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Driving the Wild Atlantic Way



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Winding, windswept, wondrous. These are just a few of the words that describe a road trip along the Wild Atlantic Way. Want a few more? Try majestic, sublime or even mind-blowing.

If you’re thinking of getting that motor running and hitting the open road, here’s exactly what you need to know when it comes to cruising what Top Gear’s Chris Evans’ considers the “best road I've ever driven on.”

 
 
Edging the Southern Peninsulas coast
 

The Wild Atlantic Way encompasses endless scenery and some incredible rugged, off-the-beaten track touring routes from County Donegal’s remote Northern Headlands right down to the picturesque Southern Peninsulas and Haven Coast of Counties Kerry and Cork. Not to mention the exquisite Surf, Bay and Cliff Coasts that sit in between - home to Counties Sligo, Galway, Mayo and Clare. At 2,500km in length, it’s the longest defined coastal route in the world. That’s kilometre after kilometre of irresistible experiences and unforgettable memories.
 
So get in gear and try these driving routes that are sure to make you wish you had a convertible.

 
 
Sheep's Head, County Cork
 

TOP 10 DRIVES ON THE WILD ATLANTIC WAY

1. SLEA HEAD DRIVE, DINGLE PENINSULA, COUNTY KERRY

This touring route is ecstatically reviewed on TripAdvisor, and with good reason. It covers an area of astonishing natural beauty and part of its coastal stretch offers unrivalled views of the Blasket Islands. The most westerly part of the mainland, it boasts several heavenly beaches - and what better way to reward yourself after a drive than with a barefoot walk on Coumeenole Strand with the Atlantic waves lapping at your feet?
 

2. SHEEP’S HEAD PENINSULA, COUNTY CORK

Set off from pictorial Bantry and loop around this evocatively named peninsula before finishing up in Durrus, just up the road from where you started. It takes in the entire peninsula and due to how narrow the land is here, you get fantastic views of the Atlantic on both sides. At 40km long, the journey can be done quickly, but you will want to stop again and again, not least to take a walk down to Sheep’s Head Lighthouse, nestled in a special area of conservation.

 
 
Burren, County Clare
 

3. KINSALE TO CLONAKILTY, WEST CORK

West Cork offers some of the finest food in the country and there’s no shortage of places to enjoy a gastronomic pitstop, especially in Kinsale with The Bulman Bar in the adjoining village of Summercove celebrated for its dishes. The Old Head of Kinsale is renowned for its sensational sea views and shipwreck tales; this lush headland is also especially popular with golf aficionados. The 96km route between Kinsale and Clonakilty is full of lively twists and turns making the road a real treat. The Michael Collins Centre awaits you at your destination, where you can kick back and brush up on your history.
 

4. BURREN BEAUTY DRIVE, COUNTY CLARE

This 68km drive is the perfect way to take in the lunar-like landscape of the Burren. Starting in Kilfenora, a place famed for its venerable céilí band, it winds its way through Lisdoonvarna and up the coast to Black Head. Both Fanore Beach and the stunning Flaggy Shore simply beg for an exploration on foot, and if you’re hungry, Linnane’s at New Quay offers some of the finest seafood you’ll eat on the Wild Atlantic Way.

 
 
Sky Road, County Galway
 

5. ENNIS TO DOONBEG, COUNTY CLARE

Heading west along the the line of the Shannon Estuary, this drive takes you around the magnificently windswept southern tip of the 'Banner County' and onwards to Doonbeg along the jagged coast. The sweeping beach here is something else and, not surprisingly, a popular spot among surfers who are drawn to the unique Atlantic swells that crash and greet the shoreline.
 

6. GALWAY TO WESTPORT, COUNTY GALWAY

Cutting through wind-carved Connemara, this route takes you high up into the mountains, providing ethereal panoramas of the ocean on your way to Clifden. No trip to this evocative part of Galway is complete without driving the aptly named Sky Road: the vistas this 15km route offers of Clifden Bay and its numerous island are, quite simply, magical.

 
 
Achill Island, County Mayo
 

7. ACHILL ISLAND, COUNTY MAYO

Achill Island and the Currane Peninsula on the west coast of Mayo are among the most remote parts of the country, which makes a drive in the region all the more pleasant as for some stretches you’re bound to be one of the few people on the road. The views of Clew Bay and the Maumturk Mountains are spectacular and the sight of Croagh Patrick may just be enough to tempt you into taking on the famous pilgrim route to its summit.
 

8. YEATS COUNTRY, COUNTY SLIGO

The mesmerising sights of County Sligo inspired WB Yeats’ most elemental poetry, and those natural wonders remain as captivating as ever. From Innisfree to Lissadell and onto Drumcliffe where the great poet is buried, a drive around the county is bound to elevate the spirits. The coastal road at Mullaghmore might just stop you in your tracks - go ahead, stop the car and photograph the impressive and gothic-looking Classiebawn Castle.

 
 
Inishowen, County Donegal
 

9. GLENGESH PASS, COUNTY DONEGAL

There’s practically no end to the jaw-dropping drives to be had in County Donegal and one of the most memorable involves the verdant Glengesh Pass. After taking the sharp climb, find a place to park, get out of the car and drink in that rolling landscape, including a sensational view back towards Ardara. Twenty minutes down the road and you’re into Glencolumbkille, where there’s no shortage of divine mountain, coastal or clifftop roads to savour.
 

10. INISHOWEN 100, COUNTY DONEGAL

Named because of its approximate distance in miles, the Inishowen 100 takes you around the coast of Ireland’s most northerly point, Malin Head. The almost exclusively coastal route ensures staggering Atlantic views and makes for quite the reviving drive. Starting in Muff, you take the road up the coast to Moville and continue north through the Malin Head loop and back down to finish in the small village of Burnfoot. 


Looking for more road trip inspiration? Meet the drivers who took on the Wild Atlantic Way.

 
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