Set off on a true adventure along 1,500 miles of coastal road on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way. An unforgettable experience awaits along one of the wildest, most enchanting, and culturally rich routes in the world.
The Wild Atlantic Way is a sensational journey of tiny roads reaching out into the ocean, dramatic cliffs, spectacular lighthouses, secluded beaches, epic bays, sheep-spotted hills and buzzing villages & town. Make sure to stop often and take in the breath-taking views. Be ready to encounter some of the most rugged, spectacular coastlines you will ever see!
In this blog post we’ll share some of our personal favorites along this inspirational coastal drive. You may not be able to see the 7 wonders of the world in one trip, but you can see these 7 wonders of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way on your next trip to Ireland!
1. Mizen Head, Cork
Must See: Mizen Head cliffs, footbridge, signal station
Top Tip: From the arched bridge look down and around you to spot wildflowers, gannets, seals, and dolphins
Nearby: 3 Castle Head, Crookhaven, Altar Wedge Tomb
Photos: 1) Mizen Head Signal Station and foot bridge 2) Viewing deck at Mizen Head 3) Mizen Head cliff coast
A scenic road along a spectacular cliff coast takes you to the Mizen Head Signal Station. Built on cliffs that rise high above the Atlantic Ocean, the station was built to fight the high loss of life and shipping on the rocks. To reach the signal station you must climb down 99 steps, cross an arched footbridge high above the gorge, and walk along fenced cliff trails. Take some time to check out the former keepers’ quarters and the Marconi radio room.
From Mizen Head you can spot The Fastnet Rock Lighthouse on a tiny rock out in the ocean. This was the last spot seen by many emigrants on their way to America.
Amazing places to visit near Mizen Head
Photos: 1) 3-Castle Head (@ John Finn) 2) Crookhaven 3) Altar Wedge Tomb
1) 3 Castle Head. 3 ruined medieval towers connected by a high stone wall on the edge of a cliff. A 15-minute walk along a small trail leads you across private farmland to the castle.
2) Crookhaven. Lovely spot for lunch. This picturesque harbour village once was the last port of call for ships, stocking up before going to America.
3) Altar Wedge Tomb. An impressive formation from approx. 2500BC that can be found about halfway between Mizen Head and Schull along a spectacular coastal drive.
2. Valentia Island, Kerry
Must See: Geokaun Mountain, Valentia Island Lighthouse, Knightstown
Top Tip: Walk up to Bray Head for fab views of the Skellig coast and the Skellig islands
Nearby: Portmagee, Skellig Experience Centre, Skellig Chocolates
Photos: 1) Valentia Island Lighthouse 2) Knightstown (@ KerryGems) 3) View from Geokaun Mountain
Valentia Island is an amazing island at the far end of the Ring of Kerry. Its remoteness and dramatic coastal scenery make it a must-see destination along the Wild Atlantic Way. The island can be reached from Portmagee by bridge, or – highly recommended – by car ferry from Renard Point to Knightstown.
From Knightstown travel along the coast and take the road down to Valentia Island Lighthouse that is built on the remains of an old fort from Cromwellian times. Your camera will absolutely love this spot: the lighthouse, rocky coastline, and crashing waves.
Our next recommendation along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way is Geokaun Mountain. A rough and steep road takes you to the top of the mountain. This drive is not for the fainthearted, but the views from the top will make up for the sweaty hands. We’ll promise, this will be the highlight of your day! On you way back down take the short walk up to the stunning Fogher Cliffs.
On the other side of the island, near the bridge to Portmagee, you’ll find the monument that tells the story of the first transatlantic telegraph cable that was laid from Valentia Island. If you have time, take the walk to the top of Bray Head and enjoy some of the best views of the Skellig coast and the Skellig Islands.
Amazing places to visit near Valentia Island
Photos: 1) Portmagee 2) Skellig Michael 3) Skelligs Chocolates
1) Portmagee is a lovely little harbour village. Great spot for lunch, especially if you like fresh seafood. It is also the best spot for a boat trip to the Skellig Islands. StarWars brought the magnificent scenery of Skellig Michael to the big screen.
2) Skellig Experience Centre. Learn everything about the famous Skellig Islands and the story of the monks who inhabited this rock in the Atlantic for centuries.
3) Skellig Chocolates. Chocoholic or not, everyone will love this little chocolate factory on the Skellig Ring!
Tip: The roads on Valentia Island and the Skellig Ring are narrow and windy. If you are not comfortable navigating these roads, it is well worth taking a private tour of the Ring of Kerry, Valentia Island and the Skellig Ring for a relaxed, off the beaten path experience.
3. Slea Head, Dingle, Kerry
Must See: Beehive huts, Coumeenoole Beach, Dunquin pier
Top Tip: From Coumeenoole Beach walk along the trail up to Dunmore Head. Fab views!
Nearby: Blasket Experience Centre, Dingle town, Conor Pass
Photos: 1) Dunquin Pier (@TourismIreland) 2) Beehive huts 3) Coumeenoole Beach
The Dingle Peninsula has it all, stunning scenery, an abundance of historic sites, and the feel of the Gaelic culture wherever you roam. From the Gaelic language, to the best arts & crafts and traditional music sessions, the old ways are still very much alive.
One of the most scenic parts of the Wild Atlantic Way is Slea Head on the Dingle Peninsula. Breath-taking coastal scenery and magnificent views are guaranteed. Slea Head probably has the greatest concentration of ancient sites in Ireland. The area is dotted with stone-age ring forts, inscribed stones, old church sites, and – not to be missed – prehistoric beehive huts.
As you get closer to the ocean, the road narrows more and more. Stretch the legs and dip your toes into the Atlantic at Coumeenoole Beach, a gorgeous little sandy beach surrounded by high cliffs. From here you can walk up the hill to Dunmore Head for even better views.
Another must-see stop on this scenic trip is Dunquin Pier. In the Summer months a ferry leaves from this Pier to Great Blasket Island. Up to 1953 people lived on this deserted island under harsh conditions: no shop, no doctor, and no pub! These days the island is a paradise for walkers.
Amazing places to visit near Slea Head
Photos: 1) Great Blasket Island 2) Dingle town and marina 3) Conor Pass (@ChrisHill)
1) The Blasket Centre. This heritage centre and museum tells the story of the Blasket islands and the Irish speaking people who lived there and left an important cultural footprint.
2) Dingle Town. The charming town is packed with traditional pubs and cute little shops and restaurants.
3) Conor Pass. A short drive from Dingle Town takes you to the top of the Conor Pass, Ireland’s highest mountain pass. Spectacular views of Dingle Harbour, Mt Brandon, and the blue lakes in the rocky valley.
4. Cliffs of Moher, Clare
Must See: No explanation needed, 5 miles (8km) of stunning cliffs to explore 😊
Top Tip: Doolin Cliff Walk – cliff top walk from Doolin to Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre
Nearby: Doolin, Aran Islands, The Burren
Photos: Cruise under the Cliffs of Moher (@MelanieNelson) 2) Cliff top walk 3) Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher are Ireland’s number 1 visitors’ attraction along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, and for good reason. These iconic cliffs are amongst the highest in Europe, soaring 700 feet (214m) above the Atlantic. The cliffs have been featured in many movies including Harry Potter and Leap Year.
Lonely Planet’s description of the cliffs says it all:
“One of Ireland’s most famous sights, the Cliffs of Moher are entirely vertical and the cliff edge is abrupt. On a clear day the views are tremendous, with the Aran Islands etched on the waters of Galway Bay. From the cliff edge you can just hear the booming far below as the waves crash and gnaw at the soft shale and sandstone.”
Plan enough time to go for a walk, to get away from the crowds. Nothing beats a windswept, thrilling hike across the clifftops!
Amazing places to visit near the Cliffs of Moher
Photos: 1) Doolin 2) Aran Islands (@GarethMcCormack) 3) The Burren (@ChrisHill)
1) Doolin is famous for Traditional Irish Music sessions in the pubs. The craic is mighty! The best Irish Stew in the country is served at McDermott’s in Doolin.
2) The Aran Islands can be reached by ferry from Doolin. These islands are a great representation of the traditional, mystical Ireland.
3) The Burren is a massive moonlike limestone plateau, with ancient burial chambers, medieval ruins, and an abundance of wildflowers.
5. Achill Island, Mayo
Must See: Kildavnet Castle, Achill Coastline, Keem Strand
Top Tip: Picnic lunch on the beach
Nearby: Westport, Croagh Patrick, Ceide Fields
Photos: 1) Keem Beach, Achill Island 2) Achill Island coastline 3) Kildavnet Castle
Achill’s Atlantic Drive boasts over 40km of breath-taking coastal scenery and rich history. On route is the 16th century tower house Kildavnet Castle, that was used by the legendary Irish Pirate Queen Grace O’Malley. More on this intriguing character in another blog post!
The impressive Deserted Village at Slievemore consists of almost 100 old stone cottages. The village was used as a “booley” settlement, only in use during the Summer to grow crops and to let cattle graze in the pastures. In the winter months people would live in a different location. From the 1840s the village was gradually abandoned because of tenants being evicted by the local landlord, the Great Famine and emigration to America.
The Achill coastal road leads all the way to the idyllic Keem Beach. It has been named one of the best beaches in the world for 2019 by global travel site Big 7 Travel. The almost tropical feel of this gorgeous sandy beach with crystal clear waters and surrounded by cliffs, is the stuff for postcards. An ideal spot for a picnic lunch!
Amazing places to visit near Achill Island
Photos: 1) Croagh Patrick (@ChrisHill) 2) Westport 3) Ceide Fields (@PeterMcCabe)
1) Croagh Patrick, Ireland’s holy mountain and a popular pilgrimage destination. St Patrick is said to have fasted for 40 days at the summit of the mountain.
2) Westport. A charming little town with many shops, pubs, restaurants, and the historic Westport House.
3) Céide Fields. One of the most extensive Stone Age archaeological sites in the world, dating back almost 6,000 years. The site contains the oldest known stone-walled fields in the world, enclosures, and megalithic tombs.
6. Mullaghmore Head, Sligo
Photo: Mullaghmore Head, with Classiebawn Castle and Ben Bulben in the background
A stroll around Mullaghmore Head is a must-do on this stretch of the Wild Atlantic Way. Walk along the sandy beach and listen to the crashing waves. This is one of Ireland’s best surfing spots, famous for its big waves.
Enjoy stunning views of the picturesque Classiebawn Castle and the towering BenBulben mountain in the backdrop. The word stunning was created for scenes like this, it is the stuff of fairytales.
Ben Bulben is one of Ireland’s most iconic landmarks. Famous Irish poet WB Yeats found inspiration in county Sligo and in the impressive flat-topped mountain. He called Sligo “The Land of Heart’s Desire” and one of his famous poems is called “Under Ben Bulben”. Yeats is buried in the shadow of this mountain in Drumcliff cemetery.
Ben Bulben was also the backdrop for the Irish legend of Diarmuid & Grainne, a fascinating but tragic love story.
Amazing places to visit near Mullaghmore Head
Photos: 1) Innismurray Island (@FailteIreland) 2) Streedagh Beach (@SligoTourism) 3) Parke’s Castle (@DiscoverTheShannon)
1) Take a boat trip on the Atlantic to Inishmurray Island and see the impressive ruins of an ancient monastic site.
2) Streedagh Beach. This place is all about walking 3km of sandy beach, searching for fossils, exploring an ancient wedge tomb, and soaking up history. Ships from the Spanish Armada ran aground here in a storm in 1588.
3) Parke’s castle is a lovely little castle on the shores of Lough Gill, a 30 minute drive from Mullaghmore, just across the Sligo-Leitrim border.
7. Slieve League, Donegal
Must See: Cliffs at Slieve League, Silver Strand (Malin Beg), St John’s Point lighthouse
Top Tip: Book an overnight stay at the lightkeeper’s cottage at St John’s Point lighthouse
Nearby: Assaranca Waterfall, Donegal castle, Sliabh Liag Distillers
Photos: 1) Slieve League (@TourismIreland) 2) Silver Strand, Malin Beg (@JohnMolloy) 3) St John’s Lighthouse (@MaryRodgers)
The stunning cliffs at Slieve League are the highest accessible sea cliffs in Europe. With over 600m (1970 feet) they are three times the height of the famous Cliffs of Moher. A narrow trail called One Man’s Pass leads to the highest point of Slieve League. It is a thrilling experience, standing on top of these soaring cliffs that rise high above the Atlantic Ocean. Feel the salty air in your face, watch the waves crash, and take in the breath-taking views here at the edge of the world.
When you’ve cleared your head at Slieve league, continue to follow the road until you reach Silver Strand. This beautiful beach near Malin Beg is surrounded by high horseshoe-shaped cliffs.
Another must-see spot along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way is St John’s Lighthouse. A thrilling drive along one of Ireland’s longest peninsulas takes you to this amazing spot. And the best of it all …. you can actually stay overnight at the St Johns Point Lightkeeper’s Cottages! Treat yourself a unique stay miles away from anywhere. Admire the fab views across the bay, walk along the beach, or go for a swim in some of the clearest waters you’ve ever seen. You’ll never want to leave this perfect place, so it is a good thing that there is minimum of 2 nights stay requirement 😉
Amazing places to visit near Slieve League
Photos: 1) Assaranca Waterfall (@PaddyMcGlynn) 2) Donegal Castle 3) Sliabh Liag Distillers
1) Assaranca Waterfall, a great spot to visit especially after a rainy night. Tip: take the Glengesh Pass from Slieve League to Assaranca, a windy mountain road with fabulous views.
2) Donegal castle. A restored Norman tower house from the 15th century in the heart of Donegal town.
3) Sliabh Liag Distillers. No better way to finish your trip along the Wild Atlantic Way! Enjoy a guided tour of this craft distillery,
Explore the world, but first see Ireland
Ireland is too beautiful to leave unexplored. Cross a destination off your bucket list with a trip to Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way!
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For a truly local experience in one of the most charming and warm cultures in the world, Kerry Experience Tours will show visitors the most magical parts of Ireland. On offer are private day tours and multiday tours, tailored to suit your wishes. Enjoy the most scenic drives, spectacular land and seascapes, historic wonders, inspirational places, and hidden gems off the beaten path, completed with background information and stories.
The Emerald Isle is enjoyed best in the hands of experienced tour guides, who will personalize every trip to what guests want to see. Kerry Experience Tours is run by Gerrit & Ester, who made their dreams come true by moving to this beautiful, enchanting country. Since 2007 they run the touring company together, sharing their passion for Ireland with others. Their aim is for you to enjoy the absolute best Ireland has to offer, creating memories that last a lifetime.
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