Keem Bay Sheep

Into the West

Achill Island has been on my list to visit since last year even before the Oscar-nominated movie ‘Banshees of Inisherin’ and its popular landscape caught global attention. Keem Bay has been calling me for a swim and I have it on my vision board, another goal ticked off for 2023.

I have been lucky with my Airbnb locations so I booked an apartment in Claremorris as a good starting point for exploring. I lost count of how many towns we went through on Google maps driving to Mayo and my friend who came with me this time is a big skeptic of Google Maps’ accuracy.

I would say it was three hours to get there and we found our ‘home’ easily enough. Claremorris is a buzzy town and definitely worth a stop off. We dropped our bags off and made our way to the local pub  Gilligans for my birthday celebratory drinks and to plan the next three days.

On Patrick’s day the following morning, we set off to Achill Island, a good hour and a half drive from Claremorris. It’s a lovely scenic drive through Castlebar, Newport, Mulranny, Achill Sound, Keel and then to the fabulous Keem Bay. All the towns are lovely, in particular Mulranny which has a beautiful beach to visit also.

The drive along the mountaintop to Keem Bay and dodging sheep was an experience in itself. My daughter couldn’t look out the window because of the sheer drop along the mountaintop drive to the beach. We were lucky there was no problem with traffic and parking as I believe in the warmer months it can be a nightmare. There isn’t much space to park at the actual beach, so be prepared.  It’s best to go off-season if you can.

After a fab swim and climb along the rocks to reach the house from the Banshees of Inisherin movie, I got my photos, we ate our sandwiches in the hazy rain, washed down with flasks of tea and happy memories made. Into the car and I slowly ascended that mountain and I wondered how the sheep balance on the sides of the mountains with gales blowing in from the Atlantic sea. Continuing through Keel and the sun came out so we pulled in for a swim at Keel strand. What a beach that is, absolutely stunning. On our way back through Keel, we also managed to see the Patrick’s Day parade and for somewhere so isolated, there were crowds from all over Mayo taking part in the island’s festivities. It was one of the most memorable Paddy’s days I have had in a long time.

We arrived back to Claremorris exhausted and slept like logs surrounded by the sounds of sheep bleating and an abundance of animal noises from a farm nearby, really it was just pure bliss. No traffic, no human noise and no alarm clocks set for school.

The next day was a trip to a place I hadn’t visited since a child – Westport and Louisburgh. This drive was under an hour and we had put Carrowmore beach on our list today, which we found. The drive from Westport to Louisburgh is beautiful and you pass the beast that is Croagh Patrick. We stopped for photos and drive on to Carrowmore. We get there and quickly realise we won’t be swimming as it easily symbolises the meaning of the Wild Atlantic Way. Blown down onto the magnificent beach and tossed back to the car park as quickly.

We drive on to meet up with a virtual friend I have never met. We had made plans to meet in Mayo for a cuppa and chat about her own book journey. It’s always great to meet with people from your creativity network, it re-energises you.

While driving back to Westport town, we see a vacant car park spot and it happens to be right outside a lovely book shop in Louisburgh. Books at One is a social enterprise and one of three community bookshops based in Louisburgh, Letterfrack and Dublin. There are books galore inside, a children’s book room, and an art gallery in this shop. We easily purchase a bag of new and second-hand books.

Westport is our next stop and the atmosphere walking around the town is electric. Outside the pubs, children were playing fiddles, bodhrans, harps and whistles. It is a hive of activity and this is in March so I can imagine what the summer months are like.

We drive back and head into Claremorris for the rugby match and into a cozy pub by the fire for food, drinks and a bit of banter with the locals.

The next day we pack up and decide to drive to Knock, about a 15-minute drive and then towards Tuam and the Dublin motorway. I didn’t use Google this time, I listened to the suggested way home from the local taxi driver. He was spot on.

A great three-day trip around Mayo and I think I will have to venture back in the Summer although it won’t be as tranquil as this trip was but it was just what I needed right now. 

Wonder where I will venture to next!

Posted in Beautiful places to see, Creative Content, Family, Outdoor fun places for kids, Places to stay in Ireland, Story Features, Wellbeing.