of Achill’s beauty by car. Take in some of the most scenic coastal views in Ireland along Achill’s Atlantic Drive.

While you can begin the Atlantic Drive from Mulranny, the Achill Island section is a 19km loop starting from the village at Achill Sound. After driving through Achill Sound take a left onto the L1405. There is a signpost for the Atlantic Drive, as well as for the longer Wild Atlantic Way which follows the same route. Highlights include Grace O’Malley’s Towerhouse and the White Cliffs of Ashleam.

10. Enjoy a Pint of Plain in Lynott’s Pub

Pull up a stool and enjoy a pint of Guinness in Lynott’s Pub, the smallest pub on Ireland’s largest island! It’s tucked in off the road so you could easily miss this quaint early 19th century pub but it’s worth stopping in if you get the chance. 

Lynott’s was awarded Best Local Pub in the province in 2022. It was also frequented by Brendan Gleeson and Pat Shortt during filming of The Banshees of Inisherin. In fact, the infamous shears used by Gleeson in the movies also happen to belong to the pub’s owner. So who knows what stories you might hear within these walls!

11. Discover Annagh Bay – Achill Island’s Secret Beach

To the left of the image a man stands on hill top admiring Annagh Bay down below on a moody day.

Admiring Annagh Bay from above.

Referred to as Achill’s secret beach, Annagh Bay is only accessible by foot or by boat. Located on the northern coast of the island, it is surrounded by steep cliffs on three sides, with the summit of Croaghaun to the west. 

Nestled close to the small sandy beach is Lough Nakeeroge East, adding to the beauty of this remote and dramatic landscape. The freshwater lake is the lowest corrie lake in Ireland, at just 16m above sea level. 

Those who make their way down to the bay will also discover the remains of another booley village and a megalithic tomb. 

12. Visit Grace O’Malley’s Castle

Grace O'Malley's Castle sits atop a rocky bay to the left of the image with water and mountains in the background.

Kildavnet Tower House, known locally as Grace O’Malley’s Castle is located at the mouth of Achill Sound. It’s a great example of a 15th century Irish tower house and was strategically placed to protect the passage connecting Clew Bay and Blacksod Bay.

The tower was built by the O’Malley Clan in the 1420’s and measures about 12m high with three storeys. It is now associated with the legendary pirate queen Grace O’Malley or Granuaile, who ruled these waters during the 16th century, having several defensive strongholds along the western seaboard. 

13. Book a Sauna on the Beach


Pamper yourself at Sabhna Wild Atlantic Saunas located on Keel Beach. This is the perfect way to relax and unwind after a tough hike or chilly dip in the ocean. Your body will thank you as it reaps the benefits, including stress reduction, toxin release and better sleep. 

You can conveniently book your Sabhna experience online with prices starting at €20 for a 60 min shared sauna experience. Or you can book a 60 min private session for up to 6 people for €80. Perfect to add to your list of things to do in Achill if you’re planning to visit with friends. 

14. Achill Maritime History Trail 

Located at various sites around the island are 14 informational storyboards which tell the tale of Achill’s Maritime History. Fishing and maritime trade have been an important part of Achill life, supporting the livelihoods of generations of islanders. 

Among other things, you’ll learn about Achill’s once booming shark fishing industry. At one point there where fisheries located at Keem Bay and Purteen Harbour. Basking sharks were killed for their liver oil and later for the fins and flesh. 

Thankfully basking sharks are now a protected species in Irish waters and you might even be lucky enough to spot them here. They visit Achill Island in the summer and are sometimes accompanied by dolphins. 

15. Try a New Watersport

Surfers on Keel Beach

Whether you’re a newbie or a watersports enthusiast, you’ll have plenty of activities to choose from when visiting Achill Island during the summer months. From surfing to stand-up paddle boarding and kitesurfing to kayaking, there’s something for everyone. 

Keel beach is a top destination in Ireland for surfers, while nearby Keel lake is an ideal location for beginners to get out and try something new. Providers offering board hire and lessons include Blackfield Watersports and Pure Magic Achill. 

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