From epic sunsets to crashing waves, misty mountain passes and ancient stone fortresses, there is something otherworldly about the Wild Atlantic Way. As the force of the Atlantic battles against the jagged defenses of the western seaboard, the people, the adventures and the landscapes combine to offer an experience that’s truly out of this world. It’s a place like nowhere else. It’s an escape and a chance to be there – really there!
The Wild Atlantic Way is the longest defined coastal touring route in the world. Over 2,500km in length, it is here, you’ll discover warmth in Ireland’s extraordinary and diverse landscape and visit the most spectacular of places along the way. Alive with literature, music, stories, and surf, its landscape, flora, fauna, and sheer size have inspired everyone from WB Yeats to John Lennon.
Here’s a list of 10 places you can’t afford to miss on the Wild Atlantic Way:
1. DONEGAL HEADLANDS: This remote and rocky region in the far north is a world of possibilities. Witness the Northern Lights dancing in clear winter skies, explore the windswept cliffs, and see the millions of seabirds gathering in great estuaries.
2. SLIEVE LEAGUE COAST: The Sliabh Liag cliffs are among the highest sea cliffs in Europe, towering spectacularly over the Atlantic. Take to the ocean and kayak alongside these cliffs. Explore Silver Strand, a hidden beach only accessible by sea or steps, or watch local craftspeople weave classic Donegal tweed.
3. YEATS COUNTRY: The ocean swell beckons surfers here from all over the world, while its historic passage tombs and villages revive the spirits. No wonder Irish poet WB Yeats fell in love with its beauty.
4. ERRIS PENINSULA: If you venture to Erris Peninsula, you’ll be struck by the expanse of open land, with contrasts of light and dark. The white sand and clear waters of the Inishkea Islands are a beachcomber’s dream. Collect seashells on Blacksod Bay, and visit Ireland’s largest colony of Atlantic grey seals.
5. CLEW BAY: Clew Bay has an island for every day of the year, so storytellers say. Explore the island of Dorinish, once owned by The Beatles’ John Lennon, who came to “get away from it all.” The Bay’s beach combines Blue Flag shores with submerged drumlins formed an ice age ago.
6. CONNEMARA: The Atlantic surf has shaped everything from Connemara’s landscape to the spirit of Galway city. Visit Killary Harbour, Ireland’s only fjord, or take a boat to the traditional Aran Islands to explore traditional Irish music and language.
7. THE BURREN: The Burren means ‘the great rock’ and this moonscape of karst limestone is a World Heritage Site. Between the cracked limestone that stretches over 250km, you’ll find megalithic tombs older than Egypt’s pyramids as well as abundant flora and fauna. While you’re in the area, don’t forget the check out Ireland’s top tourist attraction – The Cliffs of Moher!
8. DINGLE PENINSULA: Dingle Town is a hub of literary and creative culture in Kerry, where pubs, live music, and festivals abound. Wander among long-deserted cottages on the Blasket Islands, take in dramatic views from Slea Head, and sample the area’s renowned seafood.
9. RING OF KERRY: From exquisite national parks to Stone Age ring forts, Kerry’s boundless energy and breathtaking landscapes linger in the memory. Explore UNESCO pilgrimage site Skellig Michael, which writer George Bernard Shaw described as “part of our dream world.”
10. WEST CORK: In West Cork, the timeless air of the Beara Peninsula allows nature to set the pace. The Atlantic Ocean here meets the Gulf Stream, and the microclimate allows for lush vegetation. Sail around any of the 100 islands, visit castle ruins or take in one of West Cork’s stunning sunsets.
There’s no end to the discoveries to be made on the route and you can find out more on the official Wild Atlantic Way website by clicking on the logo below. The website also has a very useful trip planner!
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Stuart & Thomas
PS: The diversity and uniqueness of the route has not gone unnoticed with its unearthly chasms and cathedral-shaped islands setting the scene for one of the most iconic and much-loved film universes — Star Wars!