Just the name Wild Atlantic Way sounds romantic doesn’t it? It conjures up images of jagged cliffs, soaring gulls and crashing waves. If you love road trips (and really, who doesn’t?) you’ll love this one.
At 2500km (1600 miles) The Wild Atlantic Way is the longest defined coastal drive in the world. It hugs the western coastline of Ireland all the way from County Donegal in the north to County Cork in the south.
You’ll need at least a couple of weeks to do the whole thing properly, but if time is short don’t worry! There are six regions along the length of the route and you can spend your time exploring one or just a couple of them if you only have a few days.
This is the most remote part of the route and the starting point. Donegal is a beautiful, wild part of the country and was named the “Coolest Place on the Planet for 2017” by National Geographic Traveler. The landscape here is captivating, with dramatic cliffs, seabirds and the ceaseless movement of the ocean. The small communities are tight knit and maintain both the Gaelic language and tradition.
Tip: Since no road trip is complete without music, be sure to have some Clannad or Enya loaded onto your iPod. This legendary family of musicians come from the town of Gweedore in Co. Donegal.
“There’s a feeling in all our music, an ambience that stems directly from where we were brought up and to have to define our sound, I always say that if they were to visit Gweedore they wouldn’t need to ask.” – Ciarán Brennan
While its possible to surf along most of Ireland’s west coast, the stretch from Donegal Town to Erris, which includes Bundoran and nearby Mullaghmore Head, is a magnet for surfers the world over.
From Erris the road travels into beautiful Connemara. Still alive with its Gaelic heritage, this area is home to peninsulas and bays that make for a stunning coastal journey. Nature provides the perfect backdrop for outdoor activities. Cycle along the Great Western Greenway or hike the rugged and wild Connemara National Park. You can also visit some of the many islands in the area including Clare Island which was the stronghold of pirate queen Grace O’Malley. Who, incidentally, was once the owner of Ballynahinch Castle, which is now a luxury hotel.
Leaving County Galway, you’ll head into County Clare and the northern part of County Kerry. If you love traditional Irish pubs and cliff top walks then this is the spot for you. At the famous Cliffs of Moher you can observe colonies of puffins or simply soak in the spectacular views along this section of the journey.
This section of the route takes in the southern part of County Kerry, with its giant peninsulas, before crossing into County Cork. Views off into the endless expanses of the ocean combine with stellar walking opportunities here. Be sure to visit Skellig Michael, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Gaelic Christian monastery that dates from the 6th to 8th Centuries. Also made famous as the remote home of Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
The southern-most portion of the route winds its way from Bantry Bay to Kinsale. Beachcomb as you work your way towards the vibrant arts scene of West Cork. This is also a foodie’s paradise – Kinsale is known as the Gourmet Capital of Ireland.
This really is the road trip of a lifetime.
Castle Hotels on the Wild Atlantic Way
Find out more here: The Wild Atlantic Way