Achill Island, one of Ireland’s largest isles, situated in the west coast of County Mayo, has been very popular with tourists – both local and international.
It also helps that many of its sights featured prominently in the Oscar-nominated movie The Banshees of Inisherin, drawing eager fans on a locations-trail.
Plus, Achill’s Keem Bay, has also made it to Big 7 Travel’s annual list of ‘The 50 Best Beaches In The World’.
If you’re looking to visit Achill Island, here’s a Travel2Ireland Guide to the best things to do and see in Achill Island. From exploring its fabulous blue-flag beaches, drives with magnificent views, sunsets and droolworthy coffee spots, to drone-friendly landscapes – we have covered it all.
Keem Beach is a blue-flag beach that has always been very popular for water sports. A gorgeous rural beach, sheltered by cliffs, it was also the location for the home of Brendan Gleeson’s character Colm Doherty. The final scene of The Banshees of Inisherin was set at the beach at Keem.
It was Keem Beach that also charmed the editors of Big 7, who write on their website: “Its gleaming white sand rivals tropical islands and the water is superbly clear.
The sun might not always be shining, but when it does, it’s world-class – and yes, it’s beautiful even on a rainy day.”
Things to do at Keem Beach: Book yourself a surfing lesson at the surfing schools, have a picnic, swim, and take in lovely sunsets. In the summer months, keep an eye out for sightings of the huge basking sharks or dolphins – they are known to frequent Keem Bay.
The Atlantic Drive
The Atlantic Drive makes for one of the most scenic drives on Achill Island. You could do the drive in a loop. It offers you amazing views of coastal landscape, the rocky Ashleam Bay, the uninhabited island of Achillbeg, Clare Island, Dún na Glaise promontory fort as well as those of Dooega and Minaun Heights.
The white cliffs surrounding Ashleam Bay also overlook a small, pebbly cove. Enclosed by rocky cliffs some 80-100ft high, the cove makes for quite a sight. A winding road near Cloughmore will lead you to dazzling blue waters lapping gently on the pink, yellow and white jewel-like pebbles lining the shore. The Atlantic Drive is full of many such rewarding sights, and you won’t be able to keep yourself from clicking a hundred different shots!
Things to do while on the Atlantic Drive: The Atlantic Drive offers fantastic opportunities for taking some great aerial shots and videos. There are also plenty of viewing and pull-in points with benches to sit by and savour panoramic views.
The Deserted Village
For history buffs, the Deserted Village offers a great peek into the past. An abandoned settlement that is home to 80 to 100 stone cottages dating back to the 1800s or so, it holds great interest for archeologists, and tourists.
It is believed that the current cottages were abandoned in the early 20th century. You can still spot the potato ridges that are hidden beneath the grass and walk past the walls of the ruins. Eerie, atmospheric, and haunting, it’s a place like no other.
Things to do near the Deserted Village: It helps that the Deserted Village is located next to the Atlantic Drive, and various other attractions are just a drive away. For example, Keem Bay is a 15-minute drive, and Keel beach, a mere 5-minute drive. We recommend that you head to Minuan Heights from the Deserted Village. It will take you about 20 minutes by car.
Minuan Heights offers the best views of the island and is a very popular spot for walkers, cyclists, and drone enthusiasts.
On a clear and sunny day (yes, there are days like that aplenty), you will be treated to unhindered views of the entire island. From the deep blue sea, rugged cliffs, golden bays, and surfers on the beach below – the views are to die for.
Things to do at Minuan Heights: It’s a perfect spot to let your drone capture some Insta-worthy panoramic shots. You will also find many paragliders taking a daring leap, and these make for some great photographs as well. A small hike to the top of the cliff will lead you to the Mother Mary statue, and even more breathtaking views!
A popular blue-flag beach, it’s a magnet for watersports enthusiasts. Its four perfect kilometers of golden sands are inviting for those who love to park themselves on a beach as well as those who want to go surfing, kitesurfing and kayaking.
Things to do near Keel Beach: You can set up a tent or take your campervan – there’s a well-equipped camping site right next to the beach. You can also hire a wetsuit or take up paddleboarding and surfing lessons.
We highly recommend this spectacular formation of caves and pillars carved by the Atlantic into the face of the cliffs. Known as Cathedral Rocks, they offer the opportunity to explore the rock pools at the base of the cliffs during low tide. The beach is pebbled, and you can spend many leisurely hours taking in the views, and while doing so, do keep an eye for dolphins. During summer months, you may come upon schools of dolphins that swim close to the shore.
Things to do at Cathedral Rocks: Pack a nice picnic and take a stroll along the pebbled beach. You will spot rock stackings and a rock castle and during summer, you will also find a lot of people cooking burgers on a barbecue, filling the air with delicious fragrances. Make sure you have carried something nice to eat; there are no coffee or snack stations and it’s very hard to ignore the scent of freshly barbecued and roasted food!
The Banshees of Inisherin locations-trail
Achill Tourism offers tour guides for coach parties, providing a first-hand account of the locations and the stories surrounding the filming of The Banshees of Inisherin. They also have a free and downloadable trail map that you can use to explore the locations at your own pace. A must-do, especially if you are a Martin McDonagh fan!
Other attractions at Achill Island: Pamper yourself at Achill Seaweed Baths… Do something arty, free, and fun – A visit to Ronan Halpin Gallery… Indulge in your adventurous side at Pure Magic Achill Pick unique handcrafted gifts… and enjoy some great coffee at The Beehive… Take a night-time drive and spend some magical hours at the Mayo Dark Sky Park.