If rugged coastlines, quaint towns and immersing yourself in the elements is your favourite kind of adventure, the Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland has it all. And what makes it even better is there are a bunch of different ways to explore its beauty, depending on your personal travel preference.
At an impressive 2,500km, from the Inishowen Peninsula in County Donegal, North West, to Kinsale in County Cork, in the South East, the Wild Atlantic Way is the longest defined coastal touring route in the world.
The journey is broken into six zones, each showcasing a unique character with a plethora of activities; from nature hikes, surfing, arts and crafts, to diving, great music, kayaking and delicious food.
A trip down the Wild Atlantic Way also offers heaps of freedom, which is what we’re all craving right now, so all you need to do now is figure out what travel style you’d like to experience, and you can be off on your way.
1. Explore by car
If you’re after flexibility, this option could well be for you.
Whether you BYO (which is perhaps a tad difficult from Australia), borrow a friend’s, or hire one, you’ll be out onto quiet country roads discovering hidden gems in no time.
Soaking up the scenery from behind the wheel, you’ll pass through lots of little towns and villages, and meet plenty of chatty locals, wherever you stop.
Road tripping allows you to take things at your own pace, admire the ever-changing skies, experience marvels such as the Northern Lights, visit an artist’s studio, linger over lunch or stop for a stroll whenever the mood takes you.
2. Wander by foot
To the walkers out there, this one’s for you.
The Wild Atlantic Way is a haven for walkers, with hikes and trails to suit all levels of ability – varying from long-distance routes to shorter marked looped walks.
The geology and terrain change fast in this part of the world – so in just a few hours’ hike could include beaches, bogs, cliffs and crags.
Choose to go your own way, with self-guide maps and plenty of places to stay along the route, or book a guide who will take care of transfers and accommodation, leaving you free to immerse yourself in the experience.
If you’re travelling solo or fancy meeting some new people, walking festivals are also a great way to explore, with strangers fast becoming friends as you traverse these untamed lands.
3. Onya bike!
Lycra up and grab a bike! Another great way to experience the Wild Atlantic Way is to go self-guided or join a group and cycle.
Traffic is generally light along the way, but there are also dedicated cycling trails, such as the Great Western Greenway – one of the longest off-road routes in Ireland – which skirts Mayo’s Clew Bay along the old Westport to Achill railway line.
If you’d rather dabble than commit to a mammoth cycling adventure, there are also plenty of options for a day’s outing.
Choose from pedal-assisted e-bikes to help you out in the rough terrain or opt for the thrill of mountain biking on the Derroura Trail in Galway.
Fat biking is another fun option – the wide tyres are perfect when pedalling over soft bog and sand.
You could even join in the Wild Atlantic Way Cycle Sportif, and cycle alongside like-minded enthusiasts on this wonderfully varied route.
4. Get wet and wild on the water
Merpeople, surfers, sailors and swimmers, get excited because the Wild Atlantic Way offers all the water action to satisfy your ocean affinity.
Surfers can get their fix by heading to Bundoran in County Donegal and Mullaghmore Head in County Sligo, or have a lesson in the gentle waters of Spanish Point, off the County Clare coast.
Opt to hire a sailboat, go kitesurfing, take a ferry out to Galway’s Aran Islands, or the Skellig Islands in County Kerry. You could even try whale-watching and dolphin spotting off the Dingle Peninsula.
Take a kayak trip around Cork City on the River Lee – or simply find an empty white beach in Connemara and go for a dip.
If you’re collecting unique magical moments, why not try nighttime kayaking on Lough Hyne in County Cork, lit only by stars and bioluminescence? We’re pretty confident it’ll be unlike anything you’ve ever done before.
5. Go with a guide
Travelling under your own steam gives you flexibility, but sometimes it’s nice to be in the hands of experts.
If you’re the type to know exactly what you want, are short on time, want to see as much as possible, or simply want to depend on a local’s expertise, this option could be the best for you.
Most guides offer something really special. Perhaps you’re a Father Ted fan and want to see Craggy Island.
Or maybe you’d rather set off on a seven-day tour by motorcycle or classic car from Kinsale to Westport?
With the itinerary and accommodation are fixed up – all you have to do is travel in style stress-free, with nothing overlooked but the ocean.
Unleash your kind of wild, on the Wild Atlantic Way.
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