The Wild Atlantic Way covers six regions and more than 1,500 miles of rugged, coastal Ireland. Take this route, and you’ll travel from the wilds of Malin Head in County Donegal to the lovely fishing village of Kinsale in County Cork. Immerse yourself in the wonder, venture off the route, and discover little-known villages, ruins, castles, local crafts, and fabulous foods that are secret spots along the Wild Atlantic Way. From north to south, you will see:
The Northern Headlands
Steeped in culture and mythology, and home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, Donegal was named the ‘Coolest Place on the Planet’ by National Geographic Traveler. This is the place that puts the ‘wild’ in the Wild Atlantic Way. It is dramatic, windswept, and includes Ireland’s most northerly point, Malin Head. With some of the highest cliffs in Europe, the Northern Headlands is extraordinary. After a day spent exploring, including the Wee House at Malin, dip into a local pub and warm up by a fire with a Guinness. You might also consider taking a ferry to Tory Island, a complete Gaelic experience.
The Surf Coast
The Surf Coast stretches from Donegal town to Sligo, and the waves here are awesome. Mullaghmore Head, in Sligo, attracts surfers from around the world—the Head has epic prowler waves unlike anywhere else in Ireland. From here, venture off the path to one of Ireland’s best kept secrets, Streedagh Beach in North County Sligo. While there, visit the Spanish Armada shipwrecks, marvel at ancient fossils, and see Classiebawn Castle, the former home of Lord Mountbatten. You are in the heart of Yeats Country… indulge in an Irish feast, with spectacular views, at Broc House.
The Bay Coast
Driving south, Galway is known as “The City of Tribes.” This colorful, Bohemian city is known for its live music tradition and fabulous beaches, including Blue Flag Beach at Salthill. Walk along the beach and then stop at Salthill Promenade and enjoy exceptional views of the Aran Islands. Give the promenade wall a kick—it’s supposed to bring you good fortune. Doonloughan Beach, tucked away in the wilds of Connemara, is a hidden gem. Frequented by locals, the beach rewards the adventurous traveler with surf waves, sandy dunes, and clear swimming waters.
The Cliff Coast
Adventure next from Galway City to the wilds of Kerry. Relax… This drive fills your senses with the natural wonders of an untamed landscape. One of Ireland’s most popular destinations, the Cliffs of Moher are powerful and inspiring. Consider taking a cruise to the Cliffs from Doolin, a small-and-mighty village. It’s also the jumping-off place for the Aran Islands. Doolin is purely traditional Ireland, and a good base for exploring the Burren.
The Southern Peninsulas
From the cable car at Dursey Island to the bridge at Mizen Head, the motto of the Southern Peninsulas may be, Don’t Look Down, Look Straight Ahead! If you’re not wild about heights, Ireland’s Southwest has many other gems, including the jewel that is the Dingle Peninsula. Walk the golden sands of Inch beach, go to the UNESCO World Heritage site, The Skellings, experience Garnish Island, and then? Head to the town of Dingle. Dingle, Ireland is the town that might well be everyone’s favorite. With live music pouring out pub doors in the evening, local weavers, winding lanes, and luscious food, Dingle is a must.
The Haven Coast