Many people plan visits to Ireland and focus mainly on Dublin, Killarney, and the Ring of Kerry. Those places are beautiful and well worth a visit, but our Ireland travel recommendations always take you west and north where towns like Galway and Westport and Sligo are waiting to greet you with live music, booming food and beverage scenes, art, and wild, rugged coastal scenery.
If you’re a fan of the outdoors, visiting Connemara, outside of Galway is a must. Hiking in the West of Ireland is my favorite way to get away, and the beaches are some of the most pristine you will ever see.
Just north of Connemara you’ll find the incredibly beautiful Achill Island, a place for hiking, taking in the Wild Atlantic Way, finding cozy pubs, and enjoying the peace and beauty of the West Coast of Ireland.
On our most recent trip to Ireland, we spent two days on Achill Island. On our first, we arrived to darkening, stormy skies, which made for a dramatic scene as we drove around looking for a smidgen of sunset. The sunset on the West Coast of Ireland is also a must-catch every night you can.
Since we were losing light quickly, we explored by car, stopping to take in photos and to turn our faces to the cool rain. Irish rain feels so good. It makes my skin feel so hydrated, and I just feel alive in general when I am out in it!
Once the sun went down, we retired to our hotel for an amazing dinner. I’ll cover that in a future post.
The following morning brought quite a different scene as the sun came out, blue skies greeted us, and a calm sea looked like glass that went on forever. When you get days like this in Ireland, you get outside!
Up and over the narrow mountain road we went, marveling at the beauty of the coastline. No matter how many times I visit Ireland, I never get tired of it. Each day brings a new view and a new perspective that makes me fall in love all over again.
From taking in the Achill Sound views from cliff tops to exploring Keem Beach on foot, we squeezed every ounce of beautiful weather out of the day, and silliness ensued as I tried (and failed) to get the perfect jump shot!
Keem Beach is a quiet stunner with the softest white sand and gentle surf. Next time we’ll bring a picnic, a book, and a thermos of something hot to enjoy an afternoon out there snacking and snoozing. I’m dreaming of this day already. . .
Our Achill Island wanders then took us to the abandoned famine village of Dooagh, perched high upon a hill. About 40 houses once stood here around 1838. The inhabitants left no written accounts behind, and archaeologists have been discovering clues into their lives and disappearance, with some news about the villages coming out just this month. Accounts suggest that it was the famine that drove inhabitants from the settlement, either by death or to live elsewhere, as happened with millions of Irish people during the time.
Achill Island is very quiet; dark starry nights are punctuated by curls of turf-fire smoke from chimneys and the sounds of traditional music escaping local pub doors. Other than that, you’ll hear the lapping of waves, a few cars, and not much else. For me, this is the perfect place to be closer to nature and away from all of the stresses of the modern world. If you’re planning a trip to Ireland, step off the beaten tourist track and consider some of my favorite, less-frequented places for a truly memorable vacation.
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