Achill Island adventures in the Volkswagen Grand California

800 kilometres driven and a five night stay in Volkswagen's largest motorhome

One of the best ways to experience Ireland’s scenic countryside is with a motorhome road trip. That’s exactly what we did with Volkswagen’s largest motorhome the Grand California, taking it on a five night, 800 kilometre adventure from coast-to-coast. Setting off from Dublin, we drove to one of Ireland’s most scenic holiday locations, Achill Island. Demand for camping is booming, as was evidenced when we arrived at our first campsite destination; Keel Sandybanks Camping & Caravan Park, which was fully booked on arrival. The atmosphere was one of relaxation, with the sound of waves crashing onto the nearby Keel beach and lots of other happy campers in caravans, motorhomes and tents as we setup for the night.

After parking up on a grassy patch we plugged in power to charge up the Grand California's onboard battery. Both the front driver and passengers seats swivel around to make a comfortable seating area and we setup the table for some lunch. With a double ring gas hob the Grand California is well equipped for campsite cooking and we had lots of food stored in the large fridge and freezer compartment. We also quickly setup the outdoor table and chairs built into the rear doors and large awning for shade overhead. 

Gas Hob Grand California

Sleeping in the Grand California is better described as ‘high-end glamping’ than camping. A large bed pulls down in the rear with a comfortable mattress and supporting springs and takes less than 30 seconds to set up. The bed is hugely comfortable, making it easy to get a great night’s sleep, and the interior feels airy and spacious with blackout blinds built-into the windows and skylights. There is also a pull-out bunk-style bed for children over the driver’s area which is great for family holidays, along with a folding ladder to step up into it.

Doogart Beach Achill Island

Of course, a big selling point for the Grand California over the smaller California models in the range (California and Caddy California) is that that it comes with a separate bathroom with a toilet, shower and lots of storage for toiletries inside. As we stayed on campsites with onsite toilet and showering facilities, we never needed to use the Grand California’s bathroom, although it is a  great feature to have for those that venture further afield.

White Cliffs of Ashleam Achill Island

Each day we explored Achill’s winding roads and scenic surrounds, driving to famous areas on the Island including the breathtaking White Cliffs of Ashleam, a relaxing stop off at Purteen Harbour and exploring the winding coastal and bogside roads of Doogort. Despite its large size, the Grand California is a joy to drive, with plenty of power from the diesel engine and accompanying DSG transmission. The extra height of the Grand California gives you a birds-eye view of the surrounding landscape, especially from the front seats.  

Purteen Harbour Achill Island

A trip to Achill isn't complete without a visit to the stunning beach at Keem Bay, arguably one of Ireland’s finest beaches. It begins with a scenic drive down in to the bay from high up on the slopes of Croughan. Parking the Grand California right beside the beach, we cooked lunch, swam in the sea and sat outside enjoying the views and sounds of the bay. The weather was great, and as everyone knows, there are few better places to be than in Ireland on a fine day.

Keem Bay Achill Island

After two nights in Keem, we moved to nearby Doogart for another two night stay at Achill Seal Caves Caravan & Camping Park. Set at the base of Slievemore mountain in Dugort village, it has the sandy beaches of Dugort and Golden Strand nearby and all of the facilities you could need for a lengthy stay. Each day we grew more familiar with the features, using the built-in heating system to heat the interior when the temperature dropped on on our last night of the trip. The built-in wireless Apple CarPlay was a real treat allowing us to listen to our favourite Spotify playlists when parked up, and use Google Maps to fully explore the Island's roads. 

Achill Island Keem Bay vista

Our time to go home had arrived and we drove from Achill Island back to Dublin, via Malaranny, Castlebar, Claremorris and on to M6 motorway with a heacy heart. We had thoroughly enjoyed our five days in the Grand California, and could easily have settled in for a longer stay. With so much to see and do at home in Ireland, the motorhome is the ideal way to get around and to experience the local way of life. Every weekend can become an adventure with a vehicle like the Grand California, as an overnight destination can be just a few hours drive away without the expense of traditional accomodation or the need to book ahead. Similarly, an adventure to European destinations is just a ferry away. In contrast to larger campervans and traditional motorhomes, the Grand California is easier and more rewarding to drive, meaning you can cover more ground and enjoy the drive better. We can think of few better ways to explore Achill Island and its surrounds than with the Grand California as a result. Next up, a full tour of the Wild Atlantic Way beckons. 

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