Greetings from Ireland everyone. If you’re planning a trip to Ireland, no doubt you’ll be visiting Ireland’s famed west coast at some point. Europe’s most westerly point is a glorious place to be whatever the weather! The Wild Atlantic Way is the world’s longest signed coastal route and stretches over 9 counties and 3 provinces totaling a massive 1,553 miles! Almost the entire length of our tiny country! So let’s get on the road and visit some of its highlights!
1. Malin Head
First stop is Malin Head in County Donegal, Ireland’s most northerly point. Here you can check out the military watchtower at Banba’s Crown dating back to the Napoleonic wars in 1805. There are stunning views everywhere you turn. That edge of the world feeling is guaranteed.
2. Slieve League
Next stop is Sliabh Liag, also known as Slieve League. The mountain cliffs here are three times higher than those at the Cliffs of Moher! If you are a fan of hiking then this is the place for you. Although venturing beyond the main viewing point to One Man’s Pass is strictly for the experienced hiker. On a clear day, you can enjoy astounding views of Sligo, Leitrim and even the mountains of Mayo.
So our next stop takes us out of County Donegal and into my beloved County Sligo. Mullaghmore is a small village nestling on the impressive Mullaghmore Peninsula. The beach is the perfect place for a walk or swim and the mighty Benbulben provides a stunning backdrop.
4. Downpatrick Head
After taking it easy and relaxing in Mullaghmore, it’s time to get back on the road and head to Downpatrick Head. Its name comes from St. Patrick himself. He founded a church in this very location. As a result, it was once a very popular pilgrim destination. Today it is still common to see groups of people gathering on the last Sunday of July to say mass at the sacred site. Look out to sea and marvel at the lone sea-stack named Dun Briste (broken fort).
5. Killary Harbour
Skipping down a bit further south on the coast line we come to Killary Harbour. Killary harbour is a fjord situated in the heart of Connemara and borders both Counties Galway and Mayo. It represents one of three fjords in Ireland and is positively one of the most awe-inspiring landscapes in the Emerald Isle. Its fierce and dramatic scenery are breath-taking . In the small town of Leenane is Killary Adventure Center, a popular attraction for people and families of all ages with activities including kayaking, gorge walking and bog jumping.
6. Galway City
The only city on our travels is Galway. This medieval city is paved with cobblestones and tiny winding streets with traditional music playing around every corner. Take a visit to the famous farmers market in Church Lane that is open every Saturday and bank holiday Monday and check out some of Ireland’s freshest foods and crafted goods. There’s so much to see here, from Lynch’s Castle to the impressive Galway Cathedral and St. Nicholas church. Or just take a leisurely people-watching stroll from bustling Eyre Square down to Spanish Arch and find yourself at the water’s edge.
6. Cliffs of Moher
After your stop in Galway you can take a quick drive of roughly 45 minutes and arrive at the famous Cliffs of Moher. The scenery on route is spectacular as you pass through the Burren in Co. Clare. The Cliffs of Moher are one of Ireland’s most famous landmarks attracting almost 1 million visitors per year. There is a round stone tower situated near the edge of the cliffs that is accessible to visitors. It was built in 1835 and used as a lookout tower during war times. It is said that the cliffs are home to over 30,000 birds!
7. Loop Head
Next stop is Loop Head. This County Clare peninsula is marked by its prominent lighthouse and sits between the Atlantic Ocean and Shannon Estuary. In 2013 Loop Head was awarded “Best place to holiday in Ireland” by the Irish Times and was also given a European Destinations of Excellence Award in 2010.
8. Blasket Islands
So next stop are the unmissable Blasket Islands in Co. Kerry. Up until the 1950s the islands were purely inhabited by Gaelic speakers. Today the islands are mostly uninhabited but visitors can travel over by ferry and enjoy the peace and tranquility.
Staying in the Kingdom of Kerry and the Skellig Islands. The ancient monastic settlement is incredibly preserved. No humans have lived here since the monks left in 1100 who even escaped the ravages of the Vikings. Maybe someone was looking down on them! Now the birds have taken over, especially the puffins in spring. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A truly special part of the world.
10. Head of Kinsale
Finally we come to the end of our Wild Atlantic Way coastal route and arrive in Kinsale Co. Cork. The Old Head of Kinsale is a narrow piece of land that protrudes over 1.8 miles into the sea. The Old Head boasts a stunning golf course with amazing views at every hole. Kinsale port and town is also a gorgeous place to visit and a great place to end your coastal drive.
Of course these are only a few of the many highlights to be found on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way and there is so much more to discover on Ireland’s west coast. I’d love to hear about your own particular favorites so why not drop me a line in the comments.
Slán go fóill!