One Week Exploring the Irish Coast on the Wild Atlantic Way

Advisor - Bijoy Shah
Curated By

Bijoy Shah

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  • Ireland

  • Food & Wine

  • Nature Escapes

  • Road Trip Travel

  • Coastal

  • Sightseeing

  • Local Food

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Curator’s statement

The Wild Atlantic Way is a journey that promises to captivate even the most seasoned traveler. This awe-inspiring route winds through nine counties, offering a tapestry of breathtaking landscapes, charming seaside villages and a wealth of cultural experiences that showcase the very best of the Irish coast. From the rugged beauty of County Donegal to the picturesque shores of County Cork, the Wild Atlantic Way is a testament to the unbridled magnificence of Ireland's scenery. Whether it's exploring the vibrant city of Galway, marveling at the majestic Cliffs of Moher, or discovering the hidden gems of Ireland's coastal towns, the Wild Atlantic Way promises an unforgettable adventure. Let me show you how to make the most of a week-long journey along the Wild Atlantic Way, delving into the highlights of each region and uncovering the best of what coastal Ireland has to offer. From the wild landscapes of County Donegal to the culinary delights of Cork, join us as we explore the magic of an Irish summer along this iconic route.

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Where to stay

Lough Eske Castle

Step into a fairytale at Lough Eske Castle, a luxurious and historic castle hotel set amidst the picturesque landscape of County Donegal, Ireland, where timeless elegance, impeccable service, and breathtaking surroundings create a truly enchanting stay.

Sheen Falls Lodge

A tranquil retreat nestled amidst the natural beauty of Kenmare, Ireland, where luxury meets nature, offering elegant accommodations, fine dining, and a range of outdoor activities for an unforgettable getaway.

Fora Perks
  • Food & beverage credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

Glenlo Abbey Hotel & Estate

Stunning palatial-style abbey with charming suites perfect for cozying up in the countryside.

Fora Perks
  • $100 food / beverage credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

Advisor - Bijoy Shah

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Day 1: Starting the Journey in County Donegal

A couple posing in front of a view of cliffs on the water during the daytime

County Donegal, the starting point of our Wild Atlantic Way adventure, is a region of untamed beauty and rich cultural heritage. Begin your journey by exploring the Donegal Headlands, where you'll find the stunning Ballymastocker Beach and the historic Fanad Head Lighthouse. These iconic landmarks offer breathtaking views of the rugged coastline and the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean.

Next, make your way to Slieve League (Sliabh League), home to the highest sea cliffs in Europe. These majestic cliffs rise over 600 meters above the crashing waves below, providing a awe-inspiring sight that will leave you speechless. While in the area, don't miss the chance to visit the picturesque Silver Strand beach, a hidden gem nestled at the foot of the cliffs.

As you continue your journey through Donegal, be sure to stop at some of the county's charming towns and villages. In Ardara, you'll find traditional Irish pubs like the Olde Glen Bar, the oldest pub in Donegal, where you can enjoy a pint and soak up the local atmosphere. For a taste of luxury, visit Glenveagh Castle, a stunning 19th-century castle turned boutique hotel, and dine at Glen, the hotel's bistro-style restaurant. Other must-visit spots include McGrory's, an award-winning bar known for its lively Irish music sessions, and the town of Donegal itself, where you can explore the impressive Donegal Castle, one of Ireland's most splendid Gaelic castles.

Day 2: Sligo and Mayo - A Blend of Culture and Scenery

Lake surrounded by mountains.

As you journey south from Donegal, the counties of Sligo and Mayo await with a captivating blend of natural beauty and cultural heritage. Sligo, known for its rich literary history and stunning landscapes, offers a wealth of experiences for the curious traveler. Begin your exploration at Mullaghmore Head, a renowned surfing destination that attracts enthusiasts from around the world. Take a stroll along the beach and marvel at the ancient megalithic tombs that dot the landscape, offering a glimpse into Ireland's fascinating past.

Continuing into County Mayo, you'll find yourself immersed in a world of unspoiled beauty. Visit Killary Harbour, Ireland's only true fjord, where the steep, verdant hills plunge into the deep, tranquil waters. For a more secluded experience, head to Keem Strand on Achill Island, an idyllic sheltered beach with crystal-clear waters and soft, golden sands. Nature lovers won't want to miss Downpatrick Head, a breathtaking sea stack that was once connected to the mainland. Now a haven for various seabirds, Dún Briste stands as a testament to the raw power of the Atlantic Ocean.

Other highlights of Mayo include:

  • Erris Head Peninsula: A remote corner of Ireland known for its pristine white sand beaches, clear waters, and the country's largest colony of Atlantic grey seals.

  • Clew Bay: Offering a range of water activities such as paddle-boarding, kayaking, and water skiing, this bay is said to have an island for every day of the year.

  • Sligo Abbey: Located in Sligo Town, this historic site is where friars' prayers echo among the ancient ruins, providing a serene and contemplative atmosphere.

As you explore these counties along the Wild Atlantic Way, take the time to slow down, meet the friendly locals, and immerse yourself in the vibrant culture. From artisan foods to great wine, Sligo and Mayo offer a true taste of Ireland's west coast. You won't want to rush it!

Day 3: The Magic of Galway and the Cliffs of Moher

Green cliffs on a coast.

Day three of the Wild Atlantic Way adventure takes travelers to the enchanting city of Galway and the awe-inspiring Cliffs of Moher. Begin the day with a delightful cup of coffee at Jungle Cafe, conveniently located near the Galway Coach Station, where tours depart. From there, embark on a journey to discover the picturesque Dunguaire Castle, situated on the shores of Galway Bay and considered one of Ireland's most photographed sites.

Next, venture into The Burren, a national park renowned for its unique cliff formations and lush woodland. While exploring this fascinating landscape, be sure to visit the ancient Poulnabrone Tomb, estimated to be over 5,000 years old. As you make your way through the park, keep an eye out for the mysterious fairy rings, which are steeped in local superstition.

After working up an appetite, stop by the charming town of Lisdoonvarna, famous for hosting Europe's largest matchmaking festival every August. Enjoy a hearty lunch at Gus O'Connor's in Doolin, where the beef and Guinness stew is a must-try. With a full stomach, it's time to head to the main event: the Cliffs of Moher. Aim to arrive around 2:30 p.m., allowing ample time to explore this natural wonder. Don't miss the opportunity to visit O'Brien's Castle, perched on the cliff edge, offering breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean

Day 4: The Rich Heritage of Kerry

River flowing in front of green hills.

As you venture into County Kerry, prepare to be captivated by its rich heritage and stunning landscapes. The Wild Atlantic Way Food Trail is a must-do for foodies, offering a nine-day tour that showcases the region's culinary delights. From visiting the English Market in Cork City to exploring the Dingle Distillery, this tour is a gastronomic adventure like no other.

Kerry is also home to some of Ireland's most iconic landmarks, including:

  • Skellig Michael (Sceilg Mhichíl): Rising out of the Atlantic, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a testament to Ireland's early Christian heritage.

  • Blasket's View: Offering commanding views of the Blasket Islands, this viewing platform is a must-visit for those interested in the area's cultural heritage and the Irish language.

  • Ardfert Cathedral: A trio of medieval churches devoted to St Brendan, located in the charming town of Ardfert.

  • Ross Castle: A lakeside citadel steeped in legend, situated in the picturesque town of Killarney.

Other highlights of Kerry include:

  • The medieval ruins of Lislaughtin Abbey and Carrigafoyle Castle, both situated on the southern side of the Shannon Estuary.

  • The spectacular Bromore Cliffs, offering a rugged coastline that will take your breath away.

  • The early Christian sites of Adfert Cathedral and Friary, Gallarus Oratory, and Kilmalkedar and Reask.

  • The historic Banna Strand and Casement's Fort, both of significant importance to Ireland's past.

As you explore the Wild Atlantic Way in Kerry, you'll discover a region rich in archaeological monuments, from the Iron Age Caherconree Hillfort to the ancient Christian site of Kildreelig. With a myriad of notable points, Kerry boasts the longest section of the drive, promising an unforgettable journey through Ireland's history and natural beauty. You wouldnt be blamed for taking an extra day here.

Days 5 & 6: Cork - The Culinary Heart of Ireland

Fish being cooked.

You'll want an extra day here, so please take your time and soak it all in!

As the journey along the Wild Atlantic Way continues, travelers will find themselves in the culinary heart of Ireland: County Cork. This region is renowned for its high-quality dairy products, particularly its cheeses, with the famous Gubeen Cheese produced in Schull, West Cork. The area is also famous for its seafood, including oysters, mussels, lobsters, and smoked salmon, which can be found in many local shops and restaurants. Artisan food producers in the region include Ummera Smokehouse, known for its smoked fish, and the Clonakilty Chocolate Company, which produces astoundingly delicious handmade chocolates.

In addition to its culinary offerings, Cork is home to several notable landmarks along the Wild Atlantic Way. These include:

  • The Old Head of Kinsale: This headland extends out into the Atlantic Ocean for 3 km and features a Napoleonic Old Head Signal Tower and a Championship Golf Links.

  • Mizen Head: Ireland's most south-westerly point, with the Mizen Head Signal Station offering views of seals, seabirds, and sometimes dolphins, minke, fin, and humpback whales.

  • Dursey Island: Accessible only by Ireland's only cable car, this remote island is located on the Kerry Cork border and is home to just three farming families.

Day 7: Travel Day

Ocean waves crashing the shore during daytime.

Take this day as either an extra day in any location, or your travel time to head home after your Wild Atlantic Way adventure!

Need to Know

The Wild Atlantic Way is a journey that encapsulates the essence of Ireland's coastal beauty and cultural richness. From the rugged landscapes of Donegal to the culinary delights of Cork, this iconic route offers a tapestry of experiences that will leave a lasting impression on every traveller. Whether it's exploring ancient ruins, marveling at breathtaking vistas, or immersing oneself in the warm hospitality of local communities, the Wild Atlantic Way promises an unforgettable adventure.

When you embark on this coastal odyssey, take the time to slow down and savour each moment. This itinerary says 1 week, but you can easily make it 10-14 days, if not more. Let the wild beauty of Ireland's west coast captivate your senses, and allow the rich heritage of its people to touch your heart. The Wild Atlantic Way is more than just a journey; it's a celebration of life, nature, and the indomitable spirit of Ireland.

Advisor - Bijoy Shah

Travel Advisor

Bijoy Shah

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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Ireland. Looking for more travel inspiration? Check out my guide, A Vibrant Vacation Guide to the Isle of Wight.