The Atlantic Drive is one of our favourite things to do in Mayo.
The route kicks off in Westport and takes you over to Achill Island where you’ll experience some of the finest scenery in the county.
Below, you’ll find a map of the Atlantic Drive along with a brief overview of each of the stops.
Some quick need-to-knows about the Atlantic Drive
Before you jump in the car and head for Achill, it’s worth going over the essentials first, as you need to plan out your route to avoid missing some of the slightly off-the-beaten-path stops:
1. Where it starts and ends
The traditional route begins in the historic town of Westport and then passes through Newport and Mulranny before continuing on to Achill Island.
2. How long it takes
It’ll take you 4 to 5 hours to drive the entire route (allowing for small stops), however, you arguably need at least half a day, as there’s plenty of things to do on Achill, which is where the majority of the route takes you.
3. Our modified route
So, we’ve included a map below that outlines a slightly modified version of the Atlantic Drive on Achill. This route includes some stops that aren’t included in the official/traditional route.
About the Atlantic Drive on Achill
Achill is the largest island off the coast of Ireland, and while there are a few villages, a lot of the land is pretty remote.
It’s a fantastic place for exploring, with a mix of stunning sandy beaches, rugged cliffs, towering hills, and stark boglands.
Awash with lively pubs, humble cafes, fantastic restaurants, and surfing hotspots, it’s also abuzz with an energy that contrasts nicely with the more remote areas.
The Atlantic Drive on Achill is a superb way to capture both sides of the island and the rugged coastline of west Mayo. There are tons of things to see and do along the way and no shortage of photo opportunities.
Much of the route is fairly flat, making it ideal for cyclists as well. Plus, with various optional stops, you can tailor the drive to suit you.
An overview of the Atlantic Drive
Our modified version of the Atlantic Drive on Achill kicks off at Mulranny Beach and covers a total distance of around 90 km (you can of course start it from Westport, Newport or wherever you’re staying!).
Following a mix of narrow country lanes and coastal roads, it takes in some spectacular scenery and avoids some of the busier sections on the traditional route. Here are the main stops along the way.
1. Mulranny Beach
Mulranny Beach is a fabulous place to kick things off. There’s a large car park and a sand and pebble beach that is great for walking along. Plus it’s a top spot to catch the sunrise or sunset.
You can also enjoy the unique Mulranny Causeway walk as it crosses through the salt marshes of Clew Bay (keep an eye out for Croagh Patrick). There’s also the Lookout Hill Loop, a moderate stroll that boasts incredible views.
2. Wild Atlantic Way Viewpoint – Dumhach Bheag
From Mulranny Beach, the road heads west towards the village of Corraun. Surrounded by boulder-strewn fields on one side, and fantastic views out to the sea on the other, there’s plenty to look at—just beware of sheep on the road!
The first stop along the way is Dumhach Bheag, a wonderful elevated viewpoint that offers panoramic views across Clew Bay. Meanwhile, the mighty Corraun Hill looms up behind you.
3. Spanish Armada Viewpoint
Just before you reach Corraun, you’ll come to the Spanish Armada Viewpoint. This offers another excellent view across the bay and out to Clare Island.
The area is known for being the point at which five ships from the defeated Spanish Armada ran aground during fierce storms.
Two of the ships have yet to be recovered, though it’s believed they sank at the mouth of Clew Bay. Enjoy the cliffs and caves that line the small cove, before heading back to the road.
4. Grace O’Malley’s Towerhouse
Next, the road loops around the coast, through the village of Corraun, and alongside Achill Sound, with the island to your left. Cross over the bridge from the mainland onto the island, then leave the main road by turning left onto the L1405 towards Cloughmore.
Before you get there though, it’s worth parking up at Grace O’Malley’s Towerhouse. There’s a small car park and from there it’s just a short hop over a stile.
The tower dates back to the 15th century and is most well-known as the former watchtower of the pirate queen Grace O’Malley (1530 – 1603).
Next, follow the road around the southern tip of the island, enjoying views of Achill’s smaller sibling, Achillbeg Island, until you arrive at the Cloughmore viewpoint.
There’s a small gravel layby to park in, and it’s worth wandering amid the boulders and rocks to enjoy incredible ocean views. Behind you, the rocky hills tower above the nearby cottages.
6. White Cliffs of Ashleam
Next, you’ll follow the road in the direction of Dooega. This stretch offers some of the most incredible coastal landscapes in Ireland, so take it slow and take it all in.
The White Cliffs of Ashleam, which will soon come up on your left, are a major highlight along the way. Park in the spacious layby, where you can also lock up your bike, and enjoy the views.
There are several picnic benches so you can take a load off or enjoy lunch. The cliffs are majestic, slicing into the sea like the teeth of a saw.
Looking to stay on the island? Hop into our Achill Island accommodation guide to find the best hotels and B&Bs
7. Dooega Bay Beach
Next, the road winds down a series of hairpin bends to the inlet of Ashleam Bay. Follow the road towards Dooega, enjoying the sea views to your left.
Soon enough, you’ll arrive at Dooega Beach, a gorgeous little spot that doesn’t get half as many visitors as the other beaches in Achill.
It’s a lovely, tranquil place that boasts fabulous views, soft, clean sands, sheltered waters, and craggy rock pools.
8. Minaun Heights
The next stop, Minaun Heights, deviates from the main road somewhat, but it’s well worth it as this is where you’ll get one of the best views as you spin along the Atlantic Drive on Achill.
Climbing up 466 metres, a paved road takes you most of the way and you can park near the top.
The panoramic views are absolutely breathtaking, taking in much of the island and its surroundings. You can go for a wander along the top to take it all in.
The road up is pretty narrow, though there are passing points. It’s also quite steep and could be a real challenge for cyclists.
9. Keel Beach
Follow the same track back down to the main road and head off in the direction of Keel village.
You would’ve seen the beautiful Keel Beach from the top of Minaun Heights, an unmistakable band of golden sands and bright blue waters.
Once you see it up close, you can appreciate how big it actually is! It’s excellent for surfing, kayaking, walks and paddling.
In the village, you’ll find some of the best cafes and restaurants on Achill Island, as well as craft shops.
10. Keem Beach
Next up is one of the most iconic stops on the Atlantic Drive on Achill. The stretch of road from Dooagh to Keem is perhaps one of my favourites on the drive.
It sees you travelling along a winding road that has been hewn into the craggy slopes of Croaghaun, the highest point on the island.
Sitting high above the sea, you’ll see the sandy Keem Bay surrounded by beautiful green hills as you approach.
Smaller than Keel Beach, it’s just as gorgeous, with soft golden sands and azure waters bordered by grassy, rocky slopes.
11. Dugort Beach
Head back on the same road to Keel, then make your way to the village of Dugort. Here, the road is surrounded by lush vegetation, while the mighty Slievemore, the second tallest peak on the island, looms on your left.
As you go, you might want to drop by Slievemore Old Cemetery and the Deserted Village, a place that is equal parts fascinating and eerie.
Dugort Beach sits at the foot of Slievemore and offers soft white sands strewn with rocks. The water is crystal clear and of high quality. With lifeguards on duty, it’s a top place to swim or try stand-up paddleboarding.
12. Golden Strand
The last stop on the Atlantic Drive on Achill is Golden Strand, arguably Achill’s second-most-popular beach.
A stunning crescent of golden sand and beautiful clear waters, it’s another great spot for walking and is popular among kayakers and canoeists.
In fact, there’s a kayak trail that follows the coast to Dugort Beach. It’s an ideal beach for relaxing after enjoying the drive.
FAQs about the Atlantic Drive on Achill
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘Can you cycle it?’ to ‘What are the main stops?’.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
How long is the Atlantic drive on Achill?
The Achill section of the loop is 19km in total and you’ll want to allow 4 or 5 hours at least if you plan on stopping and exploring.
Is the Atlantic Drive worth doing?
Yes. This driving route will treat you to some of the most impressive scenery along the Wild Atlantic Way and it’s well worth doing,
Tuesday 11th of April 2023
Such a helpful article! We are doing this trip with a toddler next month. Is the drive itself very stressful? Wondering if it's similar to Road to Hana in Maui which is a very difficult drive and can be scary and make you car sick at times. We are not used to driving on the left side of the road. Thanks!