The Wild Atlantic Way is a designated tourist route along the western coast of Ireland. It’s one of the world’s longest coastal touring routes, stretching for approximately 1,600 miles (2,500 kilometres) from the Inishowen Peninsula in County Donegal in the north to Kinsale in County Cork in the south. The route was officially launched in 2014 and is designed to showcase the stunning natural beauty, diverse landscapes, and rich cultural heritage of Ireland’s Atlantic coastline. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing a lot of it and here are some of my favourite sites along the route which must be seen. *Be warned, you’ll probably end up extending your stay in Ireland*
Before we begin, if you’re not familiar with the Wild Atlantic Way here are some key features and highlights of the Wild Atlantic Way:
1. Scenic Beauty: The route offers breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean, dramatic cliffs, pristine beaches, rugged peninsulas, and picturesque islands. It’s known for its ever-changing and awe-inspiring landscapes.
2. Cultural Experiences: Along the way, you’ll encounter charming villages, historic sites, and a strong sense of Irish culture. Traditional music, dance, and friendly locals make for memorable cultural experiences.
3. Outdoor Activities: The Wild Atlantic Way is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. You can hike, cycling, surfing, kayaking, and golfing, among others.
4. Historical and Archaeological Sites: The route is dotted with ancient ruins, castles, and archaeological sites that tell the story of Ireland’s rich history.
5. Local Cuisine: The coastal towns and villages offer a chance to savour fresh seafood and other Irish delicacies. Don’t forget to try some traditional Irish pubs along the way.
6. Wildlife: The Atlantic coast hosts a variety of animals including seals, dolphins, whales, and various seabirds. Wildlife enthusiasts will enjoy the opportunities for birdwatching and marine wildlife viewing.
7. Adventure Tourism: For those seeking an adrenaline rush, there are opportunities for activities like zip-lining, rock climbing, and more.
8. Cultural Festivals: Depending on when you visit, you might have the chance to participate in or attend local festivals and events celebrating Irish culture and traditions.
Travelling the Wild Atlantic Way allows you to explore the unspoiled beauty of Ireland’s western coastline at your own pace. Whether you’re interested in nature, culture, adventure, or simply relaxation, the Wild Atlantic Way offers something for every traveller.
Now to the recommendations! Here are some of my favourite sites to see on the Wild Atlantic Way:
Cliffs of Moher: One of the most popular sites in Ireland and a must visit on The Wild Atlantic Way. Here are some key details about them:
- Location: The Cliffs of Moher are located on the western coast of Ireland, in County Clare. They stretch for about 8 kilometers (5 miles) along the Atlantic Ocean.
- Height: The cliffs rise to a height of over 214 meters (700 feet) above sea level at their highest point. This dramatic elevation provides stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean and the surrounding coastal landscape.
- Natural Beauty: The cliffs are renowned for their breathtaking natural beauty. The rugged cliffs are composed of layers of shale and sandstone, and they have been shaped by millions of years of erosion by the Atlantic waves and winds.
- Wildlife: The area around the Cliffs of Moher is a haven for seabirds. It’s home to large colonies of birds such as puffins, guillemots, razorbills, and gulls. Birdwatchers often visit to observe these fascinating creatures in their natural habitat.
- Visitor Center: There is a visitor center near the cliffs that provides information about the geology, wildlife, and history of the site. It also offers various amenities for visitors, including a cafe, gift shop, and interactive exhibits.
- Walking Trails: There are several walking trails along the cliffs, allowing visitors to explore the area and take in different perspectives of this stunning natural wonder. Be careful on the paths, as the cliffs can be dangerous. Be sure to book with Ollie’s Tours for the best way to experience the Cliffs.
- Cultural Significance: The Cliffs of Moher hold cultural significance and have been featured in literature, folklore, and film. They also play a role in the history and heritage of the local area.
- Tourism: The Cliffs of Moher are one of Ireland’s most visited tourist attractions, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. They are easily accessible by car, tour bus, or as part of a larger exploration of the Wild Atlantic Way.
- When visiting the Cliffs of Moher, it’s important to exercise caution, especially if you’re walking along the cliff edges. The weather can be changeable, so dress appropriately, and be prepared for strong winds and rain, even on a sunny day. The views and natural beauty of the cliffs make it a bucket list experience for millions of people.
Ring of Kerry: The Ring of Kerry is a scenic drive and tourist route located in County Kerry in southwestern Ireland. It’s renowned for its stunning natural beauty, diverse landscapes, and rich cultural heritage. Here’s an overview of the Ring of Kerry:
Location: The Ring of Kerry is a circular route that covers approximately 179 kilometers (111 miles) of roads around the Iveragh Peninsula in County Kerry, Ireland.
- Scenic Beauty: The Ring of Kerry offers some of the most spectacular and varied scenery in Ireland. You’ll encounter lush green fields, rugged mountains, pristine lakes, dramatic cliffs, and picturesque coastal views.
- Coastal Villages: Along the route, you’ll pass through charming Irish villages and towns, including Killarney, Kenmare, Sneem, and Cahersiveen. These places provide opportunities for rest, dining, and shopping, as well as a chance to experience local culture.
- Killarney National Park: The Ring of Kerry passes through Killarney National Park, a stunning natural area known for its woodlands, lakes, and wildlife. The park also contains the historic Muckross House and Gardens.
- Moll’s Gap: This scenic viewpoint along the route offers breathtaking views of the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks mountain range, including Ireland’s highest peak, Carrauntoohil.
- Ladies View: Another popular viewpoint in the Killarney National Park, Ladies View provides a panoramic view of the Lakes of Killarney.
- Skellig Ring: While not officially part of the Ring of Kerry, the nearby Skellig Ring is often included in the journey. It takes you to the picturesque fishing village of Portmagee and offers the opportunity to visit Skellig Michael, a UNESCO Site known for it’s historic monastic settlement and bird colonies.
- Cultural Heritage: The Ring of Kerry is rich in cultural heritage, with historical sites such as Staigue Fort, an ancient stone ringfort, and various standing stones and ruins along the way.
- Outdoor Activities: The region offers numerous outdoor activities, including hiking, cycling, golfing, fishing, and water sports. The landscape is a paradise for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.
Tips for Traveling the Ring of Kerry:
- Plan enough time for the journey, as there are many scenic stops and attractions to explore.
- Drive cautiously, as the roads can be narrow. We recommend drivng anti-clockwise and leaving before the buses (9am).
- Be prepared for varying weather conditions, as the Irish climate can change rapidly.
- Consider taking guided tours if you prefer not to drive, as there are many tour operators offering trips around the Ring of Kerry.
Connemara National Park: Located in County Galway, Connemara National Park is known for its diverse landscapes, including bogs, mountains, and woodlands. It’s an excellent place for hiking and exploring the natural beauty of the region. Connemara National Park is a protected natural area located in County Galway in the western part of Ireland. It covers approximately 2,957 hectares (7,300 acres) and is known for its diverse and pristine landscapes. Here’s an overview of Connemara National Park:
- Varied Landscapes: The park encompasses a wide range of natural landscapes, including rugged mountains, expansive bogs, heathlands, woodlands, and pristine lakes. It’s known for its stunning vistas and untouched wilderness.
- Diamond Hill: Probably the park’s most prominent features. It’s a quartzite mountain that rises to a height of 442 meters (1,450 feet) and offers stunning views of the Irish countryside and coastline. There are well-maintained hiking trails to the summit so go and enjoy it while visiting the area.
- Flora and Fauna: Connemara National Park can be missed by a lot of people as they tend to visit Killarney National Park, Galway and Dubling but make sure to add this beautiful area to your list if you have 1-2 days to spare. You can find heathers, grasslands, and wildflowers in abundance. The park is also known for its birdlife, including ravens, kestrels, and peregrine falcons. It’s a haven for birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts.
- Visitor Center: The park has a visitor center that provides information about the park’s natural and cultural history. It’s an excellent place to start your visit, where you can learn about the park’s geology, flora, and fauna through informative exhibits.
- Picnic Areas: There are designated picnic areas within the park, providing a great opportunity to enjoy a meal while taking in the breathtaking surroundings.
- Cultural Heritage: Connemara National Park also has historical and cultural significance. The park includes remnants of old dwellings and ancient field systems, giving visitors a glimpse into Ireland’s past.
Tips for Visiting Connemara National Park:
- Wear appropriate clothing and footwear, as weather conditions in the area can change rapidly.
- If you plan to hike Diamond Hill or any of the park’s trails, ensure you have enough time, and be prepared with essentials like water and snacks.
- Keep an eye out for wildlife and birds, especially if you’re interested in birdwatching.
Dingle Peninsula: The Dingle Peninsula, located in Co. Kerry, is a region known for its stunning coastal landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and vibrant Irish traditions. Here’s an overview of the Dingle Peninsula:
Location: The Dingle Peninsula is part of County Kerry, one of the counties in the province of Munster, Ireland. It extends into the Atlantic Ocean, providing breathtaking coastal views.
- Scenic Beauty: The Dingle Peninsula is renowned for its dramatic and rugged coastal scenery. You’ll find towering cliffs, pristine beaches, picturesque coves, and rolling green hills. Slea Head Drive, a scenic coastal route, offers some of the most stunning vistas on the peninsula.
- Dingle Town: Dingle Town, often referred to simply as Dingle, is the largest settlement on the peninsula and a vibrant hub of culture and activity. It’s known for its colorful buildings, lively pubs, and a thriving arts scene. Dingle is also famous for its fishing heritage, and you can savor fresh seafood at local restaurants.
- Archaeological Sites: The Dingle Peninsula is rich in history and boasts numerous archaeological sites, including ancient beehive huts known as “clocháns,” ancient church ruins, and Ogham stones, which are inscribed with early Irish writing.
- Gallarus Oratory: This early Christian stone church, dating back to the 7th or 8th century, is one of the most iconic historical sites on the peninsula. It’s remarkably well-preserved and provides insight into the region’s early religious history.
- Dolphins: The waters around Dingle are home to plenty of Dolphins. Boat tours are available for those who want to try and spot them. Check out Dingle Sea Safari for a unique and memorable experience.
- Outdoor Activities: The Dingle Peninsula offers most of the usual outdoor activities found in Ireladn such as hiking, climbing, cycling, horseback riding, and water sports like kayaking and surfing. The landscape is a playground for adventure seekers.
- Gaelic Culture: The Dingle Peninsula is one of the strongholds of the Irish language (Gaeilge). You can immerse yourself in Irish culture, listen to traditional music, and perhaps even pick up a few words of the language.
- Blasket Islands: Located just off the coast, the Great Blasket Island is a historically significant island that was inhabited until the mid-20th century. Be sure to take a boat trip to explore the island’s history and wildlife.
Tips for Visiting the Dingle Peninsula:
- Plan enough time for your visit, as there are many sights and activities to enjoy.
- Consider taking the Slea Head Drive for some of the most breathtaking views.
- If you’re interested in history, make sure to explore the archaeological sites and cultural heritage of the peninsula.
- Try the local seafood and traditional Irish cuisine in the charming pubs and restaurants of Dingle Town.
Giant’s Causeway: While not on the official Wild Atlantic Way route, the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland is relatively close and worth a visit if you have the time. This UNESCO Site features thousands of hexagonal basalt columns formed by volcanic activity.
The Giant’s Causeway is a national wonder and one of Northern Ireland’s most famous and iconic natural attractions. It’s renowned for its unique hexagonal basalt columns and the myths and legends associated with its formation. Here’s more information about the Giant’s Causeway:
Location: The Giant’s Causeway is located on the north coast of Co. Antrim in N.Ireland.
Key Features and Information:
1. Basalt Columns: The most distinctive feature of the Giant’s Causeway is its hexagonal basalt columns, which resemble stepping stones. These columns were formed by volcanic activity around 50 to 60 million years ago. Molten basaltic lava flowed into the sea and cooled rapidly, creating the unique polygonal shapes.
2. Geological Wonder: The Giant’s Causeway is often cited as one of the best examples of columnar basalt in the world. After visiting here you will see why it’s been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
3. Myth and Legend: The Giant’s Causeway is steeped in myth and legend. The most famous tale is that of the giant Finn McCool (Fionn mac Cumhaill), who is said to have built the causeway to Scotland to challenge another giant, Benandonner. There are various versions of the story, but the most popular one involves a clever trick by Finn’s wife to outsmart the Scottish giant.
4. Visitor Center: There is a modern visitor center located near the Giant’s Causeway, providing information about the geological history, myths, and the flora and fauna of the area. It’s a great place to start your visit and learn more about this natural wonder.
5. Walking Trails: Visitors can explore the Giant’s Causeway and its surrounding coastline through a network of well-maintained walking trails. The main trail leads down to the causeway itself, where you can wander among the columns and take in the spectacular coastal scenery.
6. Wildlife: The Giant’s Causeway area is also known for its diverse wildlife, including seabirds like puffins and fulmars. Birdwatching is a popular activity in the region.
7. Visitor Facilities: In addition to the visitor center, there are on-site amenities such as a cafe, souvenir shop, and restroom facilities.
Tips for Visiting the Giant’s Causeway:
– Wear comfortable footwear for walking on uneven surfaces.
– Be prepared for varying weather conditions, as the area can be windy and rainy even during the summer.
– The Giant’s Causeway is a popular attraction, so consider visiting during non-peak hours or seasons to avoid crowds.
– Take some time to explore the nearby coastal cliffs and embrace the uniqueness of the stunning views of the North Atlantic Ocean.
The Giant’s Causeway is not only a geological marvel but also a place steeped in folklore and legend. It’s unique natural beauty and cultural significance make it a must-visit destination for travelers exploring Northern Ireland.
The Wild Atlantic Way is a journey that allows travelers to explore the untamed beauty of Ireland’s western coastline at their own pace. Whether you’re interested in nature, culture, adventure, or simply taking in breathtaking views, this route offers something for everyone, making it an unforgettable experience for those seeking to discover the best of Ireland’s Atlantic coast.