Leave the hustle and bustle of everyday life and immerse yourself in the Wild Atlantic Way, with some of the world’s most wild and breathtaking scenery. This stretch of rugged Irish coastline is home to all sorts of natural wonder; from sweeping cliffs and golden beaches to secluded islands and hidden coves.
If you’re keen to take in all the area has to offer without too much exertion, don’t worry; there’s a whole host of scenic walks just waiting to be explored. These relaxing routes showcase the Wild Atlantic Way’s beauty, from the rugged Northern Headlands right down to beautiful Haven Coast in west Cork. Here’s just a selection to get you started.
Walking in the shadow of Mount Errigal, County Donegal
The expansive terrain of County Donegal in the dramatic Northern Headlands is home to a diverse range of landscapes. Kick off your adventure in the tranquil surrounds of Ardnamona Woods, a 45-hectare native oak reserve on the banks of Lough Eske. Or lose yourself on parts of Slí an Earagail, a beautiful 77km-long moorland route that lies in the shadow of majestic Mount Errigal. Off the Donegal coast you’ll find a selection of islands too. Tory Island is one of the most well-known, and is steeped in history. Its gentle looped walk (4km) offers fantastic views of the island’s jagged cliffs, monastic ruins and ancient round tower.
Views from Erris Head, County Mayo, via Errisbeo.ie
Just as wild and invigorating is the neighbouring Surf Coast, where crashing ocean meets craggy shores. Explore one of its many jutting headlands on the Rosses Point Slí (2.9km), an easy route along the area’s promenade that offers amazing views of Oyster Island. The Sligo Town Slí (4km) meanwhile takes walkers along the Garavogue River that runs through this charming town, while the off-the-beaten-track Erris Head Loop (5km) can be found in adjacent County Mayo. There you’ll traverse grassy paths and earthy banks in and around Mayo’s soaring cliffs, where a viewing point at Erris Head’s most northerly tip offers fab views of the area’s dramatic sea arches.
Children of Lir Sculpture, County Mayo
To the glorious Bay Coast next, where you’ll find pretty beaches and more gorgeous islands dotted off its shores. Achill is in fact Ireland’s largest island, and we recommend you explore it via the peaceful Dooagh Loop Walk (4km). You’ll take in the River Owenavalley as you wind your way through bogland and sandy pathways.
The small village of Cong straddles the borders of Counties Mayo and Galway. On its Pigeon Hole Loop (2km) you’ll behold the region’s distinctive limestone terrain, and pass through the beautiful Cong Woods before coming to Pigeon Hole Cave, an atmospheric underground passageway. Finally, the Beach Loop (6.5km) in rugged north Mayo is a true hidden gem; this secluded track offers views of the area’s rocky coves and jagged stacks. You’ll also pass a Children of Lir sculpture, which depicts the swans of the famous Irish legend.
Views from Kilrush, County Clare
There are plenty of relaxed scenic walking options along the Cliff Coast too, in a region that’s home to both the unique Burren (an expansive and haunting limestone pavement of glacial-era limestone, cliffs and caves, fossils, rock formations and archaeological sites) and of course, the sweeping Cliffs of Moher. The Kilrush Slí (4km) takes walkers though Cappa, the Port of Kilrush, which is home to a beautiful, Blue Flag-awarded beach. The Doonbeg Slí (8km), meanwhile, is rich in history; you’ll pass 16th century Doonbeg Castle as well as Killard Church and graveyard, which dates all the way back to about 1000AD. Or if you really fancy reconnecting with nature, why not embark on the Ennis Slí (3km), which passes through 134 acres of idyllic woodland on the outskirts of the town.
Woodlands on the Beara Peninsula, County Kerry
Venture to the edge of the jagged Southern Peninsulas, and you’ll be offered panoramic views of Kerry’s many islands, each with their own unique story to tell. Cosán na Naomh (the Saint’s Road, 400m) for example is an old pilgrimage trail in beautiful Ballyferriter, which passes an ancient Ogham stone (bearing old Celtic writing) and an early Christian monastic site. From it you can gaze out at the Blasket Islands, the biggest of which was home to a thriving community of farmers and fishermen until the 1950s.
Druid’s Loop (5km) meanwhile passes through Bonane, a gorgeous and historical valley that’s home to over 250 archaeological sites. What’s more, it’s separated from County Cork by a unique hand-cut tunnel discovered in 2015. Archaeologists estimate the 15m-long passageway is at least 1,000 years old, and was most likely used as a temporary refuge or as a place to store food. The Bullig Bay Loop (4km) meanwhile is situated on the Beara Peninsula, and will take you right down onto the coast road. You can gaze out at Bere Island before passing through some pretty woodland.
Kilcoe Castle on the Becher’s Loop Walk, County Cork
Neighbouring Cork on the Haven Coast is famous for its awe-inspiring landscapes. We recommend you kick off with the Kilbrittain Slí (4km), which takes you around the outskirts of this charming village. You’ll see the country’s oldest inhabited castle (it dates back to the 13th century) as well as the area’s unique tidal mudflats, which are dotted with salt marsh islands. Along the Becher’s Loop Walk (13km) in Skibbereen, you’ll enjoy spectacular views of Roaring Water Bay and Kilcoe Castle from an old folly (viewing platform) on the route. Finally, the Kinsale Slí (4km) perfectly showcases this lovely fishing town; you’ll enjoy views of the harbour and the dramatic Old Head of Kinsale.
There are plenty more scenic walks dotted along the Wild Atlantic Way, so whether you fancy a casual stroll or a more challenging hike, take a look at selections of Coastal Walks or Looped Walks to start. Or browse our comprehensive online directory for even more ideas, and start planning your itinerary today.