Our tour of the Iconic Mountains of Ireland has already taken us to wonderful Achill Island. On that occasion, we enjoyed a walk up Slievemore from the pretty and serene blue-flag Silver Strand beach at Dugort.
Once you have spent any amount of time on the island and fallen in love with its rugged and dramatic landscape, it is nigh on impossible to leave behind. The island’s awe inspiring coastline has been carefully crafted by the sheer power of the Atlantic waves that start some five thousand miles away on the shores of North America. All around the island, the shoreline is continuously being recreated right in front of your eyes.
It is perhaps on Croaghaun that this process is most evident, it’s enormous sea-cliffs testament to the steady and resolute power of the Atlantic. Indeed, such is the raw power of the sea that it has sculpted from the rock a two kilometre stretch of cliffs. It might surprise many to hear that the cliffs are three times higher than the Cliffs of Moher and can lay claim to be the highest cliffs in Ireland and Great Britain and amongst Europe’s highest sea cliffs.
And so it is to Croaghaun that we turn for the next entry in our ‘Iconic Mountain’ series. The mountain may appear like something of a sleeping giant but it is certainly not one to be taken lightly.
This is something of a hard one to quantify for a number of reasons, not least of which is the fact that Croaghaun is a mountain that very rarely reveals itself to the public. Its position on the western extremities of County Mayo stretching out into the Atlantic gives Croaghaun something of a micro-climate. The incoming damp sea air is suddenly forced upwards by the mountain resulting in a seemingly continuous cover of cloud on its upper reaches. It’s not unusual for the rest of the island to be enjoying unbroken blue skies and vibrant sunshine whilst Croaghaun remains hidden under a thick veil of cloud.
It should be noted that this can be a wild, wet and windy spot on which the weather can change very rapidly. This really is a mountain that is best saved for a spell of fine weather as much to avoid the potential dangers as to enjoy the amazing views. When Croaghaun is visible, its whale-backed bulk forms an impressive sight as you approach the western end of Achill Island. It dominates the view west from the village of Dooagh, its domed summit sitting over the cliffs which surround serene Lough Accorymore, a small corrie lake which has been dammed to provide water for the islanders.
It’s fair to say that the view from Dooagh gives little indication of the epic nature of the opposite side of Croaghaun, something that can only really be appreciated either by boat trip or by hiking to the summit of Achill’s highest mountain.
As we outlined in our piece on Slievemore, Achill Island is linked to the mainland by the Michael Davitt Bridge. Once across the bridge, continue on the R319 passing through the villages of Keel and Dooagh. A couple of kilometres outside of Dooagh as the road starts to climb the lower slopes of Croaghaun, watch out for a right turn marked with a signpost for the water treatment plant. Follow this road to the small car park beside Lough Acorrymore.