Achill Island : Pauline’s experience

The beginning of my Achill Island journey..

I began my journey on Achill Island following the Greenway west, on the north coast of a peninsula. At first I was surrounded by forest but gradually the landscape opened producing a large view of Blacksod Bay and Belmulet peninsula. Half way to Achill town, I made a very welcomed stop in a coffee shop, asking for a fresh drink, because it was hot and sunny on that day. There I met a cyclist, who was from Northern Ireland and was cycling the whole Wild Atlantic Way!

Achill

After 16km, I finally reached Achill, the village, and crossed the bridge to Achill Island, over Achill sound, a narrow strait which separates the island from the rest of Ireland. I kept along the main inland road for another 8km slowly going uphill, until I saw Keel, and its huge beach. Keel is a tourist village and has a lovely local market. There, as I was admiring some pictures by a local photographer, he showed me one he took during a storm. He explained me that after each storm they have to clean the beach because it’s full of discarded plastic items, especially toothbrushes. There is no land between the west coast of Ireland and the shores of the united States….”where could these toothbrushes have come from?’ I asked him. He looked at me and replied with that typical Irish humour I love: “well, I guess sailors and fishermen must have very bright and clean teeth”. That was enough for me to to promise myself not to use plastic tooth brush anymore.

Keel is worth a visit. You can walk along its white sand beach lined with pebbles on one side, and transparent blue-green waves on the other side. The end of the beach is dominated by huge green cliffs. Keel is also a funny place, the sheep walk completely free in the middle of the streets, eating grass in private gardens. Life seems out of time here, so far away from modern cities. It’s very peaceful.

Keem Beach

After Keel, the road ends up in a cul sac at Keem beach. It’s probably one of the best cliff roads of Ireland, reminiscent of the postcard images of the Wild Atlantic Way I was surrounded by green grass and ferns, white sheep, and dominating the blue ocean. The path has a gentle incline but I found the landscape very joyful. Suddenly at the end of the road (which almost feels at the end of the world), the cliffs open to their hidden gem: Keem beach. Its white sand leads to turquoise water where the green cliffs reflect. I sat one the beach, eating a waffle with chocolate and banana bought at a food truck, and admired the view to the bay.

On the way back, I made a stop at the deserted village of Slievemore. Only walls of stone remain here. But you can see the houses along an ancient road. Very small houses, most of them were only one room, where humans and animals used to live together. The houses were abandoned during the Great Famine, and people moved to Dooagh. Some of their descendants still own the land of the deserted village. The road then goes North between small mountains and on to the small village of Doogort, where there’s a lovely place to get delicious food.

The journey comes to an end….

On my way to Achill sound, it started raining (yes, that happens from time to time in Ireland), but the noise wind and rain was drowned out by the hypnotic sound of waves. I passed a tower which used to belong to Grace O’Malley, a famous Irish pirate queen. The next day I crossed Achill’s bridge again and was back to mainland Ireland. Actually, that part is Corraun peninsula, and the road goes toward south, along the East part of the sound, ending in the small village of Corraun where you can enjoy again the view to Clare Island. The road is a coastal drive to Mulranny, along the cliffs, with little sign of people. Only green fern fields, sheep, and the deep blue sea, under a sunny blue sky. It was exactly how I dreamt of my trip.

From Mulranny, I went back on the greenway, toward Newport and Westport. Mulranny is a nice place to stay, a bit uphill, which provides you with a nice overview to Clew Bay and all its little islands.  The green way is a super quiet path, surrounded by green hills, fields, sheep and trees. In fact, there’s more trees at the bottom of the bay, than on the exposed coast where it’s boggier. I guess it’s because the bottom of the bay is more protected from the wind. All in all it was a fantastic trip. Rural Ireland at it’s finest!

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