A Guide to Visiting Keem Bay On Achill Island (And where to Grab a Fine view)

keem bay achill island
Photo left: Irish Drone Photography. Photo right: Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH (Shutterstock)

A visit to Keem Bay on Achill Island is one of the most popular things to do in Mayo.

Keem Bay is one of the prettiest sandy coves in Ireland with white sand contrasting with the turquoise Blue Flag waters.

This stunning little beach beach is located on Achill Island in the shadow of Croaghaun Mountain, and the drive down to it is one of the most scenic routes in Ireland.

In the guide below, you’ll discover everything you need to know about Keem Beach on Achill, from parking to where to get an incredible view.

Some quick need-to-knows before visiting Keem Bay on Achill Island

keem beach achill
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

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.

Water safety warning: Understanding water safety is absolutely crucial when visiting beaches in Ireland. Please take a minute to read these water safety tips. Cheers!

1. Location 

Picturesque Keen Bay is at the western end of Achill Island in County Mayo. It’s easy to reach by road via the Michael Davitt Swing Bridge which spans Achill Sound. The horseshoe-shaped beach is at the head of a valley, sheltered by Croaghaun Mountain.

2. Safety 

The road leading down to Keem Bay is very narrow and winding. Visitors need to be aware of this and take their time navigating the bends, especially with regard to traffic from the opposite direction. 

3. Parking 

There’s parking right next to the beach but, as Keem is one of the most popular beaches in Mayo, it gets insanely busy at times, so parking can be an issue. If you can, arrive either early in the morning or late in the evening.

4. Swimming

The alluring turquoise waters are as clean as they look! Keem Beach has been awarded the Blue Flag for clean waters. It’s a lovely beach to enjoy bathing and swimming and there is a lifeguard service during the summer months. ALWAYS USE CAUTION when entering ANY water in Ireland.

5. Basking sharks

Keem Bay was once the hub of the shark fishing industry in the 1950s. Basking sharks were prolific in the area and were hunted for their liver oil. Local fishermen used curraghs, simple canvas-covered wooden boats with oars. The sharks still make a regular appearance along with dolphins, so keep your eyes peeled!

About Keem Bay on Achill Island

views of keem bay
Photo by Fishermanittiologico (Shutterstock)

The horseshoe-shaped strand at Keem Bay on Achill has light coloured sand and gorgeous aquamarine waters, best appreciated from the cliffs.

Tucked away on the coast of Achill Island, Keem Beach faces southeast and has a sheltered position. The Blue Flag waters are is ideal for swimming and paddling.

Dogs are welcome but must be kept on a lead. Keem Beach is uninhabited, but there are remains of a former coastguard station.

From there, a breathtaking 1.5km clifftop walk takes you along the top of the cliffs of Benmore to Achill Head, the island’s most westerly point.

Where to get an incredible view of Keem bay from above

swimming at keem
Photo by Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH (Shutterstock)

So, there are two main spots where you can soak up magnificent views of Keem Beach from above; the hill as you approach and the hill to the right of the beach.

From the hill as you approach   

Driving the clifftop road to Keem Bay offers spectacular ocean views as you head west along Atlantic Drive.

One of the best views of Keem is from the roadside just before the road descends down to the beach. There are a couple of passing places for a single car.

If it’s safe to do so, pull in for a moment and savour the view. Cars must never block the narrow winding road for safety reasons. 

From the hill across from the car park   

Climb up the hill right next to the car park for a stunning view of Keem Bay and beyond. When the weather’s dry, it’s a handy climb and takes just 5-10 minutes to get high enough for a good vantage point.

When there has been rainfall, proceed with caution, as it gets insanely slippy here at times, so care is needed.

Things to do near Keem Beach

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!

1. Climb up to see the highest cliffs in Ireland    

highest cliffs ireland
Photo by Junk Culture (Shutterstock)

The eastern side of the valley at Keem Bay is the base of Croaghaun Mountain which rises to 688m elevation (that’s 2,257 feet in old money!). The north face of the mountain drops steeply to the ocean. They are the highest sea cliffs in Ireland and the third highest in Europe. Here’s a guide on seeing them (with a lot of warnings).

2. Visit the deserted village   

 

Visit the Deserted Village near Dugort which has the remains of 100 houses in an ancient settlement of Anglo-Norman origins. These simple dwellings are built of unmortared stone and had a single room. Tethering rings in the wall indicate they may have been shared with livestock or used as stables. The village was abandoned during the 1845 famine but later used as a summer “booley” by herdsmen grazing their cattle. 

3. Cycle the Great Western Greenway

Great Western Greenway mayo
Photos via Shutterstock

The 42km-long Great Western Greenway runs from Westport to Achill Island and is a wonderful way to enjoy the fresh air and breathtaking coastal scenery near Keem Beach. It’s the longest off-road trail in Ireland, following the former railway which closed in 1937. It’s a fantastic way to reach Achill Island on foot or bicycle. 

FAQs about visiting Keem Bay on Achill Island

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from whether you can camp on Keem Beach to what to do nearby.

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.

Where is Keem Beach?

You’ll find the beach at the western end of the island. The drive out to the beach is glorious.

Can you swim in Keem Bay?

Yes. Keem is a Blue Flag beach and the bay is nice and sheltered. Please always be careful when entering the water and, if in doubt, keep your feet on dry land or just have a paddle.

Can you camp on Keem Beach?

Yes. Wild camping on Keem Beach is allowed, once you leave no trace and abide by the wild camping code.

Elisha is a freelance writer, content creator and blogger and her work can be read in Lonely Planet, Remote Lands and Matador Network. You’ll usually find her travelling in offbeat places or hiking wherever there are mountains; always with a camera in hand.

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