A Wild Atlantic Way Guide
Everything you need to plan a
Great Western Adventure
Soaring cliffs, buzzing towns, beautiful beaches, and spectacular views......a road trip along the Wild Atlantic Way is an epic journey of discovery.
Stretching 2,500km from the Inishowen Peninsula in Co Donegal down to the picturesque town of Kinsale in Co Cork, the Wild Atlantic Way is the longest defined coastal route in the world. Now that the lockdown restrictions have finally lifted, this is the perfect time to load up your car and see what all the fuss is about.
Discover awe-inspiring seaside drives, walk along remote beaches that are perfect for social distancing, take in the region’s unspoiled landscapes and experience the thrill of outdoor activities in dramatic coastal settings. It’s all there, just waiting to be explored.
We're bringing you this 'Great Western Adventure' guide so you can plan the ultimate road trip along the Wild Atlantic Way.
5 scenic drives in the west
1. Yeats Country, Co Sligo
Witness the spectacular sights and stunning scenery in Co Sligo that inspired one of Ireland’s most enduring poets, WB Yeats.
Drive the 42km tour from Innisfree to Lissadell and onto Drumcliff, where the great poet is buried. Stop and explore Sligo Abbey, which appears in two stories by Yeats, go surfing at Strandhill Beach, and walk Knocknarea Mountain whose beauty and legends fascinated Yeats. Drive along the spectacular coastal road at Mullaghmore and make sure to get some photos of the gothic-looking Classiebawn Castle!
2. The Atlantic Drive, Co Donegal
Stretching out into the Atlantic between the bays of Sheephaven and Mulroy, Rosguill Peninsula offers some of the most scenic views on the Wild Atlantic Way.
This drive is quite short at just 12km, but it doesn’t mean it’s any less exceptional. Stop off at Dunfanaghy, the seaside village near a sandy beach that offers windsurfing and canoeing. Then drive past the sculpted rocks at Crohy Head, the fiery headland known as Bloody Foreland and the seascapes around Horn Head and Rosguill.
3. Slea Head Drive, Dingle Peninsula, Co Kerry
This 47km circular touring route takes you on a journey through historic sites, Irish speaking villages, Hollywood film locations, and unrivalled views of the Blasket Islands and Skellig Islands. The most westerly part of the mainland, it boasts several beaches, so why not stop off and have a barefoot walk on Coumeenoole Strand?
4. Burren Beauty Drive, Co Clare
the perfect way to take in the unique landscape of the Burren with its bare, pale grey limestone and rare flora and fauna.
Starting in Kilfenora, it winds its way through Lisdoonvarna and up the coast to Black Head. Stop at Fanore beach and the stunning Flaggy shore and take in the fresh Atlantic air and spectacular landscape. Check out the charming village of Ballyvaughan on the coast and explore the Aillwee Caves located right in the heart of the Burren.
5. Sheep’s Head Peninsula, Co Cork
This 70km drive starts from Bantry town in West Cork and loops around the Sheep's Head Peninsula, which protrudes into the wild Atlantic Ocean in-between the larger Beara Peninsula and Mizen Peninsula. The drive takes in the entire headland where you get fantastic views of the Atlantic, and features some incredible local beauty spots like the Sheep’s Head Lighthouse.
Walk this way
Park up the car, pull on your hiking boots......explore the west of Ireland’s beautiful mountain and forest trails by foot.
The Great Western Greenway
This renowned 42km-long trail in Co Mayo begins in Westport and ends in Achill, taking in some of the west’s most magnificent mountains and offering views of Clew Bay. The Great Western Greenway is the longest off-road walking and cycling trail in Ireland and you can choose to do the whole thing, or complete a shorter section. Achill to Mulranny is 13km long, Mulranny to Newport is 18km and Newport to Westport is 11km.
Ballyhoura Trails, Co Limerick
Ballyhoura is an area filled with green pastures, woodlands, hills, and mountains that’s perfect for outdoor adventures. For walkers, there are 11 walks to explore, ranging in distance from 5km to 18km and they vary from easy strolls to challenging hikes. For adventure seekers, there’s the Ballyhoura Mountain Bike Trails. With 98km of trails including forest road climbs and singletrack with plenty of ups and downs, the trail is the largest network of its kind in Ireland.
Lough Errit, Co Roscommon
For peaceful walks along the shore of a lake and through the local wood and boglands, try Lough Errit. Located in Gortaganny, the walks vary in distance between 4km-8km and take between 50-120 minutes to complete. While you’re there, visit the nearby Carrowbehy Living Bogs, one of 12 unique raised bogs in Ireland that are being brought back to life.
Errigal Mountain, Co. Donegal
If you’re up for a challenge, why not climb Donegal’s highest mountain? The Errigal Mountain and Mackoght Mountain Hiking Trail is a moderate to strenuous 6km loop walk to the iconic 751m peak of Errigal Mountain. The hike itself will take you at least three and a half hours. The route begins from a car park on the R251 road and follows an obvious tourist path. The loop walk also takes in views of the nearby Mackoght Mountain and overlooks Dunlewey Lough and the Poisoned Glen.
Moylussa, Co Clare
At 532m, Moylussa is the highest point in Co Clare. Part of the Slieve Bernagh mountain range, the Moylussa hike is a 9.7km moderate trail, with a slightly steeper section at the end. The trail starts at Ballycuggaran Forest, where there are parking facilities, and it takes approximately three hours to complete. It leads you to incredible views over Lough Derg so don’t forget to bring your hiking boots and your camera for some great snaps!
The Cliffs of Moher may be Clare’s most famous cliffs but Kilkee is a lesser-known but equally beautiful spot if you want to skip the crowds. Park up the car and take on the Kilkee Cliff Walk, which starts from the Diamond Rocks Café at Pollock Holes car park just outside Kilkee Town.
You can choose from a 5km brisk walk or do the slightly more challenging, but manageable, 8km looped walk which takes roughly two to three hours. Along the way, you’ll see unmissable sights like the popular swimming hole, Pollock Holes, and Intrinsic Bay.
Baltard Cliffs and Bay is another site that’s worth a visit for more beautiful views. It’s approximately a 15-minute drive away from the Kilkee Cliffs and it’s well worth the detour.
Bromore Cliffs, Co Kerry
If you’re travelling near the popular seaside resort town of Ballybunion in Co Kerry this summer or beyond, venture to the enchanting Bromore Cliffs a five-minute drive away. The cliffs can be accessed through the farm of Michael Flahive, a local landowner, for a small parking fee.
Michael can share his stories about the cliffs, the wildlife and shipwrecks. The 55m cliffs, which have been sculpted by nature for thousands of years, are also a sight to behold. In the ocean below, you might even spot the occasional Bottlenose Dolphin or Atlantic Grey Seals.
Lacken Strand, Co Mayo
Lacken Strand, nestled along the North Mayo coastline between the towns of Killala and Ballycastle, looks out onto the Atlantic and offers great views of the north-west. It’s the perfect place to get away from the more crowded, well-known beaches.
Lacken has two small harbours, one at Rathlacken in Lacken Bay and the second at Kilcummin in Killala Bay. Kilcummin was where some of the French army, under General Humbert, landed for the Battle of Killala in 1798, a battle between forces of the British Crown and a combined force of Irish rebels and some French troops.
Caves of Kesh, Co Sligo
The Caves of Kesh, also known as the Keash Caves or the Keshcorran Caves, are a series of limestone caves located halfway up the Keshcorran mountain, near the village of Keash in Co Sligo. It shouldn’t take more than 40 minutes to walk up the steep mountain.
There are 16 chambers, some of which interconnect, offering breathtaking views across the Sligo countryside. There have also been many archaeological discoveries within the caves and legend has it that famous king Cormac Mac Airt was born at a well beneath the caves. If you’re visiting the Caves of Kesh, there’s a small car park near the trailhead or the village itself is within walking distance.
Eyeries, Co Cork
Located on the Beara Peninsula in Co Cork, Eyeries is a colourful, picture-perfect village. The village overlooks Coulagh Bay and is surrounded by mountains so it’s ideal for a remote escape, but there’s also plenty to do and explore around the area.
There are some great shops, cafes, bars, and places to stay in the village, as well as two looped walking trails called Creha Quay and Coastguard Station looped walks. Slieve Miskish Mountains are approximately a 25-minute drive away if you want to take a day trip and go hiking. It has even been used as a backdrop for a number of films including The Purple Taxi, starring Fred Astaire.
The Lost Valley, Co Mayo
Today, the Lost Valley of Uggool in Louisburgh, Co Mayo, is an active working farm but it has remained largely untouched since villagers were evicted from the area during the Great Famine. A visit to the Lost Valley takes in the ruined famine village and its undisturbed, centuries-old potato ridges. You can only visit the Lost Valley by guided tour, which is conducted by one of the families that were evicted at the time of the famine. The Bourke family now own and farm the Lost Valley.
You’ll discover some fascinating stories from owners Gerard and Maureen Bourke and see outstanding scenery along the way. The tour takes about three hours and costs €20 for an adult ticket, €10 for a child, and €50 for a family ticket (two adults and up to three children under 15). Pre-booking is essential and pets are not allowed.
Horn Head, Co Donegal
Situated in the north of Donegal, just a 10-minute drive from Dunfanaghy town, Horn Head forms part of Sheephaven Bay. Possibly not as well-known as the neighbouring Fanad Head and Inishowen Peninsula, Horn Head is equally as beautiful, offering an exceptional viewpoint across the Atlantic Ocean.
There’s a Horn Head Drive you can follow, which starts in Dunfanaghy, and you’re treated to a series of panoramic views along the way. But do park up the car in the small car park and wander down one of the trodden paths – one of which leads to a Signal Tower built during the Napoleonic Wars – to take in the views and get some pictures.
The Sky Road, Co Galway
Based in the Connemara region, the Sky Road in Co Galway is filled with stunning scenery along the route. The 20km loop route is uphill and well-signposted from Clifden town, providing amazing views overlooking Clifden Bay, the 12 Bens, Streamstown Bay, Inishturk and Turbot Island.
There is a car park and viewing area at the highest point of the route so you can get out and take some snaps. There are also a host of quiet, sandy beaches within the Clifden area, such as Eyrephort Beach.
Inspired to explore?
Take your next steps