Attractions on Achill Island, Ireland

a typical road on achill island

A Day Trip Around Achill Island

At LoveAchill, we get customers calling in to us looking for information on places to see on their day trip to the Island, unfortunately these visitors are normally staying in accomodation off Achill but have decided to do a little tour from their base off the Island. So we thought we would put together an example tour of Achill to make sure visitors get to experiance more of Achill rather then a simple drive on, drive off.

chough achill island

Wildlife on Achill Island

Achill has a wide variety of wildlife both on and off the island. Most are easy to see, for others it is much more difficult, but what a pleasure to get to see some elusive species!

machair achill island

Plant Life on Achill Island

An interesting feature of the Achill landscape are the areas of machair – flat, extensive plains of wind-blown sand which develop behind sandy beaches.  Machair consists of a mixture of sands derived from the shells of animals which lived on the offshore platform and from glacial tills.  Machair beaches are often found between outcrops or in small bays between headlands.

Cycling on Achill Island

The National Cycle Network is being developed throughout Ireland and a number of Cycle Hub towns are located across the country. Achill is described as wild, windy and stunningly beautiful. With numerous historic sites, excellent facilities and activities. The island, which is situated in County Mayo, has a long history of human settlement with megalithic tombs and promontory forts dating back 5,000 years. There's also a 15th century fortified tower house, Kildownet Castle, the 19th century Achill Mission, and the poignant deserted village at Slievemore. 

The Achill landscape is also a major draw with postcard perfect blue flag beaches, some of Europe's highest cliffs and large tracts of blanket bog sweeping over the island's two peaks and down to the shore. Cycling along the quiet lanes and trails is a wonderful way to discover the island's interior. There are three routes in Achill, marked and numbered 1,2 & 3 ranging from 10km to 48km.

History and Heritage

For a small Island, Achill has a wealth of history and heritage, listed here are a selection to pique your curiosity:

Revd  Edward Nangle:  Born in Dublin in 1800, his family were The Barons of Navan for 600 years, he was the first Protestant in the family.  In 1831 he decided to start a Protestant colony on The Island and moved to Achill permanently in 1834.  Interestingly the mission initially preached to, and taught the Achill islanders in their native tongue, and Nangle himself learned Irish. The aim of the Mission was to bring Christ and the Bible to this part of Ireland. The colony's buildings and church can be found in Dugort at the foot of Slievemore.

Heinrich Boll:  Awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1972 after the publication of his novel "Gruppenbild mit Dame" (Group Portrait with Lady).  He spent time on Achill Island and his cottage  is now used as a guesthouse for international and Irish artists.  He recorded some of his experiences in Ireland in his book Irisches Tagebuch (Irish Journal). Heinrich Böll Author

Robert Henri:  An American painter born in 1865, Henri made several trips to Achill Island and rented Corrymore House near Dooagh in 1913.  Every spring and summer for the following years he would paint portraits of the children of Dooagh.  Henri's paintings of children are seen today as the most sentimental of his work.  In 1924 he bought Corrymore House. Robert Henri Artist

Paul Henry:  Born in 1877 Henry worked as an illustrator in London for a short period, and then visited Achill Island, and was captivated by the local landscape so much so that he decided to settle here.  He lived on The Island from 1910 to 1919.  His paintings of the West of Ireland are his most famous and have created an iconic image of the time. Paul Henry Artist

Graham Greene:  Novelist Graham Greene, stayed on Achill Island a number of times in the late 1940s.  He wrote parts of the novels "The Heart of the Matter" and "Fallen Idol" in Dooagh.  He was introduced to Achill by his mistress, Catherine Walston. She rented a traditional stone cottage in Dooagh, with no electricity, one outside tap for water, and a corrugated iron roof.  Unfortunately the cottage has since been demolished.

Captain Charles Boycott:  Achill was home for 20 years to Captain Charles Boycott who famously gave his name to the English language.  He first lived in Keem Bay and then at Corrymore House, on the slopes of Croaghaun.

The Yellow Lady:  In 1888 Mrs Agnes McDonnell bought the estate of the Earl of Cavan on Achill Island.  She hired a James Lynchehaun as her land agent, but the employment was to be short lived as he attacked Agnes in 1894 and so began years of arrests and escapes which in turn lead to James Carney's book, "The Playboy and the Yellow Lady" and this book chronicles the case in great detail.  In 1998, the film "Love and Rage" was made, it is based on the story of Agnes and Lynchehaun, it was filmed on Achill Island and The Valley House, it stars Daniel Craig and Greta Scacchi.

EIRE Markers:  The Coastal Watch was set up in 1939 to guard against invasion of neutral Ireland, from the sea. More than 80 locations around the coast from north Louth to Donegal were selected, and look out posts were constructed on these sites.  A team of men carried out watch duties over the sea from these posts.  In 1942-43, they were tasked with the building of marker signs near their look out posts called the EIRE signs or the EIRE markings. One can be found past the village of Dooagh on the way to Keem Beach. This site is unique because it has the greatest distance between the lookout post and the EIRE marker.

World War 2 Graves:  In the Church of Ireland graveyard in Dugort, Private Jonas Arthur Hardingham, No:960651, Age 23. 07/08/1940 Pioneer Corps Aux is buried. There are another 2 unidentified Commonwealth burials of the 1939-1945 war here.

Salvage Winch:  The winch used in salvaging the wreck of what is believed to have been a Greek freighter the "Aghia Eirini", torpedoed in 1940, can still be visited above the cove on "The Atlantic Drive" that the Captain most likely aimed for to avoid sinking out at sea. Shortly after the salvage rights were acquired by a local Achill merchant and a derrick, winch, and other machinery were set up on top of the cliffs surrounding the wreck site.

RAF Plane Crash:  In June 1950 a Hanley Page Halifax from RAF base Aldergrove in Belfast, had completed a survey flight and was returning up along the west coast when the weather conditions deteriorated with thick fog causing the plane to crash on Croaghaun, Achill Island with the tragic loss of the 8 crewmen.

The Michael Davitt Bridge:   Named after Michael Davitt, the founder of the National Land League, who officially opened the original bridge in 1887.  This new replacement bridge was installed and opened in 2008 and can rise & pivot to allow sea vessels pass through The Sound. It is maintained by Mayo County Council.

Achill Henge

Constructed over a weekend in November 2011, "Achill Henge" is over 4 metres  high and 100 metres in circumference by 30 metres in diameter. 


Located just 90 meters from Achill island, the idyllic Inishbiggle (or Inis Bigil in Irish, which means “island of the fasting”) lies between the mainland and Achill Island.  

Achill Beg

Achill Beg is a small island off the south coast of Achill Island, beside Cloughmore.  People lived on Achill Beg for around 3000 years and now the island is deserted.