You'll find many ways to spend your time here in Achill. These are some of our favourites.
Achill boasts some of the finest beaches in Ireland including 5 with blue flag status. Our favourite is Keem Bay on the western tip of the island; surely the jewel in the crown, a perfect horseshoe bay ideal for bathing on a hot summer's day. Of course in Dugort we are lucky to have 2 blue flag beaches, one on either side of The Old Fisherman's Cottage. The beautiful Silver Strand, protected by the magnificent Slievemore Mountain to the west and the Golden Strand to the east.
The Atlantic Drive (Wild Atlantic Way as it is now known) is not to be missed. A drive around the southern edge of the island where the Atlantic Ocean crashes against the rocks, creating its own natural drama and breathtaking views.
This is like having your own private beach. We love to start the day with an early morning stroll across the strand to the old pier. This is where my Grandad launched his curragh to check his lobster pots! Or why not fill the picnic basket with goodies, lay the blanket on the sand and enjoy a day on this beautiful beach.
The fierce and dreaded Pirate Queen, Grace O'Malley, once ruled these ancient 16th Century shores. Reputedly the only woman to refuse to bow to Queen Elizabeth I...and live! Kildownet Castle was one of her many fortifications. There is an overwhelming sense of peace and stillness that we love about this place.
Our favourite place to eat on the whole island and it's a two minute walk away! From seafood chowder, crab claw salad, lasagne and properly filled sandwiches to an extensive choice of delicious cakes this is an amazing little restaurant not to be missed!
Adventure sports are booming on Achill. A handful of activity centres offer different experiences from surfing & paddle boarding to kayaking and kitesurfing. Take in cliffs, caves and sea arches around the island where it's not uncommon to encounter dolphins, basking sharks and seals in the water.
Achill Island offers a hillwalking paradise. Unlike many other popular walking destinations in the west of Ireland, where access to the land is limited, most of the countryside on Achill is in common ownership and therefore freely accessible for walking. Our favourite climbs are Slievemore Mountain and Croaghan (the third highest sea cliffs in Europe).
Reputedly the smallest pub in Ireland. Charming and with so much atmosphere ... no radio, no TV, no phone and no food but a whole lot of craic.
Achill is a fantastic place for cycling. The island has three looped trails in the Achill Cycle Hub. We are also at one end of the magnificent new Great Western Greenway, a world-class 42km off-road cycle and walking trail that follows the route of the former Achill-Westport railway line.
On a clear day the superb panoramic view from the top of Minaun Heights is really not to be missed. Luckily a tarmac road leads you almost to the very peak, so no climbing gear needed on this occasion. From the summit you can enjoy breathtaking views of the whole island and the sunsets are spectacular.
For years Achill has attracted artists from all over the world, the light here is unlike any other. There are some wonderful art galleries on the island. Why not visit Francis & Ham at Red Fox Press, (it's actually the next cottage from ours) and Margaret at The Western Light Gallery who holds regular exhibitions.
Perhaps not on everybody's wish list but certainly a place that is so special to us. Unbaptised babies were not deemed appropriate for burial in consecrated church land & were instead quietly buried on the edge of cliffs. There is a cillín close to the cottage that should never be forgotten. 'No one ever talked about it & you'd pass over one without knowing it was there'.
The inhabitants of these two small beautiful islands (including my grandfather) were evacuated in the 1930s after most of their young men died in a terrible sea storm...their houses, still standing to this day. Fine white sand is found everywhere on the deserted islands and the sea is absolutely crystal clear.
By daytime Pure Magic is the place to head for all your water sport activities but in the evening this is another of our favourite places to eat and enjoy a bottle of wine. From their famous pizzas to Thai curry & Achill lamb the food here is very good indeed. And all served in a really laid back 'surfy' atmosphere.
You might see the shoals of dolphins & porpoises which frequent the bay behind the cottage...there's nothing more magical than watching them flip in the ocean just for you.
For more information take a look at the Discover Achill website www.discoverachill.com