Keel Bay is an enormous crescent, partially embraced by the spectacular Minaun / Menawn cliffs, dropping sheer 250m / 800ft into the Atlantic. (Photo by Matteo Calzolari)
Trawmore (Trá Mór), aka Keel Strand, is a long, curved sandy beach, very popular with surfers for its huge ocean waves. Boards and suits can be hired on the beach, and lessons are also available.
The Cathedral Rocks comprise a remarkable formation of caves and pillars carved by the Atlantic into the side of the cliffs where they meet the strand. Within living memory buttresses arched from the sea to the cliff face, but the passage of 60 million years of wind and sea erosion finally brought them crashing down into the waves.
At low tide rock pools at the base of the cliffs can be explored. On balmy summer evenings, it is commonplace for schools of dolphins to swim close to the shore. At high tide, the breakers roar as they land on the stones. The waves are at their most impressive when strong onshore winds cause spray from the crests to fly back toward the ocean.
Keel Lough, the biggest lake on the island, is an important stopover and feeding ground for swans on their annual migration, which fortunately does not coincide with its summertime use as a training place for surfers etc. (Photo by DocsPics)
Keel is a friendly little resort with hotels, guesthouses, B&Bs, holiday cottages, craft shops, pubs, a couple of good eateries and a 9-hole golf course.
The Cliff House Hotel has received very good reviews from guests, and is said to have a good bar and restaurant.
The Annexe is Keel’s best-known pub, with traditional music sessions nightly during the summer season.
Ferndale calls itself an Adventurous Guesthouse & Restaurant, with themed rooms in Roman, Medieval, Arabian and Mayan styles. The menu is similarly varied.
The Bervie Guesthouse is a charmingly converted former coast guard station on the beach, the childhood home of friendly host Elizabeth Barrett (née Gallagher).
The Beehive craft shop and café serves exceptionally delicious apple crumble!
Purteen is a good place to hire boats for Atlantic excursions and expeditions to hunt Porbeagle sharks. (Photo © Wolfgang Riedesser)
Pollagh became notorious throughout Ireland in the 1990s as the address of the House of Prayer, where alleged stigmatic Mrs. Christina Gallagher and what appeared to be a cult following of sorts claimed a number of minor miracles. According to the Irish Times, the House annually attracted 10,000 pilgrims and generated £500,000 locally. Archbishop Neary of Tuam held an inquiry, concluding that there was “no evidence that supernatural phenomena of whatever kind” were taking place at The House of Prayer, which nevertheless closed in May 1998 “due to the restrictions placed on the centre and the prying involvement of the church“.
The Achill Head Hotel has a good bar (smilingly presided by the toothy head of a 365lb Porbeagle shark caught with rod and line by a big-game fisher in 1932) and an excellent restaurant. It also hosts the Saturday Night Disco, where the local girls like to wear so much eye make-up that, going to Mass the next morning, they look like hungover raccoons.
Dooagh / Dumha Acha is sheltered from the winds by the bleak and imposing bulk of Croaghaun to the west.
The Folklife Centre is a C19th cottage furnished in period style, apparently designed to foster understanding of how miserable life used to be on Achill.
Don Allum (1937 – 1992), the first man to row across the Atlantic Ocean in both directions, completed the second leg of his voyage close to the memorial on Dooagh beach on 4 September 1987. The Londoner’s achievement is commemorated by a plaque in the centre of the village.
American artist Robert Henri was a regular visitor in the early decades of the last century. It was during his early trips to Achill prior to the outbreak of World War I that Henri painted extensively and is reputed to have made portraits of almost all the children in Dooagh village. His portrayal of Johnny and Biddy Commins , entitled ‘Himself and Herself’ (1913), is now regarded as a masterpiece, with big demand in for reproductions. He bought Corrymore House on the hill above Dooagh in 1924, and spent every summer there until he died in the USA in 1929. (A previous occupant was the notorious Captain Boycott, who moved there after his house at Keem was burned down).
The Dooagh Pipe Band, with over 50 members, is the largest of five such bands in the Achiil area.
Keem (pronounced “kim”) is accessible along a clifftop road where an exposed seam of amethyst quartz is visible in the cliffside.
Keem Bay & Strand is a beautiful horseshoe crescent of golden sands and turquoise waters, making it a leading family bathing spot. This bay was long the killing ground for the Achill basking shark fishery.
Moyteoge Head is striking for its steeply rising rounded appearance as it drops dramatically down to the ocean. An old British Army observation post, built to prevent the Germans from landing arms for Irish insurgents during WWI, is still visible, but not easily accessible.
Achill Head, a spectacular mile-long promontory linked to the Keem valley by the cliffs of Benmore, is the most westerly part of Achill Island , tailing off with two sea stacks. Although often described as Ireland’s best dive site, enthusiasts should bear in mind that large blue sharks have been caught off Achill Head. Local wrecks include the barque Neptune, lost in 1860, a late C19th fishing trawler named Successful, a 100-year old Achill yawl, and a ketch called Charles Stewart Parnell, which was charged with supplying the local lighthouse when it ran aground in 1928.
Next: Saddle Head & Blacksod Bay