Blue sky, sea and mountains


Achill may bring back memories of holidays in lashing rain and howling winds, but on a good day the Co Mayo island is reminiscent of Crete. DEIRDRE DAVYStakes a walk that will fill a day if you leave time for a dip

FOR SOME PEOPLE holidays on Achill Island, in Co Mayo, may bring back memories of rain-sodden walks, soulless holiday homes or tents blown away in a howling wind, but a good day on Achill is reminiscent of being in Crete. Climb any hill and a panorama of blue sea, sky and mountains reminds you of why you have returned.

A great walk for a good sunny day starts at the village of Dooagh, on the northwest side of the island. You can begin by driving up a small road that becomes a track. This will save you about two kilometres at the end of the walk – for which you will be duly grateful.

Using sheet 22 of the Ordnance Survey of Ireland’s Discovery Series, start at grid reference 603049, just above the stony beach. This little road runs beside a river, which will be on your left. Drive up the road to the point where it splits into two little tracks, at 598055. Head across the bog, going due north. When you reach the ridge, drop down steeply to the beautiful lake below, officially called Lough Nakeeroge but locally known as the Mermaid’s Mirror.

Walk northwest through high heather and past more lakes way out to your right. Keep walking west and gradually start to ascend as you go around the mountainside.

After you have passed the second lake – strangely enough, another Lough Nakeeroge – the ground gets even steeper until, eventually, your efforts are rewarded as the corrie lake Bunnafreva finally appears.

Surrounded on three sides by steep cliffs, it is the perfect place to picnic and have a swim. As your route now involves an even steeper climb, it’s best to be refreshed before you start.

The views all around are spectacular. Out to the north and west are just sea, sky and the distant islands of Inishkea and Duvillaun. To the south steep cliffs rise up dramatically behind the lake – the flying buttresses of Achill’s highest mountain, Croaghaun (688m).

You are now in a bowl and need an energy boost to climb out. Although it looks daunting, there are plenty of hand- and footholds, and the views as you come up make it worthwhile, for you begin to see out towards the south side of the island and towards the mountains of Mayo and Connemara.

Keep to the northeastern side of the bowl, as it is less steep. Once you are out, if the weather is still holding up you should just be able to see your car as a dot in the distant southeast. Should the mist come down, a river on your right coming through a gully would be good to follow at least until you are on flatter ground. It eventually leads back to where you left the car.

Lough Bunnafreva, Achill

Start and finishVillage of Dooagh (grid ref 603049).

How to get thereBy car, but possible by bus and train.

MapOrdnance Survey Ireland Discovery Series 22.

DistanceAbout nine kilometres.

TimeAt least three hours, or up to five with a swim, a picnic and rest stops.

SuitabilityQuite steep in places so not for those with a fear of heights; definitely not for small children. Know how to use a map and compass.

Where to stayValley House Hostel (098-47204, or, for more comfort, Bervie guest house (098-43114,