A Trip to the Irish Wild: Oileán Acla (Achill Island |2014)

I can’t believe one could be so behind the schedule with posts! And the strangest thing is that I absolutely can’t stand being late, be it a meet up, an appointment or a project. If I do something or go somewhere I have to be on time. How does it happen with the blog? I don’t know.

But no matter how much time has passed, I remember that day we went to Achill Island as if it were yesterday. In fact, it was August 2014 and it was a family trip, I mean the whole family. Despite going with a child, who was just a couple months shy of 3 years old,  we had lots of things planned (that’s where grandparents come in handy, right?) and we actually managed to do most of them.

As we all gathered for the trip, had our coffee and left Athlone the weather was brilliant – sunny and warm, as typical for August. I say typical because the last five years or so Augusts were usually hot and dry, even if it rained for the first part of the summer. But as we drove closer to Galway, the sky started changing. I take it as a rule now that you can never have good weather when tripping to Galway 🙂 In our experience over the past few years, it can be warm and sunny in Athlone, but somewhere half-way to Galway the sky turns grey and starts to drizzle. That was exactly what happened back then in 2014, and as we got to Achill it was actually pouring. ‘Great’ we all thought, our plans were ruined. We had a ton of marinated meat for BBQ, salads and blankets packed in hopes to have a nice meal on a beach. And now the plan was set to fail.

Luckily, by the time we checked in to the hotel and unpacked the bags, the rain stopped and we decided to go on with the plan anyway. Looking back, maybe it was a mistake, I don’t know. At first, we couldn’t find a beach. The winding roads overlooking the cliffs went past a few of picnic and BBQ spots, but given the stormy weather conditions it seemed like a crazy idea with a kid under 3. Not only the tables were too close to the cliffs, the wind was so strong that I honestly struggled to get out of the car to take a couple of shots. Anyway, the views were breathtaking and stunning to the human eye. At that very moment I understood that it was the place I would love forever.01



We managed to find a quiet spot somewhere between the hills, just slightly off-road, to set up our disposable BBQ tray, sheltered from the wind behind the ruins of a very old house (should I add roofless?). While the men cooked the meat, the female half sat in the car as it was freezing outside. Later it started raining again. At that point it seemed to me like the weekend was ruined completely and we would have to sit inside the hotel rooms until the very check-out on Sunday.

The next morning, after a short drizzle, the weather changed again. It got a lot warmer even if wasn’t sunny. My husband, his sister and I went Mulrany to rent some bicycles and explore the Green Way cycle. It was amazing! It started off with green tunnels of trees and rocks overgrown with ferns, gradually turning into a beautiful coastal view. We didn’t stop much to photograph because we had no idea how long the cycle would take, but we wanted to return to the hotel by lunch. I later realised that we really should have stopped at least a few times, because the 20 km road to Achill and back took us just 40 minutes. We came back by lunch (frugal us, we ate the BBQ left-overs and didn’t have to spend a cent on lunch).

The start of the Green Way cycle in Mulrany



After that the plan was to visit one of the beaches. We chose Keel beach as it seemed to be one of the biggest. We promised our daughter to go to a beach where she could build sand castles. And Keel turned out to be the right spot! It was a long sandy strand, with cliffs on one side and a nice playground just across the road from it. There were a lot of caravans, a pop-up surfing rental and quite a few people surfing and walking, either on their own or in couples, with children or pets. The sun came out and made our day shine.

After the beach and playground we visited the Deserted Village at the base of the Slievemore mountain, which was abandoned at the times of the Great Famine. Then we finished the day off with a nice dinner at the Achill Island Hotel restaurant.06070809111213

View from our hotel room

For Sunday morning we planned to hike (or hill walk) the cliffs over the Keem Bay. Some of those cliffs are said to be the highest in Europe. We didn’t take on all of them, at least not my sister-in-law and me. My husband, though, climbed up the Croaghaun mountain (the 3rd highest sea cliff in Europe). We watched him struggle going up and thought it was a huge mistake to climb it (we already climbed up quite high + the sun was out and the day was turning to be very hot), but nonetheless he did it. He almost ran up taking breaks in between and came back happy as a child on a Christmas morning 😀

Keem Bay is officially the most beautiful beach in Achill and definitely one of the most beautiful in Ireland, being a Blue Flag beach in addition.


The cliffs of Croaghaun
The highest peak on the right is Croaghaun mountain.
50 Shades of Blue…



The two favourite shot taken with my phone. You can’t beat bikes and shoes on the sand 🙂2223

If I have anything to add before I finish is that Achill Island is the place to go back. It is wild, as wild as rural Ireland can get, but it is also very peaceful, serene. We went back there, just the three of us, last year for my birthday. But silly me, I managed to forget the memory card for my camera in a pocket of my robe and not realise it until we reached our destination. The weather was worse that time also, for one thing – it was October and not August, meaning more violent winds and rains. But it didn’t stop us from enjoying the trip. I am pretty sure we’ll be back there in a year or two again.

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