Oh, oh, oh the endless sea! Soon to be mine all mine when I return to the West of Ireland on a photography trip in a few weeks time. ©www.anniewrightphotography.com
Stretching Ireland’s western seaboard, the Wild Atlantic Way is the longest defined coastal touring route in the world. Over 2,500km in length, spanning Ireland’s western counties, the route takes in some of the most breathtaking scenery you’ll ever see.
The Wild Atlantic Way is not a destination but a journey. Here, you’ll discover warmth in the wild continuous landscape and visit the most spectacular places: UNESCO World Heritage site Skellig Michael; the largest karst landscape in the world, The Burren; and the traditional Irish towns dotted along our western coast.
The Wild Atlantic Way is alive with literature, music, stories, and surf. Its landscape, flora, fauna, and sheer size have inspired everyone from WB Yeats to John Lennon.
Where else would the rolling landscape and Gaelic spirit inspire the dreamers, and the Atlantic Ocean call the world’s greatest surfers? Where else would actor Sean Connery, Hollywood legend Maureen O’Hara, and poet Seamus Heaney escape from it all?
The Wild Atlantic Way, that’s where.
Here’s a list of the 10 locations you can’t afford to miss on the route:
1. DONEGAL HEADLANDS
The magic of the Donegal Headland’s beaches, forgotten shipwrecks and ice streams meet the untamed wild headlands of the Atlantic Ocean. Here in the Headlands, in the far corner of North West Ireland you’ll encounter remote Irish communities who aren’t confined by time, and you won’t be either, especially after a visit to one of the most beautiful beaches in the world – Ballymastocker Bay.
2. SLIEVE LEAGUE COAST
Bathe in the Gaelic spirit of the Sliabh Liag cliffs – one of the highest marine cliffs in Europe. Tread the routes of Christian pilgrims, echoed with the wild Atlantic Ocean waves. Explore Silver Strand, a hidden beach only accessible by sea or steps; watch artisans weave Donegal tweed; and kayak along Ireland’s mighty cliffs.
3. YEATS COUNTRY
Find a place alive with literature, music, stories, and surf. This part of the Wild Atlantic Way inspires the dreamers, the change-makers and thrill-seekers. The ocean swells beckon surfers from all over the world, while its passage tombs, picture-perfect villages, and green, rolling hills leave spirits renewed. No wonder Irish poet WB Yeats fell in love with its beauty, writing it’s here that “peace comes dropping slow.”
4. ERRIS PENINSULA
You’ll find warmth amid the wild on the beautifully vast Erris Peninsula. If you venture to this welcoming part of Ireland, you’ll be amazed by the expanse of open land. With striking contrasts of light and dark, many experiences await you here. The white sand and crystal clear waters of Inishkea Islands are a beachcomber’s dream; collect seashells on Blacksod Bay, and visit Ireland’s largest colony of Atlantic grey seals.
5. CLEW BAY
A magical place that kisses the West Coast of Ireland, Clew Bay has an island for every day of the year, so storytellers say. Explore the island of Dorinish, once owned by The Beatles’ own John Lennon, who came here to “get away from it all”. The bay’s beach marries pure Blue Flag shores with submerged drumlins forced into existence an ice age ago. The beautiful water world awaits you.
Where water and mountain crash, the Atlantic surf has shaped everything from Connemara’s unique fjord to the spirit of the city of Galway. Welcome to Ireland’s largest traditional Irish speaking region. Along its Atlantic coastline, you’ll meet the most spirited of locals who’ll give you “Céad Míle Fáilte” – a hundred thousand welcomes. Visit Killary Harbour, Ireland’s only fjord; take a boat to the traditional Aran Islands; and explore the Irish music that awaits you on your return.
7. THE BURREN
Even in the wildest of places you can find calm and even in the raw, weather-beaten conditions there is warmth. The Burren means ‘the great rock’ and this moonscape of karst limestone is a World Heritage Site. Between the cracked limestone that stretches over 250km you’ll find pretty wildflowers, rich in flora and fauna. As well as megalithic tombs and monuments older than Egypt’s pyramids, you’ll take away memories that will last a lifetime.
8. DINGLE PENINSULA
A little dream world, Dingle town is a hub of literary and creative culture. Music plays long into the night, and festivals can be found along its winding roads. With the watchful gaze of the Blasket Islands, wander ruined cottages; take in dramatic views from Slea Head; discover the stories; and taste its famous seafood cuisine.
9. RING OF KERRY
Ascend through mystical scenery encircled with unspoilt lands. Kerry’s majestic energy and breathtaking landscapes will shimmer in memory long after you’ve gone. Explore UNESCO pilgrimage site Skellig Michael, which writer George Bernard Shaw described as “part of our dream world”. Climb old stone age ring forts, indulge in local chocolate making, and not to forget the national parks – a feast for the eyes.
10. WEST CORK
Like watercolours made real, West Cork’s towns seem to have sprung from a dream. Perhaps it’s because the timeless air of the Beara Peninsula allows nature to set the pace. The Atlantic Ocean here meets the Gulf Stream, and the micro-climate allows for lush vegetation. With harbours, coves and colourful towns, there’s plenty to do. Sail around one of the 100 islands; visit castle ruins; and take in one of West Cork’s stunning sunsets – known locally as ‘Europe’s last’.