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Keem Beach

Keem Beach...

Keem Bay is a perfect horseshoe bay at the head of a valley between the cliffs of Benmore to the west and Croaghaun mountain on the east. At the southern end of the valley, the beach is sheltered to the west by Moyteoge Head, while at the northwestern end of the valley the cliffs of Benmore connect with the spectacular mile long promontory of Achill Head. This spar is the most westerly point on Achill and tails off with two sea stacks called Gaoí Saggart and Carrickakin.

Keem is accessible for cars via a cliff-top road that was constructed in the 1960s along the route of an older track. This road also crosses a local geological boundary, exposing a seam of amethyst quartz in the cliff-side. Amethyst is a semiprecious stone with a magnificent purple to violet colouring.

Keem Bay was traditionally used by fishermen on and is probably the location of the artist Paul Henry's famous painting 'Launching the Currach' (1910, on display in the National Gallery of Ireland).

Bird Life….

Waders such as the Snipe, Lapwing and Oystercatcher are frequently spotted in this area.

Snipe‎Snipe  OystercatcherOystercatcher


The Gull family is well represented with the Common Gull, Kittiwake, Blackheaded Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Herring Gull all visitors to the beach.

Lesser Black Backed Gull‎Leser Black Backed Gull

Terns are also sighted with the Arctic Tern, Common Tern and Sandwich Tern being the most commonly noted.

Arctic Tern‎Arctic Tern  Sandwich Tern‎Sandwich Tern


Cormorants and Shags have also been spotted.

Shag‎Shag  Cormorant‎Cormorant

Fish Life….

Basking Sharks are the world’s second largest fish and are the largest shark to be found in Ireland. They can reach a length of 10m and can be up to 3 tonnes in weight. Once known as ainmhide na seolta ‘monster with the sails’, they are very identifiable with their large, sometimes floppy, dorsal fin. They are named Basking Sharks due to their habit of ‘basking’ at the surface of the water. They show up every spring around our coast feeding on plankton rich waters (very small plants & animals), but disappear out of sight every Autumn.

This huge fish filters some 400 times it’s own body weight of water in one hour to obtain food.  The liver of the basking shark weighs up to 25% of it’s total weight and being rich in oils, was valuable and so has been hunted by man for several centuries. 

In the 1940’s a basking shark fishery was started in Achill.  The sharks were entangled in nets attached to cliffs at Keem and killed by harpoons from curraghs.  The fish were then towed by larger boats to Purteen Harbour where the oil was extracted.  The fins were exported to the Far East.  Because of oil shortages after World War II, the fishery flourished in the 1950’s.  In the 1960’s and 1970’s greatly reduced catches partly due to over fishing, eventually brought this fishery to a close. 

                                     Basking Shark (Liamhán Gréine)

Keem Legend Map (Document)

Keem Legend Map
Formats Available:

Cycle Routes - Achill

Cycle Routes in Achill taking in Dugort, Golden Strand, Keem and Dooega Beach

Cycle Routes - Achill-read the full story.

Posted: 07/03/2013

Mayo Beaches

Environment Section
Second Floor
Mayo County Council
The Mall
Co Mayo
Phone: (094) 9024444
Open: 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

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