It’s well worth spending a couple of days exploring the glorious Cliff Coast, one of the Wild Atlantic Way’s six unique regions. This rugged section of coast, which sweeps from south Galway through Clare and into the north of Kerry, is home to some of the country’s most dramatic scenery. Seaside villages buzzing with music and culture lie nestled beneath ancient, soaring cliffs, while miles of golden, sandy beach offer the perfect setting for outdoor adventure.
This two-day itinerary invites you to embrace the Wild Atlantic Way of life in the most breath-taking of settings; you’ll visit the wild Burren, take a ferry across the Shannon Estuary and of course, gaze out across Galway Bay from the majestic Cliffs of Moher.
Stage 1: Kinvara
This tour begins at the Burren Nature Sanctuary in Kinvara. Here, you’ll learn about Ireland’s most extraordinary landscape; the 360km2 limestone slab that makes up the Burren. At the sanctuary you’ll find out about this unique region’s flora, fauna and karst geology, but it’s a terrain that has to be seen to be believed – so be sure to go out and explore it for yourself after you’re done at the interpretive centre.
Stage 2: Kinvara to New Quay
(12.1km via N67)
Next up, it’s New Quay, just 5 minutes away. Take a stroll along the pretty heritage trail at the Flaggy Shore, a peninsula made famous by Nobel Prize-winning Irish poet, Séamus Heaney who advised visiting “when the wind and the light are working off each other, so that the ocean on one side is wild with foam and glitter”. Afterwards, pop into Café Linnalla on the Finnavarra Peninsula for one of their famous sundaes!
Stage 3: New Quay to Doolin
(42.7km via R477)
From New Quay, it’s a 57-minute drive to Doolin, a beautiful little town that really captures the unique Wild Atlantic Way of life through its history and traditional Irish music heritage. An absolute must-see is Doolin Cave. A guided tour will take you deep into this underground limestone cavern formed over hundreds of thousands of years, where you’ll behold the famous ‘Great Stalactite’, an astonishing 7.3-metre formation suspended from the ceiling of the cliff like a glistening chandelier. Back above ground, this Farmland Nature Trail is set in a magical glade that’s home to a whole host of indigenous woodland trees and plants.
Stage 4: Doolin to Cliffs of Moher
(9.9km via R478)
Next, to the magnificent Cliffs of Moher! These iconic cliffs have been sculpted by nature over millions of years, so standing on their edge looking out at the crashing sea really is both thrilling and humbling. There are plenty of fantastic vantage points along this cliff-side walk; you’ll have views not only of the cliffs themselves, but of An Branán Mór sea stack, the Aran Islands, and (if conditions are right) the famous surfing wave known as Aileen’s.
Stage 5: Cliffs of Moher to Lahinch
(10.4km via R478)
From Moher, it’s a 14-minute drive to your final stop of the day, Lahinch. This bustling seaside town is known for its impressive waves, and no matter the time of year, it attracts surfers from all around the world. Try your hand at this fun sport at one of the town’s many surf centres. It’s a historical place too, wander through its streets and you’ll find the ancient ruins of Dough Castle and Kilmacreehy Church. When the sun sets, you’ll get to experience Lahinch’s legendary musical offering – every evening, talented locals lead traditional music sessions in the town’s many cosy pubs. Spend the night in one of its many hotels, B&Bs and guesthouses.
Lahinch Beach – a surfer’s paradise
Stage 1: Lahinch to Loop Head
(68.3km via R487 and N67)
Next morning, your first port of call is Loop Head, an hour and 15 minutes away. This jutting, wave-crashed headland is known for its iconic lighthouse, which sits right on the edge of the peninsula. Dating back to 1670, it’s open to the public and is even available as a quirky accommodation option. Head to nearby Kilkee for breakfast or morning tea when you’ve finished exploring Loop Head. Tucked away in a sheltered bay, this quaint little town has been visited by a couple of literary greats! Poet Alfred Lord Tennyson and author Charlotte Brontë both holidayed here during the nineteenth century.
Stage 2: Loop Head to Killimer (49.4km via R487 and Coast Road)
to Tarbert (2 nautical miles or 3.7km via ferry)
Continue on to Killimer (one hour, two minutes), where you can take the car onboard a ferry to Tarbert in County Kerry. On this 20-minute nautical journey across the Shannon Estuary, you’ll see where land dramatically meets crashing ocean, as you breathe in the fresh sea air. Once back on dry land, pay a visit to Tarbert House, an elegant 17th century Georgian mansion.
Stage 3: Tarbert to Foynes
(21.8km via N69)
From Tarbert, it’s a 22-minute drive to the seaport of Foynes. At its Flying Boat & Maritime Museum, you’ll learn all about the area’s compelling aviation history (the town was once the last port of call on the eastern Atlantic for flying boats). You can even explore the original transatlantic terminal where that iconic (and delicious) tipple, Irish coffee, was invented way back in 1943! Sample one for yourself at the adjoining Irish Coffee Centre. Stretch the legs afterwards in the pretty surrounds of Knockpatrick Gardens.
Having fun at Foynes Flying Boat Museum
Stage 4: Foynes to Listowel
(37.7km via N69)
Finally, it’s a 32-minute drive to Listowel, a lively market town nestled on the banks of the River Feale. You’re in for a treat at local spot John B. Keane’s; not only is this theatre / pub a great place to soak up the local atmosphere and chat to locals, you can also try your hand at pulling the perfect pint of Guinness. In fact, you’ll be awarded your very own certificate once you’ve mastered this very fine art!
- The Church of the Little Ark in Kilbaha is a essentially a wooden box on wheels, inside of which Catholics celebrated Mass during the oppressive Penal Laws
- Bunratty Castle & Folk Park offers a glimpse into what life was like for rural Irish families in the 19th century
- The Garden of Europe in Listowel contains over 3,000 trees and shrubs
Cliff Coast Signature Points
Looking out at the wild Atlantic from atop the towering Cliffs of Moher in County Clare is guaranteed to take your breath away. Explore the spectacular O’Brien’s Tower, and gaze out to sea towards the Aran Islands.
Also on the Cliff Coast, the Loop Head Peninsula boasts panoramic cliff views, picturesque seaside villages and a lighthouse that’s served as a beacon for those at sea since 1670. It’s a haunting place, where you can experience huge Atlantic swells smashing into cliffs.
Once you’re finished exploring the Cliff Coast, continue your Wild Atlantic Way journey with a trip to the neighbouring Bay Coast and Southern Peninsulas [link when live]. We’ve also got a one-day itinerary for the Cliff Coast if you’re stuck for time [link], and our online trip planner is a great tool for putting together your own unique adventure.