Stroll by means of our historical past, get pleasure from our spectacular surroundings, expertise our western seaboard.

The journey guides might speak of the Camino in Spain, however right here in Eire, we have now a long-distance manner of our personal, way more in depth (and certainly way more dramatic) than that historic pilgrim route. Simply to offer you some concept, the Camino is a few 800 km in size from the Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela; our Wild Atlantic Means is over 2,600 km.

It’s in actual fact one of many longest outlined coastal routes on this planet. Stretching from Kinsale in Co Cork to Derry within the far north, it encompasses all that’s most breathtaking about our wave-washed shoreline, the place the ocean has carved and indented over hundreds of years, creating sheer cliffs and sandy seashores, deep inlets and rugged promontories.

Offshore are islands, every with its personal story to inform, its personal lure, tempting us to take to a ship as so lots of our ancestors have accomplished earlier than us.

Slieve League, Irelands highest sea cliffs, located in south west Donegal along this magnificent costal driving route. One of the most popular stops at Wild Atlantic Way route, Co Donegal, Ireland.
Slieve League, Irelands highest sea cliffs, situated in south west Donegal alongside this magnificent costal driving route. Probably the most standard stops at Wild Atlantic Means route, Co Donegal, Eire.

Right here the previous traditions are nonetheless practised, and our native tongue nonetheless spoken. In some ways, travelling the Wild Atlantic Means is a gathering with the previous in addition to the current.

After all, it’s an enormous endeavor, the whole route. You can spend the whole 12 months strolling it. Alternatively, you may drive, or cycle. That’s the good attraction of this glorious seacoast route — it’s open to all types of journey (though it’d take a bit longer on a skateboard or scooter, they’re nonetheless choices). The principle factor is, first to understand what a nationwide treasure this Means is, and second, to get on the market and discover it.

Given its 2,600km+ size (and that doesn’t embrace journeys to offshore islands), it’s most likely best to have a look at the Wild Atlantic Means in sections, and maybe take one area first, following up with the others. However the place to start out? On the prime or the underside — the Inishowen Peninsula in Donegal or the coast of West Cork?

Midway by means of, in Galway of the Tribes, or Lahinch in Clare? The best cliffs in Europe or our nation’s solely cable automotive? Granuaile’s castles or Daniel O’Connell’s dwelling? Islands or museums? They’re all there.

The very best factor is perhaps to search out an space you actually don’t know very properly or in any respect, whether or not north, west, or south, and make that your vacation spot area for the primary all-important journey of the 12 months. Wherever you select, you could be positive of discovering nice resorts, fantastic eating places, welcoming guesthouses, pleasant bars and cafes, and, possibly better of all, new mates to make and hold. The photographs you’re taking, the experiences you acquire, the surroundings that lifts your soul to new heights, will all stay with you forevermore.

To make the selection simpler, let’s divide this magnificent long-distance route into 4 sections: Donegal to Mayo; Mayo to Clare; Clare to Kerry; and Kerry to Cork.

Donegal to Mayo

The Wild Atlantic Means formally begins within the feisty little walled city of Derry on Lough Foyle, with the cannons lining its ramparts a tribute to its turbulent previous. It’s an important place to spend the morning exploring and having fun with the native chat, earlier than heading up the attractive Inishowen Peninsula.

Moville, additional north, was one of many nice departure factors for transatlantic ships taking emigrants to the New World. You must go to Malin Head, essentially the most northerly level in Eire, and look out to Inishtrahull Island which over the centuries held a fame second to none for smuggling.

Down by Letterkenny and on to views of Tory Island from Fanad Head with its stunning lighthouse. A number of ferry providers providing journeys to each Tory and Gola could be present in one of many many harbours alongside this stretch of coast.

The wonderful view over Saddle Head from Croaghaun on on Achill Island, County Mayo, Ireland.
The fantastic view over Saddle Head from Croaghaun on on Achill Island, County Mayo, Eire.

No matter you do, don’t miss Sliabh Liag, at greater than 600m, the very best cliffs in all Eire and one of many highest in all of Europe. There’s an accurately-named One Man’s Path main up and over these dizzying cliffs, positively not one to be tried by these affected by vertigo.

From right here, comply with south to Donegal city, then on to energetic Killybegs with its crowded harbour of trawlers exhibiting that the fishing business is alive and properly. Cross the county bounds for Sligo, and head out to the traditional Ceide Fields the place our far ancestors tilled the soil hundreds of years in the past.

Then into Mayo and the Mullet Peninsula, of which Percy French wrote so movingly:

And I by no means can overlook you,

although it’s oh so way back,

Within the lavatory beneath Belmullet,

within the county of Mayo…

The tough fantastic thing about this countryside is unforgettable, and should have stayed within the minds of so many who had been pressured to depart to hunt their fortune in far-off lands.

Achill Island is definitely reached as of late by a bridge from the mainland, and boasts spectacular seashores in addition to a abandoned village and one among Granuaile’s many castles. Granuaile, that nice sea pirate queen, favoured Clare Island in Clew Bay (and is claimed to be buried there), however to get a good suggestion of what she actually regarded like, head for the gardens of Westport Home the place there’s a splendid statue. Look out too for the lofty hill of Croagh Patrick with its many winding tracks worn by pilgrims all through the years.

Mayo to Clare

Killary Harbour is one among Eire’s only a few real fjords, an extended sea inlet, with Leenane, lengthy a Mecca for fishermen, at its base. That is Connemara, which maybe encapsulates all of the craving pictures of Eire: whitewashed cottages, blue mountains, stone bridges, and the mushy brown of turf bogs.

Epic sunset at the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare, Ireland, located along the Wild Atlantic Way.
Epic sundown on the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare, Eire, situated alongside the Wild Atlantic Means.

In truth, Derrigimlach Bathroom close to Clifden is the place Alcock and Brown crashlanded on the primary transatlantic flight from Newfoundland. Wander the winding lanes across the coast to Roundstone and are available to historic Spiddal and Galway metropolis. Or take a voyage out to the three Aran Islands: Inishmore, Inishmaan and Inisheer. You will discover sufficient on the market to fascinate you for days. Then head for Doolin in Co. Clare to listen to a few of the finest fiddle music within the land.

Clare to Kerry

The Burren, that unusual stone panorama, is claimed to have impressed Tolkien, who spent many holidays there (did Poulnagollum Cave counsel the title for one among his anti-heroes?) It’s one other of these unforgettable locations, the place what looks as if clean stone pavement truly hides uncommon wildflowers inside little niches and grykes.

Lahinch is legendary for its splendid seaside and browsing. Kilkee has been a summer time vacation resort since Victorian occasions. That is the area of the West Clare Railway and you may nonetheless see remnants of its well-known line alongside the panorama by the coast.

It’s recorded that the railway firm used to throw heavy weights into the carriages on wild days to make sure the prepare didn’t tip over when traversing the windy coastal stretches.

At Moyasta, a museum cherishes relics and historical past of this legendary prepare. The dramatic cliffs of Loop Head, the westernmost level in Co Clare, not solely boast a beautiful lighthouse, but in addition featured in Star Wars.

Crossing the Shannon from Killimer to Tarbert, from Clare to Kerry, is one thing everyone ought to do, not simply as soon as, however a number of occasions a 12 months.

Being out on the waters of this mighty river (which right here feels extra like the ocean) provides your journey that nice sense of journey. As soon as safely on the Kerry facet, make a journey upriver to Foynes Flying Boat museum for a peek into the previous when nice transatlantic passenger flights rendered the lengthy sea voyages out of date. They’ve the world’s solely full-size duplicate of a B314 flying boat right here.

The Healy Pass, Co. Kerry.
The Healy Go, Co. Kerry.

Ballybunion has essentially the most splendid bay and seaside, ultimate for household holidays. Tralee not solely hosts the well-known Rose pageant annually, but in addition maintains a wonderful Nineteenth-century canal.

That is the beginning of one of many actually breathtaking experiences of the Wild Atlantic Means, the Slea Head drive, by energetic little Dingle, full of outlets, pubs, and completely happy individuals, to Dunquin, and your first views of the legendary Blasket Islands.

Time was, visiting these may solely be undertaken on the calmest days, however at the moment’s ferries will undertake the brief crossing at most occasions, and you may wander on the well-worn grass tracks main from cottage to cottage, and keep in mind the writings of such greats as Peig Sayers, Tomas O’Crohan, and Muiris O’Suillebhain. Higher nonetheless, purchase copies of their books to refresh your reminiscence within the Blasket Centre on the mainland.

It’s additional alongside the coast that glimpses are provided of the Skelligs rising virtually sheer from the ocean. Skellig Michael was a spiritual website for hundreds of years, however earlier than that was an historic druidic website of energy. Little Skellig is a haven for wild birds, particularly gannets.

You would possibly be capable of go to by boat — it relies upon not solely on the climate, but in addition the crowds, drawn there by Skellig Michael’s transient look in a Star Wars film. Valentia Island, additional on, could be reached by bridge. This was the place the primary commercially-viable transatlantic cable was laid, reaching far throughout to Newfoundland.

Killorglin is legendary for Puck Truthful, held on the identical three days in August since historic occasions. That is the event on which a wild goat (echoing very previous druidic rites) is hoisted to a excessive platform and there fed and cared for throughout the truthful, later to be launched again into the mountains. Now we’re on the Ring of Kerry.

Derrynane was the house of the Liberator, Daniel O’Connell, and his household dwelling could be visited, plus the bay the place, it’s mentioned, his household often practised a little bit of smuggling to and from France.

Kerry to Cork

And so forth to Sneem, and Kenmare the place it’s tempting to linger awhile within the retailers and cafes. However the Beara Peninsula beckons, with, at its very tip, Dursey Island and the one cable automotive within the nation. It’s a swaying journey throughout from the mainland to the island, however value it for the expertise. On the best way again, name to see An Cailleach Beara, the Hag of Beara, and pay your respects to this historic stone which represents the feminine deity controlling the life and fertility of land and sea. The wealthy micro-climate of Glengarriff makes it a haven for uncommon and delicate vegetation, nowhere greater than on Garnish Island the place very good Italian gardens are lovingly tended.

Ardnakinna Lighthouse, Bere Island, Co. Cork. Photo: Joleen Cronin.
Ardnakinna Lighthouse, Bere Island, Co. Cork. Picture: Joleen Cronin.

Bantry city is a superb base from which to discover Sheep’s Head and Dunmanus Bay, earlier than heading out to Mizen Head, held by most to be the southernmost level in Eire (truly Forehead Head, a stone’s throw away, is barely forward). The crashing waves listed below are exceptionally dramatic after a storm, and the previous sign station could be visited. The broad golden seaside of Barley Cove is rightly well-known, and everyone results in Crookhaven on the finish of the day to get pleasure from native seafood and chat over drinks.

Baltimore is the place the ferries for Sherkin and Cape Clear depart, or you may simply get pleasure from wandering alongside the quaysides and admiring the O’Driscoll citadel. Then it’s on to Skibbereen, Clonakilty, all of the beauties of the Seven Heads, and extra seashores than you may probably discover, earlier than the lengthy peninsula of the Previous Head of Kinsale, a beacon for mariners for untold centuries, tells you that you’re nearing the tip of your journey. The bustling city of Kinsale, lengthy famed as a vacation spot for gourmets with its many well-known eating places, awaits. Now it’s time to take a seat down, calm down, and plan your subsequent exploration of The Wild Atlantic Means.

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