Ireland’s latest touring adventure, the Wild Atlantic Way, is a 1500 mile journey along the untamed, unspoilt beauty of Ireland’s Atlantic coastline. Beginning in Cork city and following a suggested route that stays, for the most part, off the beaten track, by taking you around the spectacular cliff top roads that weave along Ireland’s weather-beaten coastline.
The Wild Atlantic Way features 157 discovery points, over 3500 attractions and activities, and carries you through scores of peaceful Irish villages, full of the charm and hospitality that has become synonymous with Ireland. The little space we have here is far too small to go into much detail, so we’ll just provide some highlights. And remember, if you’re afraid you will get lost, just keep the sea to your left and you’ll be heading the right way.
Cork city itself is filled with things to see and do, not least is the customary trip to kiss the Blarney stone at Blarney castle, before heading out to Kinsale, named as the gourmet capital of Ireland. From there the coastal road winds past Sherkin Island, Clare Island and Bere Island off into the ocean and excursions to these untouched wildernesses can be arranged from the coastal towns. Heading for the very tip of Ireland at Mizen head, Fastnet Lighthouse sits on a rock known locally as Ireland’s Teardrop.
After nearly 295 miles you’ll be in Co. Kerry and amongst the famous Dingel, North Kerry Head and Ring of Kerry peninsulas, all of which offer exhilarating walks through wonderful scenery, while trips to Valentia Island and the Skellig Islands are well worth the effort. Carved into the ocean cliffs on Skellig Micheal is a monastery that is over 1300 years old. A cable car to Dursey Island in the evening allows you to see Europe’s last sunset, as the next piece of land to the west is the United States.
Another 275 miles brings you to Co. Clare where the magnificent Cliffs of Moher and the mysterious Aran Islands await, while the spectacular views of the mouth of the river Shannon from Loop Head Light house, where the entire force of the Atlantic ocean beats against the cliff face make traversing the tricky Loop Head Drive worthwhile. While you’re there, try a dolphin watching boat ride in the Shannon estuary from the Shannon Dolphin and Wildlife centre.
Roughly 185 miles later and you are in Co. Galway. Amongst the gems here are the scenic Connemara Loop and vibrant Galway City, with its world famous festivals and music scene. Out of town on the southern Connemara beaches you may come across the famous Connemara ponies taking their treacherous walk across low tide to the distant islands. The Clifden marshes, north-west of Galway City contains the remains of the first trans-Atlantic radio station, that was charged with relaying signals to the US, and a memorial to Alcock and Brown who crashed uninjured here to complete the first ever non-stop trans-Atlantic flight.
Another 285 miles will see you in Co. Mayo, where a road bridge takes you to Achill Island and its eerie deserted village. The majestic Croagh Patrik Mountain shadows the surrounding terrain, while in Silgo seaside town, where Mullaghmore Head provides world famous waves for surfing, seafood is plentiful and seaweed baths are a popular way to relax. In the town of Grange you’ll be reminded that while the sea gives, it also takes, as the fleet of twenty five wrecked Spanish ships that ended their 16th century voyage here can attest.
Continuing north, you should now be entering Donegal, the northern most county in Ireland. Don’t stop yet because there are still 225 miles of Wild Atlantic way to go. Amongst Co. Donegal’s natural wonders are the highest sea cliffs in Europe, known as Sliabh Laig, picturesque Ballymastoker Bay, mysterious Tory Island and the stunning Five Finger Strand beach on the Irishtown peninsula. Wonders of the man-made variety include Fanad Lighthouse, claimed to be as tall as the Eiffel Tower, and Farren’s Bar, the most northerly pub in Ireland.
You may struggle to include even this small selection of the attractions on the Wild Atlantic Way during a two week vacation. In fact, it’s entirely possible to spend two weeks in each county and still not see everything, but that just leaves plenty for another trip next year. Please remember though, even in high season (May to September) pack for a British summer – which means suntan lotion and rain coats.