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‘Gloriously remote’ – Irish beach named by Lonely Planet as one of Europe's ‘Top 20’

Keem on Mayo's Achill Island lauded by international travel guide for its half-moon bay of golden sand at the foot of steep cliffs and grassy slopes


Keem Bay, Achill Island

Keem Bay, Achill Island

Keem Bay, Achill Island

“No matter your taste in beaches, Europe obliges,” says Lonely Planet.

Its latest list of the continent's top beaches certainly proves the point, ranging from Arctic escapes to sandy coves squirreled away in Sicily and Sardinia.

And there’s an Irish inclusion too – at No.18 on the list, Achill Island’s Keem Bay is described as a “gloriously remote” treasure on the Wild Atlantic Way.

“A precipitous coastal drive fires the appetite for proper wilderness – and here you have it,” author Kerry Christiani writes in the post.

“Bearing the brunt of stormy seas and the fickle whims of the Irish weather, this half-moon bay of golden sand spreads at the foot of steep cliffs and grassy slopes.”

Topping the list is Haukland beach on Norway’s Lofoten Islands, followed by Cala Goloritzè in Sardinia and West Beach on Scotland’s Outer Hebrides. Plage de Palombaggia in Corsica and Platja Illetes in Spain’s Formentera round out its take on Europe’s Top 5.

Barafundle Bay in Wales, Praia da Arrifana in Portugal, Cala Macarella in Menorca, Navagio (or ‘Shipwreck Beach') on the Greek island of Zakynthos and Mallorca’s Platja de Coll Baix complete the Top 10.

Keem Bay is a “Signature Discovery Point” on the Wild Atlantic Way, renowned for its beauty and wildlife including seasonal basking sharks, which have been filmed returning to the bay years after fishermen in currachs contributed to a drastic reduction in their numbers.

For several years, Mayo County Council has planned to develop the bay as a tourist attraction, including with a “skywalk”, “skeleton sculpture”, watchtower restoration and pedestrian trails.

Summer traffic challenges are an issue, the Council noted in tender documents advertised this year, and a sensitive and “sustainable" development could address this, while increasing visitor dwell time at the site and delivering economic and social benefits to the local community.


Keem Bay. Photo: John Joyce

Keem Bay. Photo: John Joyce

Keem Bay. Photo: John Joyce

The plans have proved controversial, however, with almost 10,000 people having signed up to a Change.org petition aiming to “save” the bay.

The petition’s organisers say the plan is a “disastrous” idea that “would threaten the very reason that Keem is one of the most beautiful places in the world”.

Lonely Planet’s latest citation for Ireland follows its selection of the Burren Ecotourism Network as one of the Top 30 travel experiences in the world for 2021.

You can find the full Top 20 beaches online here.

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