If you’re planning a trip to Ireland and want to see the best of this spectacular part of the world, we suggest you take a road trip along the Wild Atlantic Way.
From the cosmopolitan city of Cork in the south, the Wild Atlantic Way weaves through miles of incredible coastal scenery and small towns, to the vast mountains of Donegal in the north. This journey along the longest coastal route in the world is one you’ll never forget.
How long does it take to travel the Wild Atlantic Way?
Whilst you can do the 1,500-mile trip in a few days, we recommend you take your time and spend a couple of weeks enjoying the magic of this road trip.
You’ll find plenty of places to stay along the way, where you’ll always be greeted with a warm Irish welcome. If you travel from south to north, you’ll sit alongside the Atlantic Ocean for much of the journey as Ireland drives on the left. This is the perfect journey to explore the wild and rugged west coast of Ireland, and hiring a car gives you the flexibility to stop wherever you want.
The best sights on the Wild Atlantic Way
There are so many things to see and do along this amazing stretch of coastline, from surfing, hiking and kayaking to stops in cosy country pubs with live music and visits to numerous castles and art and craft galleries. You’ll be spoilt for choice and might want to extend your visit to fit everything in.
We’ve picked some of the highlights of the Wild Atlantic Way to help you plan your trip.
Start in Cork, with its artisan coffee bars, narrow streets, castle and museum and the famous English Market– the perfect place to stock up on local produce for your journey.
When you want to leave the bustle of the city behind head west and in 1½ hours you’ll arrive in Kerry, with its dramatic landscape and roaring ocean. If you have time, a must is to drive the circular route of the legendary Ring of Kerry and take in the stunning historical scenery.
If you want to educate the kids about the history of Ireland, then another 1½ hour drive takes you to the ancient city of Limerick. Surrounded by charming countryside, you can explore castles, the Shannon River (the longest in Ireland) the cathedral and the origins of ‘Angela’s Ashes’, a true story of poverty in Ireland.
The next stop on this mesmerising journey, only half an hour away, is County Clare. The fabulous Cliffs of Moher will take your breath away, and on a clear day, you can see across the water to the Aran Islands. For a true taste of Irish culture, the whole family will enjoy a visit to Bunratty Castle, where you can experience the Folk Park and take part in a medieval banquet.
Another hour behind the wheel will take you through even more magnificent countryside to the city of Galway. Filled with the delightful music of entertaining street buskers and plenty of traditional pubs and trendy bars, Galway is the perfect location to while away an afternoon with friends over an Irish coffee or a pint of Guinness.
For a relaxing day on the beach, Keem Bay, west of Mayo is about two hours away. This gorgeous and sheltered sandy bay is set in the heart of the Irish countryside and is ideal for young children. On a warm summer’s day, take a break from driving, lie back on the gleaming white sand and you could almost be in the Caribbean.
Once you’ve recharged your batteries, you can head for Sligo, about an hour from Mayo. The kids will love Sligo as there’s much to do – surfing, a visit to the alpaca park, bird shows at the Eagle’s Centre, traditional Irish music, horse riding on the beach… you’ll have trouble dragging them away!
End your fantastic journey less than an hour away in Donegal, one of the most scenic parts of Ireland (we’ve saved the best ‘til last!). Known as Ireland’s forgotten county, Donegal is remote and untouched. If you have any Star Wars fans in your family, they’ll be fascinated by a visit to Malin Head, the barren landscape where the filming for ‘The Last Jedi’ took place.
Forget Route 66 in the USA, The Wild Atlantic Way is an unforgettable journey, whether you’re rediscovering parts you’ve visited before, or want to take the route for the first time.