The TURAS team touring with Phillip Bond of APB Trading Ltd., recently enjoyed a few days camping and greenlaning on the Western fringes of Europe in County Mayo and on Achill Island Ireland’s largest offshore Island. Achill Island is one of the last true wild frontiers located on the Western edge of Europe. Driving towards Achill we enjoyed some green laning and camping in the wilderness of Mayo in Ballycroy National Park, before making our way to Achill.
As we approached from the Ballycroy National Park , we were soon presented with amazing views of the Islands mountainous landscape in the distance. Achill’s geography makes the Island the most mountainous Island in Ireland, with some of its peaks including Slievemore (2,214ft / 671m), Croaghaun (2,192ft / 668m) and the Land Rover accessible summit of Minaun Heights towering 466m and also giving incredible views of the west coast of the Island.The north-east face of Croaghaun features almost perpendicular cliffs which claim to be the highest sea cliffs in Europe totalling a staggering 2,000ft (606m) .
You can still see the head of this specimen mounted and displayed on the wall of the bar in the Achill Head Hotel, in Keel. Other record fish caught off Achill include a 5.5kg Tub Gunard caught near Bullsmouth in 1973, and a Blue Shark caught off Achill Head in 1959 weighing over 93.4kg
On the island, we enjoyed some remote coastal driving on the famous ‘Atlantic Drive’. The island boasts a spectacular coastline that spans over 80 miles of (often cliff hugging) roads, that are only a few meters at time from the wild Atlantic ocean. Atlantic drive covers about 12 miles of spectacular scenery starting at Achill Sound. The coast road runs very close to the cliff edge and provides spectacular views of Clew Bay in the distance with its 365 islands, you will also be able to see Croagh Patrick (764m) to the south-east, Mweelrea, the Sheefry Hills and the Maamturks in Connemara and the inhabited Clare Island to the south east.
There are several lay-bys and parking spots along this stretch of narrow and twisting road, perfect for picnics or to stop and take a few photographs and explore this wild coastline. One of these lay-bys is at the site of the Spanish Armada memorial where a plaque was erected to commemorate the ship San Nicolas Prodaneli which was wrecked on the shore at Toorglass, Currane Peninsula, in 1588.
An interesting note about Currane is that the founder of the British police force, Sir Robert Peel, once resided here.
As you approach the Atlantic drive to the west of the island you will pass by on your left the Kildavnet Tower, a 16th century Irish tower house that was formerly used by Granuaile, the legendary pirate queen. This road ends at a junction with at which we took a turn towards Achill Sound, our starting point on a beautiful scenic loop.
A fascinating site to visit on the Island is the deserted village, the haunting ruins of a village at Slievemore comprises of nearly 100 stone cottages located along a mile long stretch of road on the southern slopes of Slievemore mountain. While some of these dwellings were occupied as summer ‘booley’ homes within living memory, the area itself is rich in archaeological artefacts including megalithic tombs dating from the Neolithic period some 5,000 years ago.
We also drove the track to the top of Minaun Heights, the highest point on the island. A very photgenic location. This steep road ends at a hill-top viewing point, giving a breathtaking view across the Island.
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