We arrived in Westport in time for breakfast having driven through the night from Dublin Port. It was 8am. Nowhere was open for breakfast until 9, I remembered we were in Ireland.
There was an hotel open so we went in for a coffee and a quick planning session. As we sat scouring the weather forecast, tide times, charts and maps a senior chap came in and ordered a Jamesons, swiftly followed by two other patrons wanting a Guinness and a Magners. It was 8am on a Saturday morning in Westport.
The forecast for the next 48 hours was such that it pleaded for us to start our circumnavigation of Achill Island immediately. We bought some camping gas and a pair of sunglasses from www.portwest.ie (who gave us a welcome discount) and we set off for Achill.
We called in on cousin Anne in the Valley, immediately tea and sandwiches were produced. After a good tea session we headed off to Dugort strand, on the north side of Achill. After a thorough kit faff session we were ready to go around 15:00. We left the truck at the ever-friendly Strand Hotel.
Our first camp was at Lough Nakeeroge, the lowest lough in Ireland, and possibly the most remote. The tide was close to it’s low and so revealed the beautiful silver sand of Annagh Strand. A great place to land. We set up camp between the Atlantic and Lough Nakeeroge, made all the more special when an otter passed by our tent and plunged into the Lough.
To get round Saddle Head and Achill Head we needed to leave at around High Tide. What we hadn’t really factored in was that at high tide the silver Annagh Strand was covered, we would have to launch into dumping waves from a boulder field. This turned into an interesting challenge, and the “make or break” moment of the trip.
The swell was big around Saddle Head, but the wind was negligible which made for a fun trip around the imposing Croaghaun cliffs - the highest sea cliffs in Europe.
We pulled into the magical Keem bay for lunch around about 13:00. Here we bumped into cousin Colin, Maria and Erin - we hastily arranged to meet for some drinks when we had finished. We realised it was Easter Sunday and pulled out the mini-eggs that cousin Anne had given us. Katie ate most of them.
When it’s sunny in Keem bay you inevitably relax, we eventually pulled away at around 16:00. The wind had picked up and clouds had come in for our crossing to Dooega. We landed at Ballyhawny Harbour (near Dooega) at around 19:30 after a good workout in the wind.
Easter Monday, through Achill Sound and back to Dugort. Our tidal planning for this section was crucial and we couldn’t have planned it any better, a very enjoyable final day of our circumnavigation of Achill Island.
After a few Guinness on the Monday night in The Annexe Inn, we paddled over to Clare Island and carried on our circumnavigation theme in rougher conditions and very dramatic coastline. A wild island worth exploring.
After a few days rest and surfing at Keel beach we then completed a horseshoe tour of Clew bay from Rockfleet Bay to Louisburgh taking in Westport and a summit of Croagh Patrick on the way.
A fantastic trip out west.
Photos of the trip here.