The west coast of Ireland is the most western part of Europe and the last stop before hitting American soil. It provides a barrier for us from the harsh splashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean and is a truly glorious place to be in almost all forms of 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, which is almost the length of this tiny country!
Image from WildAtlanticWay.com
Starting from the top is Malin Head marking the beginning of the drive and Ireland’s most northern peak. Here you can check out the military watchtower at Banba’s Crown which was built during the Napoleonic wars in 1805. There are also some stunning views to take in looking out to the sea and a perfect place for a picnic to kick start your drive.
Next stop is Sliabh Liag also known as Slieve League, this is considered a very high mountain in Ireland and its cliffs are almost three times higher than those at the Cliffs of Moher providing a spectacular sight especially on a clear sunny day. If you are a fan of hiking this excursion will be very enjoyable as it is recommended to abandon the car and walk to the cliffs allowing you to fully appreciate the breath taking beauty that the cliffs provide.
The third stop will take you out of Co. Donegal and in to Co. Sligo also leaving the province of Ulster and entering Connaught. This brings us to Mullaghmore, a small village situated in the Mullaghmore Peninsula. Mullaghmore carries a lot of history and is overlooked by Ben Bulben Mountain. It is one of Ireland’s biggest surfing locations known for its massive waves and is also very popular for kite surfing. Mullaghmore is an ideal place for a layover allowing you to take in all that it has to offer.
After taking it easy and relaxing in Mullaghmore you will be back on the road and heading towards Downpatrick Head. Its name is derived from St. Patrick himself as he founded a church in the location and was once a very popular pilgrim destination. Today it is still common to see groups of people gather on the last Sunday of July to say mass at the sacred site. Looking out to the sea you will no doubt see a lone sea-stack called Dun Briste (broken fort).
Skipping down a bit further south on the coast line we come to Killary Harbour. Killary harbour is a fjard situated in the heart of Connemara and borders both counties Galway and Mayo. It represents one of three fjards in Ireland and is positively one of the most awe-inspiring landscapes around the Emerald Isle. Its fierce and dramatic scenery provide for breath-taking images and photos. 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.
The first major city to hit is Galway, Galway city is vibrant and the hustle and bustle of people and music playing through its streets is electrifying. 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.
After your stop in Galway you can take a quick drive of roughly 45 minutes to an hour to the famous Cliffs of Moher. The scenery on route is spectacular and unique to Ireland as you pass through the Burren in Co. Clare. The Cliffs of Moher are one of Ireland’s most famous landmarks and a natural beauty attracting almost 1 million visitors per year. There is a round stone tower situated near the edge of the cliffs that is accessible by visitors and 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 ranging from all different breeds and has also been used in numerous movies and TV programmes.
When you eventually recover from the magnificence of the cliffs you may continue your journey to Loop Head. The county Clare peninsula is marked by its prominent lighthouse and is placed 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.
Travelling further south you will come across the Blasket Islands in Co. Kerry which are part of the Gaeltacht (places in Ireland where they speak only Gaelic). Up until the 1950’s the islands were purely inhabited by Gaelic only speakers and was the home to many esteemed writers with some of their books deemed classics in the world of literature. Today the islands are mostly uninhabited but visitors can travel over by use of ferry.
Finally we come to the end of the coastal route and land in Kinsale Co. Cork. The Old Head of Kinsale is a narrow piece of land that protrudes over 1.8 miles making you feel as though you are walking out to the sea and leaving all land behind you. The Old Head boasts a stunning golf course with amazing views at every hole for those that are keen on golf! Kinsale port and town is also exceptionally nice to visit and a great place to end your coastal drive.
These places are just some of the Wild Atlantic Way highlights and there are plenty more locations to stop off and visit on your way! We hope that if you do chose to undertake this beautiful coastal drive that you enjoy and make the most of it. Also make sure to visit our website theirishstore.com to grab some perfect summer clothing to complete your amazing trip!