02 Feb Achill Island
A true hidden gem to consider if you are on a tour of Ireland……… Visit with Ireland Luxury Tours…….
Oliver Cromwell’s famous declaration that Irish rebels could go “to Hell or to Connaught” suggests he didn’t think much of western Ireland. In times when soil fertility and accessibility were important considerations, these rain-swept, isolated outposts of barren limestone or waterlogged bog must have held few attractions. Famine struck this region particularly hard and emigration from Galway, Clare and Mayo has been high.
Until the 18th century, British influence was minimal, and the area is still firmly Gaelic in outlook, its population in tiny, scattered rural communities rather than towns and villages.
The Irishness shows through, in speech, music, crafts, sports and attitude. Now, it is the West’s very distinctiveness that many visitors find so appealing, and, above all, its scenery. These three counties encompass a rich variety of landscapes and sights, from the ghostly grey-white expanses of bare limestone in the Burren, and the wild coast and mountains of Connemara, where the Twelve Bensloom over flattering mirrors of water amid moorland and blanket bog, to the quieter Mayo, with lovely Achill Island.
Mayo’s western seaboard seems on the verge of disintegration, its straggling peninsulas anchored to the mainland by a thread.
Achill is the largest of these semi-islands, a rough triangle with sides about 24km long, linked to Curraun (itself a peninsula) by a modern road bridge over Achill Sound. Its quiet beaches and spectacular mountain scenery make it an appealing holiday destination; touring, by car or bike, surfing and angling are the main activities. In summer, boats make trips to coastal caves or in pursuit of the harmless basking sharks that haunt this coast. Keel is the main village, boasting shops, simple accommodationand a splendid sandy beach, with some dramatic formations known as the Cathedral Rocks at its furthest end.
The most scenic parts of the island can be seen from the Atlantic Drive (signed from the main road near the bridge), which leads past awesome cliffs, heather and gorse moors, and white cottages sprinkled against dark rocks. Beyond Keel, the road stretches towards Achill Head, rearing towards the Atlantic like a sea-monster.