Wild Atlantic Achill / Achill l’Atlantique

Achill, Keel, beach, ocean, Atlantic, Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland, Irlande, Atlantique, plage, océan

It was Friday evening and we were approaching Westport, Co Mayo, for a 2-night stay in the Westport Coast Hotel with the rest of Brian’s family, to celebrate his mother’s birthday.

On hearing the weather forecast for the next day, Brian gave me a high five. It was going to be a weekend of glorious sunshine, with highs of 18°C on the west coast of Ireland.

‘Everything is pointing to Achill…’ I said with an excited smile. We still hesitated whether to make the hour long drive out to this large island separated from mainland Mayo by a narrow sound. But the weather was on our side.
Achill, here we come!


C’était vendredi soir et nous approchions de Westport, Co Mayo, pour un weekend à l’hôtel Westport Coast avec la famille de Brian, à l’occasion de l’anniversaire de sa mère.

A l’écoute du bulletin météorologique du lendemain samedi, Brian me tapa dans la main. Ce serait une journée de grand soleil, avec des températures de 18°C sur la côte ouest d’Irlande.

“Tout nous pousse vers Achill…” lui dis-je avec un sourire excité. Nous hésitions encore à faire une heure de route pour aller sur cette grande île, séparée du reste du comté de Mayo par un chenal étroit franchi par un pont. Mais la météo fit pencher la balance du côté d’Achill.
A l’abordage !

Google Maps, Achill, Mayo, Ireland

Keel Strand

As I wandered round and through the village [Keel], and out on the road that led to Pollough, and looked down on Dooagh and to the noble cliffs of Achill Head, I felt that here I must stay somehow or another. I would not go any further.

Paul Henry (1876-1958)

The first time we visited Achill (Acaill in Irish) was on an icy New Year’s Day, in 2010. There was snow on the sand of Keel Strand, and only two acorns running around.

Seven years and two children later, Keel on a sunny spring day looked dazzling. Away from the shore the emerald green rollers spilled into tumultuous white foam before reaching the long crescent of fine ivory sand. Against the soaring backdrop of the Mweelin cliffs, languid waves of crystalline water flowed over the glistening, mirror-like strand.  

Tropical island? Nope. Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way.


Comme je déambulais dans le village de Keel, puis sur la route qui conduit à Pollough, et regardais Dooagh en contrebas et les nobles falaises d’Achill Head au loin, je sentis que là je devais rester, d’une façon ou d’une autre. Je n’irai pas plus loin.

Paul Henry (1876-1958)

Nous avions visité Achill (Acaill en gaëlique) pour la première fois le jour de l’An 2010. Il y avait de la neige sur la grève de Keel, et seulement deux graines de chêne à nos côtés.

Sept années et deux enfants plus tard, Keel sous le soleil de printemps était éblouissante. A quelques encâblures du rivage, les rouleaux vert émeraude se déversaient en écume blanche tumultueuse avant d’atteindre le long croissant de sable ivoire. Avec en arrière-plan les formidables falaises de Mweelin, les vagues languides déversaient leurs eaux cristallines sur le miroir étincelant de la plage.

Une île tropicale ? Du tout. La Côte sauvage d’Irlande.

Achill, Keel, beach, snow, winter, ocean, Atlantic, Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland

Keel Strand on New Year’s Day 2010 / Plage de Keel le jour de l’An 2010

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On Saturday morning, we hit the road to Achill, following the Great Western Greenway most of the way – what a day to cycle leisurely in the glorious sunshine and stunning scenery!

On Keel Strand three acorns went for an invigorating swim in the chilly Atlantic waters of Achill Island. Brian and I waded in as deep as our knees. It felt like my legs were being severed from my body. It was quite the reality check for me, as I have set myself the challenge of going for a wild swim in Ireland this year. A wet suit may well be required.

Pebbles looked on. He doesn’t yet run to the sea like the other three. His favourite beach game is throwing pebbles in the water, and running back up the sand before the next wave can catch him.


Samedi matin, nous avons pris la route d’Achill, suivant la voie verte presque tout le long. Quelle journée pour pédaler lentement sous le soleil et dans ce cadre grandiose !

Sur la plage de Keel, trois des graines de chêne coururent se baigner dans les eaux atlantiques frigides d’Achill. Brian et moi y avons trempé les pieds jusqu’aux genoux. C’était comme si mes jambes se séparaient du reste de mon corps. Ce fut un douloureux retour à la réalité pour moi, puisque je me suis donné le défi de nager en mer d’Irlande cette année. Une combinaison pourrait s’avérer indispensable.

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Following an impromptu picnic by the beach’s playground, we headed out of Keel, towards the northern side of the island, on a quest for coke-flavoured ice lollies for the acorns.

Dugort, once Achill’s tourist hub, boasts a beautiful, crescent-shaped beach, in the shadow of Slievemore (alt. 672m/2,204ft), the second highest mountain on the island.


Après un pique-nique impromptu près de l’aire de jeux de la plage, nous avons laissé Keel pour explorer le nord de l’île, tout en recherchant des bâtonnets de glace au cola pour les graines de chêne.

Dugort, naguère le haut-lieu touristique d’Achill, possède une superbe plage en arc-de-cercle, à l’ombre de Slievemore (alt. 672 mètres), le deuxième sommet de l’île.

For lack of any shop in Dugort, we drove along the north coast and its string of pretty sandy coves. Turning away from the shore towards Burnacurry, the landscape changed to the sweeping brown blanket of the East Dugort Bog.

We ended up buying said ice lollies at one of Achill’s few service stations, outside Burnacurry.

There was still time before heading back to Westport for our celebratory dinner with the rest of the family. So we took an inconspicuous right turn towards Dooega (Dumha Éige), on Achill’s Irish-speaking (Gaeltacht) southern tip.

It was to be one of the most dramatic coastal drives ever. 

It started with the narrow and extremely steep mountain road up Minaun (alt. 466m/1,528ft), Achill’s third highest peak. The surfaced road ends at the summit, below three transmitter masts known locally as “the booster”. Technically it is a dead end. But it feels like anything but.

For the mountain offers a breathtaking 360° panoramic view over the whole of Achill.

The acorns bounced across some spongy peat hags to enjoy the uninterrupted vistas over Achill’s north shoreline, Achill Sound and mainland Mayo to the east, and hunchbacked Clare Island to the south.

It felt like standing on top of the world. A world of peat brown and ultramarine blue, with a few wispy white clouds streaking the azure sky for good measure.

The hillsides were scarred here and there by the distinctive lines of turf-cutting, and dotted with blackface sheep grazing on the meagre grass.

Moving across to the other side of the summit, we stood on the edge of the Mweelin cliffs. At our feet, the 3km-long ribbon of Keel Strand stretched its golden sand washed by long Atlantic rollers. Keem Bay and Croghaun, Achill’s highest peak, were clearly visible in the distance.

Mermaid sat a rock, humming to herself. 

The Earth has music for those who listen.


A défaut de commerce à Dugort, nous avons suivi le rivage nord et son enfilade de jolies criques au sable doré. Repartant vers l’intérieur de l’île et le village de Burnacurry, le paysage devint une vaste couverture marron : la tourbière de Dugort Est.

Nous avons fini par acheter les bâtonnets de glace à une des rares stations-service de l’île, à l’orée de Burnacurry.

Il y avait encore le temps avant de retourner à Westport pour le dîner d’anniversaire avec le reste de la famille. Nous avons pris une bifurcation discrète en direction de Dooega (Dumha Éige), sur la pointe sud de l’île, où la population parle irlandais (Gaeltacht).

C’est l’une des routes côtières les plus spectaculaires qui soient.

Tout commença par une petite route étroite et extrêmement raide qui monte à Minaun (alt. 466 mètres), le troisième sommet d’Achill. Le goudron s’arrête à la cîme, coiffée par trois relais de radiodiffusion. Techniquement, c’est un cul-de-sac. Un terme qui paraît totalement incongru.

Car la montagne offre un panorama prodigieux sur l’ensemble d’Achill, et bien au-delà. 

Les graines de chêne bondirent sur le sol spongieux de tourbe noire pour aller admirer l’époustouflante vue panoramique sur le nord d’Achill, Achill Sound et les reliefs du comté de Mayo à l’est, et sur la bosse de Clare Island au sud, à l’embouchure de Clew Bay.

Debout sur le toit du monde. Un monde brun de tourbe et bleu outremer, avec quelques écharpes de brume blanche hachurant l’azur du ciel.

Les collines rousses sont sillonnées çà et là par l’extraction de la tourbe, et ponctuées par des moutons placides à tête noire paissant sur l’herbe rase.

L’autre côté du sommet, au bord des falaises de Mweelin, domine la plage de Keel, à quelque 400 mètres en contrebas. A nos pieds, Keel étirait ses trois kilomètres de sable fin sans cesse lessivés par les longs rouleaux atlantiques. Au loin, la baie de Keem et Croghaun, le point culminant de l’île, étaient clairement visibles.

Sirène s’assit sur un rocher ; elle fredonnait doucement.

La Terre fait de la musique pour ceux qui savent l’entendre.

Driving down the vertiginous mountain road was more nerve-racking than the way up.

Heading south towards Dooega, then Cloughmore, the Wild Atlantic Way proved worthy of its name, with forceful Atlantic breakers crashing relentlessly on the jagged coastal cliffs. The road, often crossed by placid blackface sheep, twists its way up and down steep inclines, revealing more stunning views round every corner. 


A la descente, l’étroite route de montagne plongeait vers le littoral.

Continuant vers le sud en direction de Dooega, puis Cloughmore, la bien-nommée Côte sauvage d’Irlande révèle de puissantes déferlantes s’écrasant implacablement sur les falaises acérées. La route, souvent traversée par des moutons impassibles, serpente le long du littoral accidenté, révélant à chaque virage une vue extraordinaire.

Ashleam Bay

Past the spectacular Ashleam Bay, an unusual road sign showing a person falling off a cliff caught our eye. It stands inside a bend where a narrow gash in the rock face plunges down to the churning ocean below, only metres from the paved road.


Juste après l’époustouflante Ashleam Bay, un panneau routier inusuel attira notre regard : il montrait une personne tombant dans un précipice. Cette pancarte se trouve dans un virage contournant une étroite crevasse verticale qui, à quelques mètres de la route, plonge tout droit vers les flots bouillonnants de l’océan.

Driving through Cloughmore and past Kildownet Castle (one of pirate queen Grace O’Malley’s strongholds), we made our way back to Achill Sound, Malaranny, Newport, and eventually Westport.

Belfast-born artist Paul Henry (1876-1958) made Achill his home for a decade in the early 20th century, and it’s easy to understand why. Its stark mountains, rugged sea cliffs, and stunning sandy beaches have inspired many artists and writers, long before tourism became the mainstay of the island.

Yet the many ruined stone cottages, the immersed remains of the frail currach that never came back to shore, the sturdy blackface sheep with their curled horns, and the unmistakable furrows left by turf-cutting, tell of the harsh reality endured by many generations of islanders, on a land that is over two thirds peat bog, and at the mercy of the ocean.


Passant par Cloughmore à la pointe sud d’Achill, puis à côté du château de Kildownet (qui aurait appartenu à la reine pirate Grace O’Malley), nous avons rallié Achill Sound, puis Malaranny, Newport, et enfin Westport.

L’artiste peintre Paul Henry (1876-1958), natif de Belfast, vécut sur Achill pendant dix ans au début du XXe siècle. Il est facile de comprendre pourquoi. Ses formidables montagnes, ses falaises abruptes et ses fabuleuses plages de sable ont inspiré maints artistes et écrivains, bien avant que le tourisme devienne l’activité principale de l’île.

Pourtant les nombreuses maisonnettes de pierre en ruines, les vestiges engloutis des barques (currach) jamais rentrées à bon port, les moutons robustes aux longues cornes arrondies, et les sillons creusés à la main dans la tourbière témoignent d’une vie de rudesse pour des générations d’insulaires, sur une terre qui est aux deux tiers tourbe, et à la merci de l’océan.

Paul Henry, painting, curragh, Achill, Ireland

Launching the currach – Paul Henry

But there is something about the west of Ireland, and Achill, on a gloriously sunny day.
Something special.
Something compelling.
Something magical.


Pourtant il y a quelque chose quand le soleil brille sur l’ouest de l’Irlande, et sur Achill.
Quelque chose de spécial.
Quelque chose d’envoûtant.
Quelque chose de magique.

Visitor information

Achill’s rugged landscape features dramatic cliffs, soaring mountains, remote lakes and secluded beaches – including no fewer than five Blue Flag beaches.
This unique landscape is ideal for a wide range of outdoor activities, from surfing, windsurfing and scuba diving to hillwalking, fishing, golf and many more.

Visit Achill provides a wealth of information about the history, landscapes, and attractions of the island. Achill Tourism, located near the bridge on Achill Sound, is the official tourist office, with a presence on all main social media networks.

Achill 24/7 profiles the many artists and writers who were inspired by Achill, including Graham Greene, Heinrich Böll, Robert Henri and Paul Henry. The site also offers poems, Ireland pictures and tourism information about the island.

Achill is on the much-famed Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s first long-distance touring route, stretching along the Atlantic coast from Donegal in the north, to West Cork in the south of the country. The West Mayo Drive more or less follows the route we took, from Westport to Achill, and back to Westport.

This itinerary runs parallel to the Great Western Greenway. Stretching over 42km/26miles, Ireland’s longest off-road walking and cycling route was built on the former Westport to Achill railway line, which closed in 1937. Bikes and all cycling accessories can be hired from several outlets along the route, including some which provide a shuttle service.


En savoir plus

Les paysages sauvages d’Achill se déclinent en monts escarpés, falaises à pic, lacs isolés et plages protégées, dont cinq plages à pavillon bleu.
Ce cadre unique se prête à une grande variété d’activités de plein air : surf, planche à voile, plongée sous-marine, randonnée pédestre, pêche ou golf et bien plus encore.

La version francophone du site Visit Achill décrit en détail l’histoire, les paysages et les principales attractions de l’île. Achill Tourism, situé près du pont sur Achill Sound, est l’office de tourisme officiel, avec une présence sur les principaux réseaux sociaux.

Achill 24/7 répertorie les nombreux artistes et écrivains inspirés par Achill, dont les auteurs Graham Greene et Heinrich Böll, ou encore les peintres Robert Henri et Paul Henry. Le site publie aussi des poèmes, des images d’Irlande, et des informations touristiques sur Achill.

Côte sauvage dIrlande, Wild Atlantic WayAchill se trouve sur le célèbre Wild Atlantic Way, ou Côte sauvage d’Irlande. Le premier itinéraire touristique au long cours du pays s’étire sur 2500 km le long de la façade atlantique, du Donegal au nord jusqu’à West Cork au sud. Le West Mayo Drive suit grosso modo notre parcours, de Westport à Achill, et retour à Westport.

C’est aussi l’itinéraire de la Great Western Greenway, ou Grande Voie verte de l’ouest. Sur plus de 42 km, la piste cyclable la plus longue d’Irlande a été aménagée sur l’ancienne voie ferrée Westport-Achill, qui ferma en 1937. Des vélos et tous les accessoires nécessaires sont disponibles à la location dans plusieurs magasins au long de la voie verte ; certains proposent même un service de navette.

 

Country KidsTammymum    Untold Morselsethannevelyn.com  Reflectionsfromme

42 Responses to “Wild Atlantic Achill / Achill l’Atlantique

  • What a totally stunning place to explore. Your photos are breathtaking #CountryKids

  • What absolutely beautiful photographs. The beach looks absolutely beautiful #CountryKids

  • Wow! What a scenic place to visit. Your photos are stunning and have captured such beauty of nature. #countrykids

    • Thank you for the lovely comment Rebecca. Glad that my photos are doing justice to this wonderful place.

  • Wow such beautiful scenery and how blessed you were to have that gorgeous weather for Brian’s mum’s birthday weekend. I can’t say I’m surprised at the kids going in the water, mine would do just the same, they don’t seem to feel the cold in the same way that we do, they don’t even look cold in your photos! That said I’m sure they didn’t stay in too long, just long enough to feel the benefits and carry on exploring. You have some beautiful photos of all the children to remember the day.

    Thank you for sharing with me on #CountryKids

    • There was no keeping them in the car, or simply on the beach when they saw that water. My daughter is nicknamed Mermaid for a reason – she always goes in, regardless of the weather or temperature. My oldest son is more cautious, and Squirrel, although very enthusiastic, gets cold very quickly. For all that, they all have great memories of the day, and the photos to prove it 😉

  • Oh wow! The scenery here is totally stunning. Your photographs really capture the beauty of the area perfectly. I love the beach photo with your sons reflection in the water – simply stunning! Thank you for linking up to #PointShoot

    • Thank you for the lovely comment Catie. It was a memorable day, and I’m happy the pictures reflect that. x

  • What a stunning place to visit. I’d never heard of Achill before reading this post and now I want to go there! I love that three of your acorns braved the sea – I definitely wouldn’t have been brave enough to venture in this early in the year! Looks like they had a wonderful time on the beach 🙂 #countrykids

    • For its stunning beauty Achill seems to remain off the beaten track, unless you’re surfing, that is. I certainly wasn’t brave enough to go for a swim, but there was no holding them back! They don’t seem to feel the cold, lucky them!

  • What beautiful pictures it looks amazing #familyfunlinky xx

  • Gosh, that is absolutely stunning and your photographs are beautiful. What a perfect day.

  • I’m always impressed on how thorough and informative your posts are Annette! Beautiful photos and such an amazing place to visit again. I think kids don’t feel the cold we just had a day tripnto the lakes and the boy just wanted in the water even though it was icy freezing! Got to love the experience though. ‪Thank you for linking up to the #familyfunlinky‬

    • This is such a lovely thing to say, Karen! I tend to write about the things that catch my attention and/or interest me, that’s all, but I’m very happy you find my posts informative.
      Our kids were promised a trip to the beach, so they HAD to go in the water!
      Thank you for hosting #FamilyFun! 🙂

  • Popping back to say thank you for linking up to #ablogginggoodtime

  • What a beautiful windswept wilderness. Everything looks so pure, clean and fresh The water looks cold though! I just love kids ability to adapt to the water temperature wherever they are. Thanks for joining #FarawayFiles Annette

    • Going to Achill feels like stepping back in time – much of it still feels so wild and unspoilt. A truly magical place 😉

  • Wow! This looks so different than the Achill we saw a few weeks ago! 😀 Great post and beautiful pictures!

    • Thanks Danielle! When were you there? We were VERY lucky with the weather that weekend.

  • What a stunning place. I love all your photos but in particular the ones with the kids in the water. They look like they are having a great time #livingarrows

  • Sorry that was suppose to be #pointshoot 🙂

  • The photos here are wonderful. I love blue and the background of some of these almost look like they have been done in watercolour. #PointShoot

    • Thank you so much Helena! The colours on that day were tropical (although the water was not!).

  • This certainly is special, compelling and magical. The blue of that sea is extraordinary. You always inspire me to visit Ireland with your beautiful photos and writing, Annette. Can I please ask what camera you use? Thanks so much for sharing on #FarawayFiles

    • I am so happy that my posts inspire you to visit Ireland – have you been before?
      My camera is a Sony A7II, a full frame little beauty that packs the features – I love it!
      Thank you for hosting #FarawayFiles 🙂

  • What stunning pictures, I love the ones of them running in the sea waves

  • Stunning photos. I’ve never been to Irelands Atlantic coast which is ludicrous as it so close, on the list! #farawayfiles

  • oh WOW that scenery is breathtaking, what a beautiful part of the world. I love all your photos, and the beautiful descriptions you write. Just such a gorgeous post that really made me smile this morning. I love the way you embrace life #mg

  • What gorgeous places. You’ve captured them beautifully. I’m now super inspired to book a holiday! Thanks for sharing #FabFridayPost

  • Thanks so much for taking us on this journey with you! Stunning! #fabfridaypost xo

  • Oh so stunning! We just spent Easter break along the wild west coast of Denmark and I loved the windswept landscape, but it doesn’t have these mountains! I love the big swath of beach as well – just curious what were the water temps that your daring children endured?

    • I’m no expert but judging by the pain on my feet when I waded in, I’d say 10 degrees C, i.e. freezing!
      Thank you so much for the feature on #FarawayFiles 😉

  • Martina
    3 years ago

    Amazing photography and your Acorns looked like they had a wonderful time. I’m going to visit Achill Island for the first time this month and I only live in the next county. So much information in your post too. Simply wonderful.

    • Thank you so much Martina! Glad you find the post informative, and I hope you find Achill as spellbinding as we have. Have the most wonderful time on this stunning little island.

  • I’m amazed at how beautiful this place is. If this was in Thailand, it would have probably filled with fancy hotel skyscraper and jet ski. Your 4 acorns are so super adventurous. They look so happy and free in the last photo! Just beautiful! xx

    • The water is probably way too cold for jet skis! And that’s probably a good thing! As much as people wish the weather were better here in Ireland, it would probably look like a concrete jungle if large scale development was allowed.
      Thank you for commenting, Su 🙂
      Annette

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