a slow road trip down // the wild atlantic way
Journeying along remote coastal roads, teetering on the edge of cliffs and offering almost constant views of the Atlantic Ocean, Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way is reminiscent of the dramatic drives down America’s west coast. Sit back, enjoy the views, and take your time to drive one of the longest and wildest coastal routes in the world.
The Wild Atlantic Way
Remote, rugged and dramatic, the Wild Atlantic Way weaves its way up from the Old Head of Kinsale, near Cork on Ireland’s south coast to Malin Head in Northern Ireland. At a staggering 1,600 miles, give yourself at least two weeks to drive its full length, preferably three, so that you can take the road at your own pace, stopping to admire the views as you please.
photo: online golf travel
Drive from south to north to fully experience the beauty of the views along the route, starting as you mean to go on with a relaxing game of golf followed by admiring the view from atop the rocks at the Old Head of Kinsale. The road weaves in and out of the peninsulas forming the south-west of the country, offering breath-taking views of the ocean from the twisting and turning road.
photo: hidden ireland tours
Ensure that you linger on the Mizen peninsula, where sheer cliffs plummet down towards beautiful beaches, offering ample opportunities for rest and relaxation. Drive down to Sheep’s Head to experience the utter tranquillity and slow pace of life, soaking up more stunning scenery. As you continue your drive along the coast, swing by the Ewe Sculpture Gardens for a stroll through the woods spotting unusual art works, before pressing on to reach the tip of Beara peninsula.
photo: dork side of the force
Here, take the cable car across to Dursey Island. This is the only way to reach the island, and if you’re lucky you will witness local farmers ushering their sheep and cattle into the cable cars to cross the sound. The island itself is ideal for a tranquil stroll. Further up the route, another island to visit is the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Skellig Michael, dominated by its rocky appearance and seventh century monastery. It has reached current fame for being the location used in the closing scene of the recent Star Wars film.
As you reach the west coast of Ireland, the cliffs become more dramatic and it’s hard to keep your eyes on the twisting and turning road. Pull over whenever possible, take a stroll or simply sit and admire the views.
The majestic Cliffs of Moher are a dominating feature, reached just before the port of Doolin. Over 214 metres tall, they offer vertigo-inducing views down to the crashing waves below. Take a short boat trip to experience their scale from below.
Further north, the area surrounding Galway is home to half of Ireland’s Irish-speaking population. Traditional culture and heritage are honoured in this region, allowing you to take a break from driving to learn more about the island’s traditions.
Ireland’s only fjord, Killary harbour, gives way to a dramatic stretch of majestic mountain ranges, including Croagh Patrick, Ireland's sacred mountain. Take time to catch your breath before embarking on a hike to witness the full splendour of this area.
As you make your way north-east along the coast, you reach Downpatrick Head, where a lone 50-metre tall rock can be seen protruding from the Atlantic.
photo: twisted paddy
Weaving north, stop off to explore one of the country’s oldest megalithic tombs at Carrowmore, before passing mountains and monasteries on your way to one of the route’s finest beaches at Mullaghmore Head. Weather dependent, take time to unwind on the sand.
Take a short detour off the main route to view the tallest sea cliffs in Europe at Slieve League, before leaving the coast momentarily as you head north. Yet more staggering cliffs and remote beaches await, including Ballymastocker Bay, voted by the Observer as the second most beautiful bay in the world.
photo: jedi news
The final stretch of the route offers panoramic views of the coastline from mountain passes before reaching the most northerly point of the country at Malin Head. This remote area of the country is mostly silent, apart from the howling wind, allowing you a private view of the wild Atlantic.