The West Coast of Ireland is home to the Wild Atlantic Way, one of the longest defined coastal routes in the entire world. Stretching at over 2,500km (1,600 miles) in length, it follows the coast from the Inishowen Peninsula in the north all the way to County Cork in the south.
We drove the route in March of this year, and it was one of the best road trips of our lives. It’s a breathtaking drive that takes you through many of the picture-perfect landscapes that Ireland is known for. There are rolling hills and mountains, impressive cliffs and rock formations, and gorgeous beaches. We can’t wait to go back!
Here are just some of our many highlights from the route:
Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher are one of Ireland’s most visited attractions. Standing at over 200 meters high, the mighty cliffs jut out into the Atlantic Ocean, with powerful waves crashing below. There are some excellent hiking trails along the cliff tops, providing awe-inspiring panoramic views. There is also a state-of-the-art visitor centre built into the cliffs that contains interactive exhibitions for those who wish to learn more about the area. We visited at sunset, and the colours were simply stunning.
Skellig Michael is a rugged, majestic island 12km off the coast of mainland Ireland. It is home to a monastery, built between the 6th and 8th century. During the summer months, you can take a boat tour to explore the islands. There are over 600 steps to the top, after which you will be rewarded with incredible views. On the island, the only sounds are those of wildlife and the roaring sea below. Star Wars fans will especially enjoy the island – it is instantly recognisable as the secret Jedi Island that Luke Skywalker hides on in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Bridges of Ross
The Bridges of Ross lie on the western side of a natural harbour known as Ross Bay. Historically, the Bridges of Ross refers to a trio of natural sea arches formed by the ocean below. Two of the bridges have subsequently collapsed leaving only one remaining, however the plural name remains. The site serves as an excellent reminder of the power of the Atlantic Ocean. The weather was windy and overcast when we visited, but it did not take away from the magnificent views out across the ocean.
Slea Head Drive
Slea Head Drive is a circular route that forms part of the Wild Atlantic Way. It starts and ends in Dingle, a charming harbour town that was our favourite place to stay in Ireland. There are several attractions along the drive, and you can easily spend hours making your way around. We found ourselves regularly stopping to admire the stunning views. There is natural beauty in every direction, with the now-abandoned Blasket islands impressively rising out of the sea on one side and the Brandon Mountain range (Ireland’s second highest) on the other. There are also some ancient beehive huts to explore, dating back to when Normans forced the native Irish off the good land in the twelfth century.
Conor Pass is Ireland’s highest mountain pass. It is an extremely narrow road that winds up Mount Brandon, often with only room for one car to pass at a time. It is not for the faint-hearted; the road twists and turns with only a rickety fence between your car and a sheer drop off the side of the mountain. Upon reaching the top, there is a scenic viewpoint with spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and lakes below.