Despite what many people say (usually those that own businesses nearby) the highest sea cliffs in Ireland aren’t Slieve League in Donegal.
The cliffs at Slieve League are pretty damn big (1,972 feet/601 meters) and they are in fact the highest sea cliffs on the island of Ireland.
However, the title of ‘the highest sea cliffs in Ireland’ goes to the enormous Croaghaun Cliffs on Achill Island in County Mayo.
The cliffs at Croaghaun stand at a mind-boggling 2,257 feet/687 meters… yep, that’s pretty damn high. You’ll find everything you need to know below.
The Croaghaun Cliffs: The highest sea cliffs in Ireland
You’ll find the Croaghaun Cliffs on Achill Island in County Mayo, where they stand at a staggering 2,257 feet/687 meters.
They’re the highest sea cliffs in Ireland and the third highest in Europe. Here’s how the pecking order stands:
- Hornelen (Norway) – 2,821 feet/860 meters
- Cape Enniberg (Faroe Islands) – 2,474 feet/754 meters
- Croaghaun (Ireland) – 2,257 feet/687 meters
You’ll find them hidden away at the western end of Achill Island on the northern side of the towering Croaghaun Mountain, near the magnificent Keem Bay.
Croaghaun: A very hidden gem
The Croaghaun Cliffs are special. One of their biggest draws, aside from their sheer size, is how underexplored they are.
Don’t get me wrong, people visit them all of the time, but they’re slightly off the beaten track, so the chances are you’ll have them all to yourself, aside from a few other seasoned adventurers.
The scenery that you’ll encounter as you explore the area around the Croaghaun Cliffs is pretty damn special. It’s here that you’ll also find the highest corrie lake in Ireland.
How to reach them
I know a handful of experienced walkers that do a yearly spin out to Mayo to hike Croagh Patrick on the Friday and then Croaghaun on the Saturday.
They tend to recommend beginning the walk up to see the Croaghaun Cliffs from the car park at Keem. However, this guide from the Irish Times recommends kicking it off from Corrymore Lake.
As the guide from the Irish times is a little more detailed, I’m going to work off that, rather than the texts that the lads sent me when I asked them for the best route…
A couple of points first
This is a hike for the more seasoned walkers. It’s steep and a good level of fitness is required.
It’s also recommended that you have the ability to use a map and compass – if the weather turns while your walking here, things can get very dangerous very quickly.
The weather can change in an instant and you don’t want to be stuck up on top of Croaghaun and be unable to see two feet in front of you.
Hopefully it goes without saying that you’ll need appropriate walking gear and drinks/snacks for the journey.
There are a couple of starting points for the Croaghaun hike (I’m going to map out a route below from Corrymore):
- The car park near Corrymore Lake (not far from Keem)
- The car park at Keem
The first chunk of the climb
When you leave the very little car park at Corrymore, head north and, as you pass the lake, keep slightly northwest.
This will keep you a safe distance away from the cliff edge and it’ll also make the start of your ascent a little bit handier.
As you reach the 450-500 metre mark you’ll start to be treated to the first of many mighty views. Keep an eye out for Belmullet’s beaches and a lighthouse off in the distance.
The second chunk
The next chunk of the walk up to see the Croaghaun Cliffs isn’t overly strenuous. You’ll pass along boggy ground (waterproof shoes come in very handy here) for a bit before you’ll need to start climbing again.
This is where things start to get steep. If it’s safe to do so, venture towards (don’t get too close!) the edge of the cliff. It’s here that you’ll get a view out across the back of Achill Island. Expect massive craggy cliffs and scenery that’ll knock you sideways.
From here, you’ll need to head southeast towards the summit of the mountain. When you reach the top (hopefully on a clear day) you’ll get a nice eyeful of the highest sea cliffs in Ireland.
Take a load off, knock back some water, enjoy a bit of food and soak up the view.
Getting back down
From the summit, head off in a southeasterly direction. The descent will be quite steep for the first while but it starts to flatten out after a bit.
If you take this route down you’ll approach the lake from the south. You can then ramble back towards where you left your car.
If you’re looking for more info on this hike, Aidy McGlynn has provided a brilliant breakdown of the climb here.
If you plan on doing this hike, check the weather conditions in advance. If in doubt, leave it until another day.