Keel Beach: Parking, Swimming, Surfing & All 2024 Info

image via Tourism Ireland/courtesy Fearghus Foyle

If you are paying a visit to Achill Island this year and you would like lots of detailed information about the magnificent Keel Beach, then you’ve come to the right place!

Keel Beach (not Keem!) is a huge cresent-shaped beach located near the village of Keel on Achill Island, County Mayo, in the far west of Ireland.

It has a spectacular setting, with the towering cliffs of Minaun providing a stunning backdrop.

image via Tourism Ireland

Keel Beach has been a magnet for watersports enthusiasts for years, while also being a very popular beach for swimmers and walkers.

Luckily enough, I grew up not too far away from Keel and have visited it countless times, so I am delighted to share with you everything I know about this brilliant beach.

Some Handy Information Before You Go

The Name

As briefly eluded to already, Keel is very often confused with its similar-sounding sister beach up the road-Keem. The real name of Keel Beach is actually ‘An Trá Mór’ (anglicized as Trawmore) which transaltes ‘the big beach’.

Location

Keel Beach is located on Achill Island, which is Ireland’s largest offsore island. The whole island of Achill has a population of approximately 2,500.

Before you reach the village of Keel, you’ll see a brown sign labelled ‘Trá’. Here you’ll take a left and follow the short road to the carpark. The exact location of Keel Beach is here:

Keel Beach is very exposed and faces the North Atlantic Ocean in a southwesterly direction, meaning it gets some brilliant surf, therefore being a very popular beach for surfers.

Its exposed location means it gets plenty of wind, therefore also being an incredible beach for kitesurfing and windsurfing.

Keel Beach enjoys a magnificent setting with the stunning Cliffs of Minaun providing a spectacular backdrop. These cliffs are located on the western side of Minaun Hill (466 m) and reach a height of almost 400 metres.

Length

Keel Beach is almost 4 km in length (2.5 miles) and during low tide it’s possible to walk the whole length of the beach. In fact, Keel Beach is extremely popular with walkers and the sand is good and solid underfoot.

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Parking

After turning off the main road and driving towards the beach, you’ll see a right and a left turn.

If you turn right, you’ll see a small parking area along this road in front of the playground.

If you turn left, you’ll find the main car park behind the dunes. Here’s a photo of the exact location:

image via Google Streetview

Toilets

The toilets are located along the approach road to the beach here.

Coffee/Food Stands

During the warmer summer months, you’ll find some great food and drinks stands located near the carpark beside the playground/smaller carpark.

Kids Playground

Not that the kids will need any extra tiring out on this beach, but just in case, there’s a very decent playground located right next to the smaller carpark to the right.

Rubbish/Garbage/Litter bins

There are numerous litter binners near the main parking/entrance area to the beach and a substantial bottle bank located on the way to the toilets from the beach.

Disability Access

There is also wheelchair access to the beach and a beach wheelchair available when lifeguards are on duty.

Blue Flag

Keel Beach is a Blue Flag Beach, which means it passes all high standards of cleanliness and safety. It must be noted though that the Keel Village side is the only official designated swimming area.

The area towards the cliffs is not suitable for swimming.

There are ample flags to show the safe swimming areas on the beach.

Lifeguards

Lifeguards are on duty during the summer season. In June from 12pm – 6.30pm (weekends and bank holidays only) and then every day in July & August from 12pm – 6.30pm.

In September they are on duty only on the first Saturday and Sunday of the month.

Dogs

Dogs are not permitted on the Blue Flag area of the beach during the summer months from 12-6.30 pm, but are allowed (on a leash) outside this area. And of course droppings must be picked up.

Weather

Keel beach is exposed to the Atlantic, so most of the time there’s a good stiff breeze/wind blowing. Every year the locals go for a dip at this beach on New Year’s Day, which must be an experience!

However, warm days also come and the beach gets busy, but you’ll barely notice the crowd as the beach is massive. Planning to visit soon? Have a look at the forecast for the next days.

KEEL WEATHER

The Beach

Keel Beach is an enormous, long sandy strand which starts close to the village of Keel and stretches all the way to the massive Minaun Cliffs for a distance of nearly 4km.

image via Tourism Ireland/Christian McLeod

At the back of the beach, near the small dunes, you’ll see plenty of rocks and interestingly-shaped stones, all washed up here during Atlantic storms. The end of the beach nearest the cliffs has some incredible hidden gems, which we will get to later.

The water at Keel practically never comes in as far as the dunes during high tide, and during low tide the beach is incredibly wide, offering loads of space for beach activities, from hurling to horseriding.

The Views

Because of its exposed location, Keel beach offers some fantastic views in every direction.

Looking out over Keel Bay and towards the Atlantic, you’ll see the small island named ‘Inishgallon’.

image via Failte Ireland

To the right of this, you’ll be able to make out the cliffs of Benmore behind the magnificent Keem Bay

Further right again, your eyes will be drawn to the high slopes of Croaghaun Mountain. On the northern side of this mountain you’ll find Ireland’s and one of Europe’s highest seacliffs: The Cliffs of Croaghaun.

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Behind Keel beach, you’ll notice Achill Island’s second highest mountain: Slievemore (671 metres in height)

And as mentioned already the cliffs of Minaun Hill (466m) dominate the landscape to the southeast.

Activities on Keel Beach

Watersports

This is one of the reasons Keel is so popular. For years it has been a haven for watersports entusiasts.

Surfing

There are 2 companies which offer surfing lessons. Achill Surf provide lessons and all equipment, as well as activities like kayaking and lots more.

copyright Rob Davies/Surf Forecast

Blackfield Surf School also provide the same, along with Paddleboarding.

For those of you avid surfers out there, Keel attracts swell from a westerly and southwesterly directions making it one of the best and most consistent surf spots in Ireland. Check your surf forecast here for Keel.

Kite Surfing

The company ‘Pure Magic‘ has become synonymous with Achill adventure in recent years and, although I have seen them mainly located at the lake behind Keel Bay, you may see them in action out on Keel Bay.

image Failte Ireland/Courtesy Gareth McCormack

They provide lessons for all levels and although I have not tried it myself, it looks insane! Maybe this award-winning video showcasing their expolits along the epic backdrop of Keel Beach will tempt you:

Swimming

Keel is definitely an invigorating swim. Mostly, there are waves and therefore care is required. As mentioned the Blue Flag section is to the right, so stick within the swimming markers.

On a calm day, the water is crystal clear and makes for an amazing dip in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

Horseriding

This company provide horseriding and trekking for all levels and all age groups. A 2-hour advanced trek on Keel Beach is also available. What an incredible experience this must be!

Sauna

Just like on Old Head Beach near Westport, you can relax in your own wooden sauna. But remember to go straight into the cooling waters of the Atlantic afterwards!

Golf

There is a 9-hole golf course just behind the beach. The weird and wonderful thing about this course is that the local sheep help to manage the fairways!

The greens are also fenced off to avoid any unwanted obstacles getting in your way while putting! Here, you’ll find more details about this beautifully located golf course.

Walking

Keel Beach is an amazing place for a long, seaside walk. Maybe you’ll want to clear your head after being in the pub the night before or build up a good appetite before you go for a nice seafood meal. In any case Keel Beach is a wonderful place to stretch the legs.

You can choose to wander along the beach itself, as the sand is good underfoot and not too soft or choose to walk the road that continues past the main carpark.

The road named ‘Sandybanks’ offers some amazing views all around, while keep your shoes (relatively sand-free)

An Amazing Waterfall

To the far left of the beach, under the shadow of Minaun Hill, you’ll find the incredible Dookinella Waterfall. After a period of heavy rainfall, the water gushes down the side of the hill spectacularly.

This waterfall is found at the end of the Sandybanks road here. What a hidden gem! Notice all the amazing stone art along the green area below the waterfall.

The Cathedral Rocks

Using the same link to Google Street view provided above, you’ll see almost church-shaped rocks nestled under the cliffs. These are the magnificent Cathedral Rocks.

A word of caution here though: During high tide, these rocks are cut off from the beach and are only accessible during a very low tide. Some years ago, there was a rescue operation as some unfortnate visitors got trapped.

Here you can see the majestic rock formations.

copyright Docbrown.info

Other Things to Do Near Keel Beach on Achill Island

Luckily enough, there’s tons to do on Achill. From incredible road trips to jaw-dropping hikes, we have put together and extensive list of the 17 best things to do on Achill Island.

We also have indoor activities covered, if you are unfortunate enough to get some miserable weather. Click here for all the details.

Where to Stay on Achill Island and Nearby

Achill Island

As remote as Achill Island may be, there is plenty of accommodation on the island. But, a word of warning: After the success of the film The Banshees of Inisherin, the summer of 2023 is expected to be a very busy year on Achill, so it’s imperative to book well in advance.

A huge part of the film was shot here, and many are keen to see the stunning locations on the island. In our humble opinion, after having stayed on Achill numerous times, the best area to stay in is around the Keel/Dooagh area.

Here you are centrally located on the island and are close to all facilities such as shops, the best restaurants, pubs and beaches. There are loads of Bed and Breakfasts in this area, most of them very reasonably priced. You can find them all here.

Camping at Keel

There is an extensive camping site nearby with all facilities you need. They also provide fully kitted-out mobile homes with hot and cold water. The company has recently changed hands so stay tuned to this site for upcoming details.

 Courtesy Valerie O’Sullivan

Westport

Planning a day trip to Achill from the wonderful town of Westport? Westport is about 1.5 hours away and is a brilliant base to explore this whole area of Ireland.

copyright: Michael McLaughlin

It offers so much from amazing restaurants and pubs to countless attractions and activities. We have handpicked our 12 best hotels in Westport, and have personally stayed in almost all of them. Click here to see our choice of the best hotels in Westport.

The Banshees of Inisherin

This post would not be complete without a mention of The Banshees of Inisherin. As you may know this film has been lauded for its spectacular cinematography, owing to the grand landsapes of Achill Island and Inishmore.

image via Failte Ireland/copyright: Chistian McLeod

Luckily, we have put together the most extensive post you’ll find outlining all exact filming locations of the Banshees of Inisherin. We also have put together a pre-planned roadtrip, which will take you to all exact locations, which we believe is the best way to experience the whole island.

Click here to see all exact filming locations

Click here to see the roadtrip in the footsteps of the Banshees of Inisherin.

FAQs

Where is Keel Beach?

Keel Beach is located near the village of Keel, on Achill Island, County Mayo, in the west of Ireland.

Are there public toilets at Keel Beach?

Yes, they are located on the left as you reach the end of the approach road to the beach, near the recycling bins

Are Keel and Keem beaches the same?

No, although sounding very similar, they are 2 seperate beaches located in 2 different places on Achill. Keel is near the village of Keel and Keem is located at the far western end of the island.

Are there jellyfish in Keel Beach?

During warmer periods of the summer months, it’s not uncommon to see jellyfish in the waters of Keel Beach.

How long is Keel Beach?

At low tide Keel Beach stretches for a distance of almost 4 kms (2.5 miles)

Can you swim at Keel Beach?

Yes, the section to the right of the beach is safe for swimming, inside the designated swimming areas, which are marked with flags.

Is Keel Beach a Blue Flag beach?

Yes, records show that up to date, the last previous 5 years, Keel beach has passed all high standards for water cleanliness and safety.

Is Keel Beach a good beach for surfing?

Yes, Keel Beach is one of the best surfing beaches in Ireland, owing to its ideal orientation, facing in a southwesterly direction towards the Atlantic Ocean.

Can you drive to Achill Island?

Yes, Achill Island is joined to the mainland by the Michael Davitt Bridge and there are extensive roads on the island.

Final Thoughts

After writing this post, one thing that strikes me is the incredible amount of activites you can do on Keel Beach. Having visited many times, I recommed this beach highly, it really packs a punch.

I always love the moment when I approach Keel from Achill Sound and suddenly the enormous cliffs of Minaun come into view on the left had side.

The setting of the beach, along with the sheer size of it makes for a great day out for young or old, for adventure seekers or sunbathers alike.

We hope you visit one day and of course leave no trace. Let us know if you plan to go or if you have been already, drop us a mail or leave a comment.

We’d be delighted to hear from ye. Slán Go Fóill! 

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