Things to Do

Ultimate Road Trip – The Wild Atlantic Way

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.

Northern Headlands

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.” – CiarΓ‘n Brennan

Surf Coast

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.

Bay Coast

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.

Cliff Coast

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.

Southern Peninsulas

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.

Haven Coast

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

Ballynahinch Castle Hotel, Connemara

Ballyseede Castle Hotel, Tralee

Find out more here: The Wild Atlantic Way

12 Comments

  • I feel more relaxed just reading this. Sigh.

    I have always wanted to take a trip like this. I love the sounds, and the air, and just the general spirit of this particular coast. I hadn’t thought of doing it as a road trip before. I think we generally think of doing road trips within our own countries. But this sounds like something amazing and romantic. Thank you for opening my eyes to this.

    • Thank you Sunny for your visit and comment. So glad you enjoyed the story. Yes, it’s very easy to do a road trip along this coast – with plenty of interesting things to explore along the way.

  • Absolutely awesome. I have never feasted my eyes on anything this beautiful. And I thought I was in awe when I saw the coast of Santa Barbara, CA which was beautiful to me. But this has a real enchantment about it. I wonder what it would cost to go from Oklahoma City to there on a vacation for two? Do you have any idea?

    • Hi Ronnie,
      Thanks for your visit and comment. It is a beautiful part of the world that’s for sure. I haven’t (yet) had the chance to visit Santa Barbara but one day hopefully πŸ™‚
      Taking a quick look at Kayak, there are airfares from Oklahoma City to Dublin in May for around US$1,000 per person return. I suspect that there would be seat sales throughout the year though so its worth keeping an eye open for those.
      Thanks
      Margaret

  • HI there. Thanks for posting this review – I love Ireland and really love the mix of wild landscapes that you describe and the history and culture – particularly the myths and legends. I remember my dad telling stories of Finn MacCool and the Giant’s causeway as a child.
    I would like to go back maybe this year or next for a holiday. I don’t think I could take that long off work though and I have 2 girls in school still. Which part of the trip would you recommend as best for a shorter time that was suitable for myself and the two girls aged 10 and 11? Look forward to hearing from you. Gail

    • Hi Gail,
      Thanks for stopping by and for your comment. Yes, I love the myths and legends of Ireland too. The area I would probably suggest when you’re travelling with children is Kerry in the south. Not only is it scenic, there are a lot of things for kids to enjoy. Just a few suggestions – the Dingle Dolphin boat tours or a Seafari in Kenmare. There are also two fabulous Fairy Trails – one in Caherdaniel and one in Sneem. I’m sure your girls would love to explore these trails and find the fairy houses along the way.
      All the best,
      Margaret

  • This is an amazing explanation of places I have always wanted to visit. Thank you. I would love to see the Cliff Coast and the puffins. I didn’t know about Kinsale. I am going to add this destination to my trip list. Thanks for your excellent info.

    • Hi Chuck,

      Thanks for your visit and comment. Glad that you discovered a new place to add to your trip list! Its a gorgeous part of the world πŸ™‚

      Margaret

  • It looks like a dream. Just beautiful. The Southern Peninsulas would be the first thing I would like to see but everything else looks spectacular. Just seeing everything would be awesome. If I get the change to go I will probably need more time because I have never been to Ireland before and would love to see more of the country. I would love to visit historical places.
    Thanks for sharing Ireland with us πŸ™‚

    • Hi Dira,

      Thank you for your visit and comment. There is so much to see and do in Ireland that’s for sure. And lots of historical sites to be seen. I hope you have the chance to visit one day.

      Margaret

  • Me and my girlfriend love road trips and are always looking for new places to explore and Ireland is just so beautiful. We will definitely add this to our bucket list of one of the places to visit in Europe and to go for a road trip if we have the chance to. Thanks so much for your recommendation. I look forward to more beautiful places to explore in your next article!

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