Discovering the Rugged Beauty of Ireland's Achill Island

Traversing through the verdant hills and craggy shores of Ireland’s Achill Island, one can’t help but be struck by a strange feeling of déjà vu. Is it the warm embrace of the ancient Celts, or the lingering effects of a potent pint of stout consumed at a ramshackle pub? Perhaps it’s both—or neither. But for those brave souls willing to venture into the untamed wilderness that is Achill, prepare for an experience as unforgettable as the first time you were kicked by a horse for attempting to steal its whiskey.

A Brief and Unreliable History of Achill Island

Legend has it that Achill Island was formed when a giant named Mal threw a handful of rocks into the sea, presumably in an attempt to build a private island where he could escape the incessant nagging of his wife. Mal may have been a mythical creature, but the beauty of Achill Island is no tall tale. Nestled off the coast of County Mayo, the island is home to a mere 2,700 souls—and a smattering of sheep and donkeys—yet it remains one of Ireland’s most treasured natural wonders.

Though humans have lived on Achill Island for over 5,000 years, it wasn’t until the 19th century that intrepid explorers first introduced it to the outside world. While the island remained largely untouched by the Industrial Revolution and the ravages of modernity, its rugged charm soon captivated the hearts of eccentric travellers and bohemian artists. Today, Achill Island remains a bastion of untamed beauty, offering a glimpse into a time before mankind traded its soul for diesel engines and microwaveable burritos.

Getting There: A Journey for the Fearless and Foolish

Reaching Achill Island requires a certain amount of ingenuity, determination, and a healthy appreciation for self-inflicted misery. While a direct flight to Dublin may seem like the most logical approach, be warned that the path of least resistance is rarely the most rewarding. Instead, opt for a multi-stop journey through the bowels of Eastern Europe, and arrive in Ireland bleary-eyed and disoriented, but all the more appreciative of its rolling green pastures and abundant whiskey stores.

Upon arrival on the Emerald Isle, discard any notions of public transportation or prearranged shuttles. Instead, embark on a wild goose chase for a rental car that may or may not exist, navigating a maze of roads that barely qualify as such, and dodging errant sheep with a reckless disregard for their own safety. Embrace the chaos; it’s simply the universe’s way of preparing you for the untamed beauty that awaits on Achill Island.

Exploring the Island: A Testament to Man’s Insatiable Wanderlust

Once you’ve successfully navigated the treacherous journey to Achill Island, the true adventure begins. The island is a haven for adrenaline junkies and masochists alike, with activities such as hiking, surfing, and simply trying to stay upright in the face of gale-force winds. Follow the Wild Atlantic Way, a winding coastal route that snakes its way along the island’s perimeter, showcasing its rugged beauty in all its windswept glory.

For those so inclined, there are several ancient sites scattered across the island just begging to be explored—or desecrated, depending on your level of respect for history. Visit the 15th-century Kildavnet Castle, once home to the notorious pirate queen Grace O’Malley, whose exploits would put even the most depraved of modern-day politicians to shame. Just ensure you don’t disturb her ghost, lest you find yourself cursed to wander the island for all eternity, doomed to subsist on a diet of stale Guinness and pickled herring.

Where to Stay: The Luxury of Squalor

Achill Island offers a range of accommodations to suit every budget and predilection for squalor. For those with a penchant for the macabre, consider a stay at the abandoned village of Slievemore, where the ghosts of famine victims are said to roam the desolate landscape. Alternatively, pitch a tent at one of the island’s many campgrounds and revel in the primal satisfaction of sleeping beneath the stars, lulled to sleep by the howling winds and eerie bleating of insomniac sheep.

Final Thoughts: Embrace the Chaos

Achill Island is not for the faint of heart, nor for those seeking the creature comforts of modern civilization. It is a place where the forces of nature reign supreme, and humans are merely temporary visitors, subject to the whims of the elements and the ancient spirits that call the island home. But for those willing to brave the wilds of Achill Island, the rewards are immeasurable—a sense of freedom and awe that can only be experienced in the most untamed corners of the earth. So pack your bags, grab your whiskey flask, and embark on a journey into the heart of Ireland’s rugged beauty.

Article kindly provided by