Achill Island

Achill Island – Ireland’s largest island
Lashed by the ocean, carved by the wind and swept by the rain, Achill is one of Ireland’s most spectacular and beautiful places. It makes a fantastic day trip from Westport!
Achill Island occupies an area of about 57 square miles. Achill’s location as one of the most westerly islands in Europe, and the climatic effects of the Gulf Stream, create a distinctive combination of flora and fauna.

The colourful landscapes of Achill have inspired both writers and artists alike, and despite the buzz of people who flock to this island every year, it can also be a place of retreat for anybody looking for peace and solitude.

With its majestic mountains, breathtaking landscapes, and miles of unspoilt Blue Flag beaches, Achill is a paradise for lovers of outdoor pursuits and water sports of all types. Popular watersports in Achill include swimming, windsurfing, surfing, kite surfing, kayaking and canoeing.

The Great Western Greenway from Westport to Achill, conveniently finishes at the bridge to the island at Achill Sound.

A visit to Achill can be as active, or as relaxed, as you choose. Achill offers over a dozen restaurants with fresh Atlantic seafood a speciality, and its pubs and bars provide a traditional Irish welcome.

The imprint of past generations is everywhere on Achill, from megalithic tombs to ancient forts, historic churches to deserted villages.

Achill’s long history features a rich cast of characters, from the Granuaile, the pirate queen, to artists and writers including Paul Henry and Heinrich Boll.

Achill has a history of human settlement that is at least 5,000 years old. The remains of megalithic tombs and monuments suggest settlement by Neolithic man in the 3rd or 4th centuries BC.
The arrival of Christianity into Ireland is reflected in two remnants on Achill: at Kildavnet the ancient church is named after St. Damhnait (St. Dympna) - a 7th century saint, and at Slievemore there is an ancient church site and Holy Well, both dedicated to St. Colman, another 7th century saint. The O’Malley’s and Granuaile had a strong influence on the island. The name O’Malley is still common in Achill today. The best known member of this family was Granuaille (Grace O’Malley), the legendary Pirate Queen whose son own Kildavnet Castle. Between 1831 and 1834 a Protestant missionary settlement known as The Colony was built at Dugort by Reverend Edward Nangle and can still be seen today. The ‘Colony’ was very successful for a time, even buying two-thirds of the island in 1850. However it’s success provoked a great long-running row between Nangle and the Catholic Archbishop John McHale, who built a monastery in nearby Bunnacurry in the 1850s to counteract the strength of the Colony.
The famous ‘Deserted Village’ at Slievemore near Keel, consists of the remains of almost 100 traditional stone cottages. Their most recent period of use ended in the early 20th century, when the cottages were used for ‘booleying’ by the local population. As ‘booley’ houses they were occupied during the summer months, when cattle would be grazed on the mountainside, but the residents would return to their homes in the villages of Pollagh and Dooagh for the winter months.


Achill boasts a number of well established summer schools and festivals each year, one of the best known being the Scoil Acla Summer School, with workshops in traditional music, set and ceili dancing and of course, Gaeilge Acla – the Irish language. Other annual events include the Achill Archaeological summer school and festivals such as the Achill Yawl Racing Festival, Achill Seafood festival, Achill Walks Festival and many others.

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