The west coast of Ireland, the one opening up to the immensity of the Atlantic Ocean, includes the wildest and most unspoiled lands of the Emerald Isle. A trip between islands lost in time and shrill and rocky coasts overhanging on sparkling seas, among the strongholds of the Gaelic language and enchanted villages, immersed in a palette that includes all the gradation of green. For many, here is the true heart of the Eire: from Cork County to Donegal, there are more than 2,500 miles of coastline to explore, in what is known as the Wild Atlantic Way, from south to North, with a well-marked track and breathtaking views that never cease to surprise due to their diversity.
There is not really a limit to what to see on the Atlantic coast of Ireland, and no day is the same as the previous one when you follow this path, which is counterpointed by the proverbial mood swings, for an ever-changing show. In total it is estimated that the Irish Tourism Authority has reported more than 1,000 attractions and 150 discovery points, all to be visited by the preferred means of locomotion, by car or by bicycle, or on foot, along an articulated network of trails, For those who want to experience Irish charm little by little, taking all the time to breathe the atmosphere.
We starts from the south, from what is called “coast of marinas” for the presence of many inlets wrapped in a particularly mild climate, especially when compared to the Irish average. It is Cork, the second city of Ireland, to welcome the traveler, allowing him to blend into what makes this nation so characteristic, from language to music, from festivals to cultural attractions. Then the journey to the Wild Atlantic Way can really start: Kinsale, the gastronomic capital of the country, is two steps from the first of a long series of impressive headlands, the Old Head of Kinsale, with its lonely lighthouse.
Here we begin to be serious: there are five, like the fingers of a hand, the peninsula in the southwest of Ireland, Dingle, Iveragh, Beara, Sheep’s Head and Mizen, each different from the other for features but the same for charm . On these landslides in the Atlantic, ideal for sighting whales and dolphins, but also for a ride on the long beach of Rossbeigh, the breathtaking views are certainly missing from the now uninhabited Blasket Islands and the Skellig Islands Rocky cliffs accessible only by boat with ancient monastic settlements; Mizen Head, the southernmost point of Ireland, with the characteristic 99 steps on the cliffs, and where the Fastnet Island is called, the “Irish Tear” as the last piece of land that emigrants saw during their Journey to the United States; And especially the Ring of Kerry, in the Iveragh Peninsula, the most picturesque and unspoilt itinerary of all, almost an extraordinary “summary” of Ireland’s landscapes.
The cliff coast is exactly what it looks like: you enter the central part of the Wild Atlantic Way, with iconic views like the Cliffs of Moher, among the world’s most beautiful cliffs, 214 meters high over the sea and a Large variety of marine birds; Loop Head, where the look is pushed to the Atlantic in search of the great tails and backs of the whales; The Aran Islands – Inishmore, Inishmaan and Inisheer – with its distinctive flat profile and stone walls crossing it by dividing the land from time immemorial, a land where the Gaelic culture is still jealously and proudly guarded. And then there is Galway, one of Ireland’s most famous towns for its festivals and the pleasantly bohemian atmosphere that distinguishes it.
Galway County and Mayo County welcome travelers to the central part of the Irish Atlantic coast. Here is the Connemara, one of the most famous regions in the country, made of wild heaths, where the Leenane fjord, the Kilkieran Bay with its whitewashed seashells and corals, the stunning Sky Road, stand out. Then the road continues along the ever larger bays, culminating with the innumerable isles that dotted Clew Bay (365 according to tradition, one for each day of the year). On the border between the two counties lies Killary Harbor, where you can enjoy the best molluscs and shellfish in Ireland – not to miss the Connemara Mussel Festival – and try to spot the dolphins swimming in these waters in search of salmon.
We start seeing the North, between Donegal and Sligo County, for a coastal area that attracts the most experienced surfers from all over the world thanks to the impetuous waves of its waters, particularly at Mullaghmore Head and Bundoran. Among the most impressive spots are the headland of Downpatrick Head, Ben Bulben, the Classiebawn Castle. These are the places made famous by William Butler Yeats, the great poet who perhaps more than anybody has been able to turn the fairy air of places out of time, where everything seems possible, even to see the goblins obsessed by the cascade of Glencar, where Yeats set up The Stolen Child, one of his most famous lyrics.
Here we get to the end of the route, among the great northern promontories that give life, between storms and storms, to one of the most romantic and fascinating parts of Ireland. We are full of Donegal, at the northernmost point of the island, where desolate and isolated areas abound (the official slogan of this county, incidentally, is “Up there is different”, here is different), and where attendance Human beings step in the work of nature. In these lands, it is possible to admire, with some luck, extraordinary phenomena such as boreal aurora, perhaps standing on one of the great granite walls of the highest cliffs in Europe, forged by the slow work of Earth in millions of years. With panoramas ranging from the fortresses built according to legends, the legendary Thuatha Dé Danann to Malin Head and Hell’s Hole, the route ends as it started at another headland dominated by a lonely lighthouse at Fanad Head: The right place to rethink the emotions just lived in a land that knows how to really talk to the spirit.
Discover the Irish West Coast with our journey Wild Atlantic Way.