The Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland
Although The Wild Atlantic Way scenic drive route has only recently been launched, it offers visitors to the Emerald Isle an ideally packaged tour along some of the country’s most scenic highways and byways. This is an easy to navigate and well-signposted route, and will soon be enhanced by 157 “Discovery Points”, where drivers can pull over and learn about all the attractions on their doorstep. An excellent way to enjoy this beautiful coastal area is to drive it in a motorhome rental or campervan hire, which will add another dimension of freedom to your holiday. The route stretches for 2,500km along the entire western coast of the country, from Donegal in the North to Cork in the south and includes parts of Connemara, The Burren, Galway Bay and Kerry. You can, of course, drive it in either direction, depending on which suits you best.
The North West:
Starting in Malin Head, Ireland’s most northerly point where the craggy coastline scenery is brilliant. From there you can visit Donegal to see the famous Tweed being woven and visit the poignant Doagh Famine Village, a reminder of the hardships that people endured during the Great Famine. On your drive south, visit the 600m high Sliabh Liag – one of the highest sea cliffs in Europe for some wonderful photos.
Your route will take you through impossibly beautiful villages such as Clew Bay and Westport in Galway, and in the lovely Connemara region there are a multitude of brilliant hikes, walks and island trips to give you a break from the driving. Galway is a modern and vibrant university town with a colourful and lively vibe, especially in the arty Latin Quarter and is one of the few places where Irish is commonly spoken. The city brims with history and heritage; if you enjoy learning about the gruesome side of history, go on a Gore of Galway guided tour!
Head south to Limerick, and take time to walk along the Doolin Cliff Walk and see the Cliffs of Moher. Perhaps even take a boat trip to experience the spectacular cliffs from sea level. bunratty Castle is Ireland's most complete 15th century fortress, that was extensively restored and furnished in 1954. Whilst in medieval Limerick explore 13th century King John's Castle.
The South West:
Continuing south you will reach Dingle, the most westerly town in Europe, which was one of Ireland’s main trading posts in days gone by. Here you can do boat trips, enjoy the great Irish music scene. From here it’s on to Killarney, on the 179km Ring of Kerry scenic drive, one of the most popular sections of the Great Atlantic Way. Halfway along you can detour to Portmagee and take a ferry to the Skellig Islands to see a 6th century monastery and the second largest puffin colony in the world. (This is a 5 hour journey and needs to be booked at least 2 days in advance, so you need to be a little organised).
In Killarney there is Muckross House and Gardens to visit; you could spend a whole day here touring the Manor house and learning all about traditional farming including cow-milking, bread-making and more; there are also good walks in the vast gardens. The last major stop before you reach Cork is the very well-preserved 15th century Blarney Castle – be sure to kiss the famous Blarney Stone to be blessed with eloquence forever!