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Keem Bay on Achill: Parking, Hike + Viewpoints

Keem Bay on Achill: Parking, Hike + Viewpoints

Keem Bay on Achill Island is one of the Wild Atlantic Way’s most impressive beaches.

It got a boost in fame (not that it needed it!) in recent years after it appeared, along with much of Achill Island, in the ‘Banshees of Inisherin’ movie.

The golden sand and turquoise waters at Keem Bay make it look like a little slice of South East Asia that has been plonked on Ireland’s west coast.

In this guide, you’ll find info on parking, swimming, where to get a great aerial view and the brilliant Keem Beach hike. Enjoy!

Some quick need-to-knows before visiting Keem Bay


A visit to Keem Beach on Achill is nice and straightforward, but there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your trip more enjoyable.

1. Location 

You’ll find it at the western end of Achill Island in County Mayo. The horseshoe-shaped beach is at the head of a valley, sheltered by Croaghaun Mountain.

2. Parking warning

During the summer months, parking at Keem Beach is chaotic. I was here last summer during a heatwave and, although we arrived at 08:30, we only barely managed to get a spot. There are 3 need-to-knows:

  • The Upper Car Park: Located here, you’ll reach it first. If there’s a space free, take it
  • The Lower Car Park: Located here, it fills up first
  • Never park along the road: You’ll block emergency vehicles

3. Swimming

Keem Bay is one of the finest beaches in Mayo and, as it’s a Blue Flag Beach, there are lifeguards during the summer months. Please only enter the water if you’re a capable swimmer and have read these water safety tips.

4. Viewpoints

There is a tiny area to pull in (NEVER block the road) before you drive down to the car park. Now, a disclaimer – those managing traffic on the island regularly put cones along this road to block people from stopping. Please respect these restrictions.


About Keem Beach

Keem Bay

Photos via Shutterstock

Voted the best beach in Ireland more times than I can count, Keem is a glorious stretch of sand that’s best visited as part of Achill’s Atlantic Drive.

Accessed via a bendy road with mountain on one side and a sheer drop on the other, the horseshoe-shaped strand boasts golden sand and crystal-clear water.

The beach is tucked between two mountains – Croaghaun, to the east and Moyteoge, to the west.


Basking sharks

Basking sharks have been visiting Keem Bay for centuries.

In recent years, kayakers, swimmers and paddle-boarders have encountered these gentle creatures in the bay.

However, it wasn’t always a happy place for the sharks. In the 1950s, Keem was the island’s hub for shark fishing.

The oil from the shark’s liver was once at a premium as it was exported, most notably to companies operating in the aerospace industry.

The Banshees of Inisherin

Keem Bay was one of a number of The Banshees of Inisherin filming locations on Achill.

It was here that Colm Doherty’s cottage was located.

Although the cottage doesn’t exist, there is a little building above the beach that looks like a small home.


The hike over Keem Bay

One of the more rewarding hikes in Ireland is the one that takes you up over Keem Bay.

Now, a warning – if there’s been any kind of rain, the ‘trail’ up to the top is extremely slippy, so good footwear is needed.

You follow a very rough trail up to the top and then you have the old disused coastguard lookout station.

It’s on the trail on the right that you can get a view of the highest sea cliffs in Ireland – please stay well clear of the cliff edge at all times.

Here’s some key info:

  • Difficulty: Tough – it’s a steep climb to the top
  • Time needed: Takes around 30 minutes to get up and about 25 to get down
  • Great care needed: Don’t go anywhere near the cliff edge

Other things to do on Achill

One of the beauties of Keem Bay is that it’s a short spin away from plenty of other things to do on Achill, from hikes and walks to drives and more.

If you fancy staying on the island, nip into our guide to the best hotels on Achill to find a decent place to stay!

Here are a few suggestions for you:

  1. Keel Beach (15-minute drive): A beautiful beach that’s larger than Keem and that has cliffs towering above it
  2. Minaun Heights (30-minute drive): Achill’s best viewpoint. Drive right up to it and soak up a 360 view
  3. The deserted village (15-minute drive): The village was abandoned during the 1845 famine

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