Achill Island

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Ireland is always one of my travel highlights for the year. If you missed my 2016 travel recap, you can read it here.

When we visit Ireland, it’s always to see family and friends and favorite places in Galway; it’s a city you just can’t miss, and surround Connemara and the Wild Atlantic Way are dear to our hearts for many reasons. We also usually try to take a side trip, either in Ireland or somewhere else in Europe. In the past, we’ve done Prague, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Brussels, and others, in addition to stays in Connemara and Sligo in Ireland. On our November trip to Galway, we headed north to Achill Island in County Mayo, and it was just the little getaway we needed.

Our home on Achill was the absolutely lovely Achill Island Hotel (Óstán Oileán Acla in Irish), situated in a place with 360 degree mountain and sea views. It was a simply stunning, quiet, peaceful location.

Achill Island Rooms were cozy and comfortable, country-style decoration with all of the modern conveniences you could want, including WiFi and a great big soaking tub, which I took advantage of after our drive from Galway through Connemara. 

Achill Island Hotel We visited Achill in November, which is sort of off-season, so one of the attractive features of the Achill Island Hotel was a restaurant on-property. It meant we didn’t have to search for what might be open when we arrived hungry in the evening!

seafood casserole

Not only was it convenient, but it turned out to be incredible. Compliments to the chef for some really delicious meals that utilized Irish ingredients like famed local seafood in my seafood medley dish. It was chock full of flavorful seafood atop mashed potatoes, maybe the best I have had.

Even in my stuffed state, I had to have an Irish coffee to finish the meal. It’s kind of an unwritten rule when we visit Ireland.

Irish Coffee

With full bellies, we decided to head out into the cool night for a walk along the main drag in Achill, which was quiet, with only a few people out and about. The most noise we heard was from sea birds in the sea next to the hotel, feeding at low tide. A few locals were putting Christmas lights on the stores, and it was just a very peaceful and good feeling all around. It also helped immensely to get some fresh air.

Before we retired to our rooms for a couple hours of chatting, we headed back to the hotel pub to try their local beer.

Achill Island Hotel

Brewed with seaweed, this Achill beer had a nice richness to it, and of course that hint of sea salt on the finish. It was really good, and it’s always fun to see what local products are being made around Ireland. Craft beer has really picked up, as has craft gin. 

Achill Irish Beer

After our cozy night in, we woke up to a stunning, calm day on Achill, with the below views out our bedroom window and the windows of the hotel’s breakfast room.

 Achill Island IMG_0276

Clew Bay

We stopped and admired the views for some time before checking out and taking off to explore Achill and more of the breathtaking Wild Atlantic Way for the day.

Achill Island is less than two hours from Galway and very near to Westport, another favorite town in the West of Ireland.  It will make you feel like you are a million miles from everything.

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Tags: Achill Island, coastal living, County Mayo, food blogger, Ireland, Mayo, Travel, travel blog, wild atlantic way

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. 

Achill Island Mayo 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.

  achill island

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!

 

 

achill sound 

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!

wild atlantic way ireland

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.

achill island

Achill Island views Achill Island Achill Island

Keem Beach Achill Island

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!

Achill Island

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. . .

famine village

 Achill Island Ireland

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

 Achill Island

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.

For even more Ireland travel blog posts:

Afternoon Tea at the Meyrick Hotel
Ashford Castle
Ballyconneely

Ballynahinch Castle

Belfast in Photos

The Burren and Kinvara – hiking in Ireland

Bushmill’s Distillery

Colorful Images from Ireland

Giant’s Causeway and North Antrim

Galway Saturday Market
Galway – Spirit One Spa and Sheridan’s Wine Bar
Hiking in Connemara

Hiking Errisbeg in Roundstone

Kinsale, Ireland’s Gourmet Capital

Kylemore Abbey

O’Grady’s Barna Pier

Photos of Galway

Sligo

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Tags: Achill Island, blog, Ireland, Ireland blog posts, Mayo, Travel, travel blog, travel blogger, wild atlantic way

Planning my posts on Ireland has proven to be the most difficult of the posts that I have done so far. Which experiences do I include? Out of the hundreds (maybe thousand?) of photos I have taken, which do I choose?  Over the years this place has become more like a second home than a vacation spot, so a little background might be helpful before sharing my Ireland with you.

I first went to Ireland with my family at the age of 9, fell in love with it, and returned for a visit when I turned 18. When the time to choose a study abroad location came, there was no doubt in my mind that Galway would be it, and so I was off to live in this amazing city for 7 months. Leaving at the end of that time period proved to be one of the hardest things I have ever done, and I spent the next couple of years just wanting to go back.

Fast forward to college graduation and then my first job which I will spare you the details of, but it is enough to say that I was miserable. And then one day in walked my husband. Having spent time in Ireland and living close to many recent Irish arrivals in Boston, I knew before he even started speaking where he was from. Needless to say, we hit it off, and less than 6 months later I was on a plane to meet his family.

We have taken a dozen trips there since, some just for vacations and some for weddings, christenings, and other celebrations, and each trip has been unique, special, and ended too quickly.

My Ireland post will be broken up into a few parts. Right now I am not even sure how many posts I will do, but there will be at least 3, today’s on the countryside of Ireland’s Mayo coast, Thursday the highlights of Connemara, County Galway, and Saturday, the food and nightlife of Galway city.

Exploring the West of Ireland can be done from a variety of places, and my favorites are Galway and Westport. If you stay in either of these towns you will be within an hour or so drive of the countryside and can come back and enjoy the “city” life in the evening. You can of course stay in the many inns and bed and breakfasts out in the country as well, and I would suggest starting here: http://www.discoverireland.ie/ to look for lodging. You are also welcome to contact me!

IIn Westport, I would highly recommend the Clew Bay Hotel as your lodging base. It is in the center of everything, very comfortable, and they offer a lovely breakfast room service, which I enjoy taking full advantage of. Is there anything better than breakfast in bed? Starting out from Westport, I have two places that are must visits: Achill Island and Clare Island. You can access Achill easily by car, but as anywhere in Ireland, be super careful to watch for sheep and cows in the road, and when going around tight bends be sure to honk the horn repeatedly so that fast moving vehicles coming from the other side are aware that someone is coming. Once on Achill, the island is yours for exploring. You can see Europe’s highest cliffs, an old British defense fort, and endless space for walking, running, cycling, and picknicking. On Achill, like most places in the Irish countryside, you can pretty much walk anywhere, unless posted, as long as you respect the land, keep your dog on leash, don’t litter, etc.

Achill

My absolute favorite place in Mayo is a little island in the middle of Clew Bay, Clare Island. There is a somewhat famous song by the Galway band, The Sawdoctors that is about Clare Island, and because of this I couldn’t wait to get out there. In order to get to Clare Island, you will have to drive a short distance from Wesport to Roonagh and take the very short ferry ride to the island. The first thing you will see is the castle of the infamous pirate queen, Granuaile (Grace O’Malley). All that remains of the castle are ruins, but you can go inside, look out, and imagine what it might have been like to defend your island back in the 16th century.

Clare Island offers several walking trails as well as hilly, winding roads for biking. There aren’t many cars on the island with a population of about 165 people, so even a novice cyclist would probably feel safe. We enjoy spending hours walking around the island, sitting on the beaches, and searching for seals along its rocky cliffs. Clare Island is also an archaeology buff’s dream, with Neolithic tombs, an Abbey dating back to the 13th century, and a walking trail marked with important historical markers. Without a doubt, you will get a great workout here if you want one. Which brings me to food. . .

The island is small, but there are a couple of quality places to eat: the community center, which offers delicious seafood chowder, sandwiches, tea, and other lunch/snack items in a cafeteria-style environment, and The Bay View Hotel, which completely surprised me with its delicious chicken tikka sandwich on a plate loaded with a veggie-packed salad. The views from the Bay View are, well of the bay :) and they are stunning. I have not yet stayed overnight on the island, but when we do, we will likely stay here.  Below are a few photos and useful links.  Enjoy and stay tuned for more!

Clare Island

 

Granuaile

 

Granuaile Window

View from Clare Island

http://www.clareisland.info/

http://www.clareislandferry.com/

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Tags: Achill Island, cycling, Food, hiking, Ireland, Mayo, picnics, tourism, Travel, Wesport

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