The Wild Atlantic Way is an epic trek that spans the length of Ireland’s Atlantic coast and features some unforgettable locations en route.
Everyone should endeavour to take some time out of their busy schedule to tackle the Wild Atlantic Way at least once in their lifetime. It can be done on foot, bike, or car, and can be completed in about a week if you hurry but we think the best way to enjoy this route is to stop frequently and really take in the sights along the way. Spanning the western coast of Ireland, the Wild Atlantic Way travels through nine counties and three provinces. Here are our favourite points of interest along the way, running from north to south.
1. Malin Head
Malin Head is the northernmost point on the Irish mainland and marks one end of the Wild Atlantic Way. It is best known for being the start point/end point of the length of Ireland cycle, Misen to Malin/Malin to Misen. While there, why not go rock climbing and abseiling with Donegal Climbing or visit Glenevin Waterfall. Enjoy a pint at Farrens Bar, the most northerly pub in the country or a coffee at Caffe Banba. If you’re here at the right time then you might even catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights.
2. Fanad Head Lighthouse
Tucked away within the Donegal Gaeltacht area, is Fanad Head Lighthouse, voted one of the most beautiful lighthouses in the world. The area boasts all the rugged beauty typical of Donegal. Plus whales, porpoises and dolphins regularly visit the area so keep your eyes peeled. Just down the road is the 150 feet tall Great Arch on Lough Swilly, another stunning viewing spot that is not to be missed.
3. Slieve League
While the masses gather at the Cliffs of Moher, let us let you in on a little secret, the sea cliffs of Slieve League are actually three times the height. Make your way up the narrow One Man’s Path and peer over the edge. There is no better place in the world than standing on the edge of a cliff, with seabirds flying overhead and nothing but roaring swell beneath you. Make sure to look out for two rocks nicknamed the ‘giant’s desk and chair.’
4. Mullaghmore Head
Mullaghmore is a fishing village living in the shadow of Benbulben. Mullaghmore Head is the hardcore surfers hang out, with 20m high waves stampeding towards the shore, at times. If you are a big wave surfer, by all means, join the party, but if you’re a mere mortal like the rest of us, you can watch from the shore. The international surfers flock here for Prowlers, a tow in surf spot. Fear not, if you are not into surfing, it’s still a beautiful spot to spend a few days in.
5. Keem Bay
Achill Island is the largest island off the coast of Ireland. The parts of the island that aren’t peat bog are characterised by picturesque sandy beaches and rugged sea cliffs. Keem Bay, at the western end of Achill Island, is a must see while on the island. Drive over a twisting cliff top to find yourself on the secluded beach. Swim or kayak in the calm waters or climb the surrounding Croaghaun mountain.
6. Inish Meáin
The smallest of the three Aran Islands, Inis Meáin is one of the most important remaining outposts of Irish culture. Almost all of the population speak Irish and strive to keep the music and cultural traditions alive. Particular sites of interest worth noting are Dún Chonchúir to see the limestone valleys and the elliptical stone fort. And of course, your journey would not be complete without a trip to Teach Ósta the island’s only pub, for a pint and some live music.
County Clare has a lot to offer the enthusiastic traveller; surfing at Lahinch, a visit to the cliffs, Liscannor Bay… but make sure to squeeze in a night in the picturesque village of Doolin. And check out Doolin Cave, home to the longest free-hanging stalactite in the Northern Hemisphere. Pretty impressive, right? The ‘Great Stalactite’ structure is over 7m long and was formed over thousands of years from calcium deposits.
8. Clifden, Galway
Clifden is fondly known as the Capital of Connemara for a reason, with its thriving tourism industry and its prime location nestled between the foothills of the Twelve Bens and the Atlantic Ocean. There is so much breathtaking scenery on offer that you won’t know what to do with yourself. Two highlights are the Omney Island Walk and the Sky Road drive.
9. Cliffs of Moher
The world renowned Cliffs of Moher receive one million visitors a year, making them Ireland’s most popular tourist attraction, and with good reason. They offer a stunning panorama of the intimidating cliffs and the endless Atlantic Ocean and reach 214m at their highest point. Yes, it’s becoming inundated with tourists but you still have to see it!
10. Dunmore Head
The Dingle Peninsula is an incredible part of Ireland. Dunmore Head, in particular, it’s the most westerly point of the Dingle peninsula and of Europe! It is a part of the Slea Head section of the route, one of the most picture perfect sections of the entire trek. Keep an eye out for the wreck Spanish container ship MV Ranga which ran aground against the rocks in 1982.
11. International Dark Sky Reserve
Any stargazers or city dwellers out there need to put this on their bucket list. The International Dark-Sky Reserve in Kerry is the only Gold Tiered Reserve in all of the Northern Hemisphere. On a clear night, you can point your gaze upwards and see thousands of stars, the band of the Milky Way galaxy, nebulas, additional galaxies, clusters, planets, satellites and falling stars!
12. Skellig Michael
These towering craggy outcrops are located 12km off the coast and can only be reached by boat. They’re well worth the trip, as one of Ireland’s most beloved destinations. Once home to a group of monks who embraced solitude as a way of getting closer to God. Now more famous for featuring in the Star Wars franchise. The Skelligs are a seabirds haven and the chance to witness puffins and fulmars galore fishing off the shore is a sight to behold!
13. Dursey Island
On the tip of the Beara Peninsula lies Dursey island. To reach it you must take a ten-minute journey via Ireland’s only cable car. Time your arrival with the sunset and you’ll be in for a treat as Dursey Island serves up a marvellous view or go early and take a walk around the entire island.
The dramatic scenery of Mizen Head was the last view of Europe many sailors saw before they made their transatlantic crossing. It’s not actually Ireland’s southernmost point as often thought, that honour is reserved for nearby Brow Head, but Ireland has long been measured from ‘Malin Head to Mizen head’. The must see spots in Mizen Head are Barleycove Beach, the Sheeps Head Peninsula and if the weather is behaving then an SUP session on Crookhaven Cockleshell strand!
Kinsale is the perfect place to end your journey as it’s home to some of Ireland’s best restaurants, so after all that driving/cycling, now is your time to gorge! It hosts an annual gourmet food festival and the seafood is meant to be exceptional. This picturesque town is the perfect place to spend a summers evening.