Achill Island boasts some of the finest beaches in Ireland, including no fewer than five Blue Flag beaches. The Blue Flag scheme is an international standard for beaches and marinas and is assessed on an annual basis. The criteria for qualification include water quality, environmental education, environmental management, and safety and services.
In Ireland the Blue Flag scheme is administered by An Taisce, the national body for heritage and the environment. Full details of the Blue Flag beaches standard can also be found at BlueFlag.org.
Blue Flag Beach Tour / Touras na Tra
Begin your tour of Achill’s blue flag beaches in Keem Bay, at the western tip of Achill Island. This beautiful Blue Flag beach is nestled in the valley between the slopes of Croaghaun mountain and Moyteoge Head. Accessible via a cliff-top road (not for the faint-hearted!), Keem Bay is a perfect horseshoe bay and its Atlantic waters are perfect for bathing on a hot summer’s day. Try snorkelling on the Blueway Trail here!
Trawmore Strand is perhaps Achill’s best known and most-photographed beach. It stretches for over 3km, linking Keel in the west to Dookinella and the foot of the Minaun Cliffs. Hugely popular with bathers, this south-facing beach is also widely used for watersports including surfing, windsurfing and sea kayaking. The waters on the eastern half of this beach are dangerous for swimming due to treacherous local currents. Trawmore Strand, along with all Achill’s Blue Flag beaches, has prominent safety notices and flags and is patrolled by lifeguards during the summer season.
On the north side of Achill Island, the shoreline around the village of Dugort boasts two Blue Flag beaches – the Silver Strand and the Golden Strand. Both of these beaches face Blacksod Bay and the Belmullet Peninsula. The most westerly of the beaches in Dugort, Pollawaddy, is sheltered in the shadow the the magnificent Slievemore mountain, while further east the beach known as Barnyagappul Strend derives its name from the Irish Trá Bhearna na gCapall. This translates as ‘the strand of the gap of the horses’ and refers to the practice in former times of using horses to carry seaweed from the shore to be used as fertiliser in the fields. The Blueway kayak trail is located here. Paddle from Silver Strand to Golden Strand, past the seal caves and the bird colonies.
On the south side of Achill Island, along the spectacular Atlantic Drive, is the island’s fifth Blue Flag beach at Dooega. Located on the other side of Minaun (466m) to Trawmore Strand, Dooega is a picturesque fishing village with south-facing views across the Atlantic waters to Clare Island and beyond. The beach here is also known as Camport Bay and the area surrounding it is rich in history, with the remains of two promontory forts located further west of the bay and field systems to the north that are thought to be prehistoric in origin.