In the first part of our best road trips around Ireland series, we featured the Causeway Coastal Route in Northern Ireland. Now, in part two, we explore the Wild Atlantic Way.
Stretching 2,500km of coastal road, the Wild Atlantic Way spans a vast area, the majority being along the west coast of Ireland. The route is broken down into six regions: Northern Headlands; Surf Coast; Bay Coast; Cliff Coast; Southern Peninsulas; and Haven Coast.
Whether you are planning to explore the Wild Atlantic Way during one epic road trip, or wish to visit it in stages, here’s our top must-see sights!
Northern Headlands: Sliabh Liag
Sliabh Liag in Donegal
The northern region of the Wild Atlantic Way spans across Donegal’s coastline, from Malin Head to Donegal Town. There are plenty of places to explore, including Sliabh Liag, Europe’s highest publically accessible sea cliff.
Here, you can enjoy some breathtaking views of Donegal Bay and the Sligo Mountains from an enormous 600m above sea level!
The Surf Coast: Downpatrick Head
Downpatrick Head and the Dún Briste sea stack
Stretching from Ballyshannon in Donegal to Erris in Mayo, this region is a popular with surfers hoping to catch some waves, particularly Strandhill in Sligo and Bundoran in Donegal. But there are plenty of other places to visit, including Mullaghmore Head, Downpatrick Head and Inishmurray Island.
A stop at Downpatrick Head in Mayo will reward you with panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean and a small collection of islands known as the Staggs of Broadhaven.
The Bay Coast: Clew Bay
Fishing boat moored in Clew Bay, Mayo
The Bay Coast runs from Doran’s Point in Mayo, through Connemara and on to Traught Beach on the shore of Galway Bay. Follow this route and enjoy some stunning bay views, including Clew Bay and Keem Bay in Mayo.
It’s worth stopping at Clew Bay to take in the views of more than 300 islands – the largest being Clare Island, the historic home of legendary pirate Queen, Gráinne Mhaol. Clew Bay is also home to many secluded beaches and boasts it’s own seal colony.
The Cliff Coast: Loop Head
View of Loop Head cliffs
The Cliff Coast route along the Wild Atlantic Way runs from Galway to Ballybunion in Kerry. Loop Head in Clare, features renowned panoramic views, marked by its prominent lighthouse, which is a particular highlight.
Loop Head peninsula boasts views of the Atlantic Ocean and the River Shannon’s estuary.
Southern Peninsulas: Mizen Head
Cliffs at Mizen Head
The Southern Peninsulas route encompasses five peninsulas in both Kerry and Cork: Dingle, Iveragh, Beara, Sheep’s Head and Mizen Head.
As Ireland’s most southwesterly point, Mizen Head in Cork is renowned for its spectacular cliff views. For those making a car stop here, there’s plenty to see, including the Signal Station that was built in 1910 to warn ships of the dangerous rocks close to the shore. This historical building now houses a maritime museum.
Haven coast: Baltimore
Beacon at Baltimore
The Haven Coast marks the southernmost route along the Wild Atlantic Way, spanning from Skibbereen to Kinsale.
Baltimore in West Cork is an ideal spot to take a break from your road trip. This fishing village has a rich maritime heritage and is a popular tourist spot, especially in the summer. If you want to prolong your stay in Baltimore, there are ferries to both Sherkin Island and Cape Clear Island, with ferries leaving from the port.