The Wild Atlantic Way along the west coast of Ireland is the longest defined coastal drive in the world. It runs over 1,500 miles (2,500 km) through nine counties, from West Cork in the south to Donegal in the north. It’s a trail of wild, raw beauty where the untamed Atlantic carves out the western-most coast of Europe. When traveling the Wild Atlantic Way, you’ll bask in views that take your breath away and delight in the local people who enrich the region with their friendliness, native Irish culture and timeless history.
The route is well-signed with a distinctive blue and white design to keep visitors on the trail. To drive the entire 1,500 mile route, you’ll want to plan a minimum of two weeks, or preferably three weeks to a month so you can explore the enchanting villages and ancient monuments that dot the landscape. If you don’t have that much time, you can choose just part of the spectacular route. The Wild Atlantic Way website divides the entire route into five sections and offers recommended itineraries within each. Wherever you travel along the route, you’ll find beauty, adventure, history and Irish magic.
Travel Maestro tip: You can make the journey in either direction, but I recommend traveling from south to north. Driving in Ireland is on the left, so you’ll have a better view of the untamed ocean, towering cliffs and beautiful bays, plus you can pull off the road for photo ops without crossing traffic.
While the Wild Atlantic Way is easy to navigate, you should be aware that driving in Ireland can be quite challenging for the uninitiated. The roads are often extremely narrow and it isn’t uncommon to see an oversized truck approaching on your right, a stone wall on your left and what looks like far too little space in between! Then again you might find yourself following a tractor lumbering along at a snail’s pace or be stopped by sheep in the road. It’s all part of the adventure, so slow down and soak in the full Irish experience.
Along the Wild Atlantic Way there are 160 Discovery Points – places of interest and attractions where you can learn about Irish traditions, hear the Irish language and see the spectacular Irish countryside. That’s something worth visiting every ten miles, so you can see why you really need more than two weeks for the whole route!
There are too many Discovery Points to describe in detail here, but some recommended favorites include:
- Cork to Kerry – Dursey Island, dramatic Mizen Head, Bantry House (aka Blackrock), the Blarney Castle, Muckross House and Gardens, Killarney
- Kerry to Clare – Loop Head Lighthouse, dolphin watching in the Shannon Estuary, fishing on the Dingle Peninsula, the abandon town on Great Blasket Island,
- Clare to Mayo – The towering Cliffs of Moher, mysterious Derrigimlagh Bog, Killary Harbor and its tasty local seafood
- Mayo to Donegal – Westport House, County Mayo pubs, the sea stack known as ‘Dún Briste’, Spanish Armada wreck remains in County Sligo, a seaweed bath in Strandhill, a horseback gallop on the beach, “prowler” surfing at Mullaghmore Head
- County Donegal – Towering Slieve League Cliffs, Ballymastocker Bay, Fanad Head Lighthouse, northernmost Malin Head, Glencolmcille Folk Village, Grianan of Aileach Ancient Stone Fort
Travel Maestro tip: A great travel companion is the Wild Atlantic Way app (available for iPhone and Android) that will help you discover events happening nearby in real time and hidden gems recommended by locals.
When you travel the Wild Atlantic Way, you journey along a culturally rich and naturally stunning coastline, through and to the Ireland you’ve always imagined. This wild and untamed coast where land and sea collide inspires a culture, food and music that you will not soon forget.