If you’re in search of the best things to do in Achill Island in Mayo, you’ve landed in the right place.
Located on the west coast of Ireland, Achill Island is Ireland’s largest offshore island, connected to the mainland by a bridge at Achill Sound.
Arguably best-known for its stunning Keem Bay, this is far from a one horse town.. or island… there’s heaps of things to do in Achill Island, as you’ll discover below!
The best things to do in Achill Island
Located a stone’s throw from Mulranny, Newport and Westport, Achill Island is home to walks, hikes and some of the finest beaches in Mayo.
Although the more time you have the better, you can see a good chunk of the island over half a day. Here’s some spots to check out!
1. Soak up the views at Minaun Heights
A spin up to Minaun Heights is one of the more overlooked things to do in Achill Island. It sits more or less in the centre of Achill and there’s a narrow road that leads right up to a little parking area.
From the car park, you’re a short walk away from the view in the photos above. One a clear day, there are few places along the Wild Atlantic Way that offer scenery that rivals Minaun Heights.
It can be busy during fine days, especially in the summer. However, if you visit during the off-season you’ll likely have it all to yourself.
2. Spin along the bendy road to Keem
The road that winds around Achill Island climaxes when you drive up over the hill that leads to Keem Bay. It’s hard to put into words how magnificent the views from here are.
Now, a warning – a visit to Keem is one of the most popular things to do on Achill Island, which means this road can get busy with traffic.
Add to this the fact that there are little-to-no pull-in areas and you’ll see why you’re arguably best off driving along this road very early in the morning or late in the evening.
3. Then saunter along the sand
You’ll find a parking area just in front of Keem Bay. As it’s one of the more popular Achill Island beaches, it packs out fast on good days, but you’ll often find it empty during the off-season.
The gorgeous clear emerald water contrasts beautifully with the brights white sand to make Keem a postcard-perfect spot. Sheltered by the surrounding cliffs and hills, this east-facing beach has its own warm microclimate.
Keem Bay was once the hub for a basking shark fishery and sharks and larger sea mammals still feed in the area. In recent years, basking sharks have been seen drifting through the water here.
Stroll along at sunset and you’ll see why it’s one of our unforgettable things to do on Achill Island.
4. Or hike up to the Croaghaun Cliffs
Standing 688 metres (2,257 feet) above the wild Atlantic waves, Croaghaun Mountain boasts the highest sea cliffs in Ireland, which incidentally are also the third highest sea cliffs in Europe.
This epic cliff face stretches out into the Atlantic Ocean for almost 2,000 feet (that’s over 600 metres in new money) and is simply jaw-dropping.
Inaccessible by road, you can reach the Cliffs of Croaghaun from the car park at Keem Bay. Please note, however, that this a hike for the more experienced walkers (here’s a guide to the climb).
If you fancy a more gentle trail, try the nearby Dooagh Loop Walk.
5. And then grab a very tasty post-walk feed
There’s some incredible restaurants on Achill Island for those of you in need of a post-walk feed!
Our favourite spots for a bite are the Amethyst Bar (especially good if you’re a fan of fish!), Mastersons and The Diner.
Another great place for grub if you fancy something hearty is the brilliant Blásta at Ted’s (the photos above will give you a sense of what to expect!).
Related read: Looking for a place to stay close to the action? Hop into our Achill Island accommodation guide
6. Spend a rainy day at Achill Experience Acquarium
If you’re looking for things to do on Achill Island when it’s raining, head to Achill Experience Aquarium (you’ll find it just past Keel Beach).
Achill Experience Aquarium is the island’s first all weather visitor centre and it’s home to plenty to see and do.
During your visit, you’ll see everything from Clown Fish and Pacific Blue Tang to lobsters and a selection of tropical fish from around the world.
7. And a fine one surfing at Keel Beach
Keel Beach is long, flat, sandy and is a surfer’s paradise. Keel boasts stunning cliff views and it’s a nice spot for a ramble.
However, if you’re looking for unique things to do in Achill Island, book in with either Achill Surf or Blackfield Watersports.
You can try everything from stand up paddle boarding and surfing to kayaking and plenty more. These are two solid options if you’re wondering what to do on Achill with a large group!
8. Or one of the islands many other beaches
There’s plenty of beaches on Achill that are worth sauntering along. Another very popular sandy spot is Golden Strand on the northern coast of Achill near Dugort.
Another to check out is the Blue Flag Dooega Beach. Or, if you fancy heading away from the island, the stunning Mulranny Beach is just a 35-minute drive away.
9. Tackle the Atlantic Drive (or cycle)
If you’re looking to see as much of the island as possible in one big swoop, follow our guide to the Atlantic Drive.
The official route starts in Westport, but you can easily adjust it to start from where ever you are on the island.
You’ll want at least 4 to 5 hours for this one, as it takes you right the way around the island, taking it cliffs, bendy roads, castles and many of the most popular things to see on Achill.
10. See the cliffs at Ashlem Bay
Ashleam Bay is one of the landmark Discovery Points of the Wild Atlantic Way. This pebbly cove, sometimes known as Portnahally, is surrounded by scarred cliffs rising 30 metres.
It occasionally has a sandy beach when tides carry it in (and out again!). The clifftop viewpoint offers panoramic views in all directions and is one of the most memorable things to do in Achill Island.
11. Step back in time at Grace O’Malley’s Castle
You’ll find Grace O’Malley’s Castle (the Pirate Queen) on the south east of the island, where it’s stood proudly since the 15th century.
The tower, which is one of the lesser-known Irish castles, stands at around 40 feet in height and it’s believed to have been built by the O’Malley Clan around 1429. There’s a little bit of parking right next to it.
12. Cycle the Great Western Greenway back out to Westport
One of the legs of the Great Western Greenway is from Achill Island to Westport, a super-scenic 42km on a waymarked off-road cycle and walking trail.
It goes through Mulranny and Newport (good places to take a break) and is suitable for those with moderate fitness levels.
It’s do-able in one day by bike (4 to 5 hours) but hikers should allow at least 10 hours for the total route, plus stops.
13. See the deserted village at Slievemore
A visit to the deserted village is one of the more popular things to do in Mayo amongst visiting tourists, as it offers an insight into the island’s past.
You’ll find the deserted village on the southern side of Slievemore Mountain. It’s here that the ruins of 80 to 100 cottages still stand.
Many who inhabited these cottages left during the Famine while others were forced out due to an inability to pay their rent.
FAQs about what to do in Achill
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from what is there to do on the island when it’s raining to where to get the best views.
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.
What are the best things to do in Achill Island?
In our opinion, it’s hard to beat Minaun Heights, Keem Bay, the Atlantic Drive and watersports on Keel Beach.
What is there to see on Achill Island if you only have half a day?
If you only have half a day on the island it’s well worth following the Atlantic Drive as it’ll take you to the ‘main’ Achill Island attractions.
Tuesday 28th of June 2022
Believe it or not but I just got back from Keel Co. Mayo plus several other spots in Ireland. Family reunion near Letterfrack. I did everything but the Aquarium and the Sport Center. I will tell you the Amethyst is closed due to lack of help. Several pubs and restaurants were closed due to lack of help. Might I add to your list of rainy day or even a relaxing hour after a long hike a seaweed bath. The brochure was at the B&B I was at. For the price I thought why not 35€ per hour. The salon is located just down the road from Grace O'Malley Castle. I'll be honest when I pulled in I thought I was at the wrong place. The salon is located behind the owners house. Fresh seaweed is picked from the beautiful Seaview you view from the clawfoot tub you soak in. May not be the top best things to do, but it sure was wonderful! Eskape Beauty Salon is where I went and the price?!!!