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The Great Wide Open: Embracing the Wild Atlantic Way of Life

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Maybe you’ve heard of the Wild Atlantic Way. Perhaps you’re well aware that it’s a long stretch of western coastline with charm, character and weather with a mind of its own. But if that’s all you know? Then you don’t know the half of it…

It’s being stopped in your tracks as you’re unexpectedly mesmerised by the lull of a swell. It’s adding another half hour to your drive, just so you can glimpse another heathered peak, another distant island’s silhouette, another ancient relic with a story to tell. It’s finding unbridled joy in a splash along the shoreline, having seashells catch your eye like jewels underfoot and actually encouraging the kids to get grass-stained, sandy-socked and windswept. 

Downpatrick Head, County Mayo

The daily commute, the school run, the routine that makes up real life - it’s all paused as you head west and simply exhale. With nature enveloping you and strangers who feel like old friends, exhilarating discoveries and precious memories are yet to be made. Here, you give in to the elements and adopt the local rhythm, a pace that never fails to replenish spirits or lift hearts. When you’re here, there is no anywhere else.

It’s a vibe, it’s a feeling, it’s enjoying what you don’t often stop to appreciate. It’s a way of life; it’s the Wild Atlantic Way of life and it welcomes you with a hearty slap on the back and a friendly wink. Been meaning  to embrace 2,500km of extraordinary? It’s just as well, as there’s nothing ordinary about pirate queens, monk-carved rocks, transatlantic inventions or famous friendly dolphins, now is there?

Errigal, County Donegal

Pick a coast, any coast...

North to south, the Wild Atlantic Way winds across 2,500km of coastline. It starts at Malin Head in County Donegal, Ireland’s most northerly point, and weaves all the way down to Kinsale in County Cork, Ireland’s most southerly point. 

All in all, it spans three provinces, includes the country’s tallest peak - Carrauntoohil, County Kerry (a dizzying 3,406ft) - Europe’s highest sea cliffs at Sliabh Liag, County Donegal (a heady 1,972ft), and an ancient UNESCO World Heritage Site that doubles as a Jedi hideaway. And all that’s long before you’ve run out of road or off-the-beaten-track treasures or even chatty locals looking to give you the inside scoop.   

  • Sliabh Liag, County Donegal

The Wild Atlantic Way encompasses six distinct regions

The Northern Headlands in County Donegal really puts the wild in Wild Atlantic Way with its wonderfully remote corners, an impressive 11 lighthouses and enchanting views of the iconic Northern Lights.

The Surf Coast (Counties Donegal, Sligo and Mayo) extends a tempting invite to both wave warriors and watchers. Its endless stretches of sand and salt-aired vistas have proven poetic inspiration to plenty, including one WB Yeats.

The Bay Coast (Counties Mayo and Galway) boasts islands galore, idyllic green peaks, jaunty Connemara ponies and Ireland’s only fjord - the utterly exquisite Killary Harbour.

  • Fanad, County Donegal
  • Keel, County Mayo
  • Connemara, County Mayo

The Cliff Coast (Counties Galway, Clare and Kerry) does a fine line in vertigo-inducing views. It’s home to the Cliffs of Moher, all manner of marine mammals, the lunar-like Burren and Loop Head Lighthouse, to name but a few spots.

Southern Peninsulas (Counties Kerry and Cork) promise encounters with the truly otherworldly Skellig Islands, an intergalactic glimpse at a galaxy far, far away, Ireland’s only cable car and incredible drives that simply astound.

The Haven Coast in County Cork is a hotspot for artisan food, fascinating chapters of history, relaxing coastal and creative corners, natural marvels and plenty more to float your boat.

  • Burren Karst, County Clare
  • Skellig Islands, County Kerry. Credit @storytravelers
  • Croagh Patrick, County Mayo

Time to embrace it?

Perfect for tackling as an epic road trip and ideal for taking bite-sized slices of, the Wild Atlantic Way is a dream to explore. If you’re not sure just how to begin, you can follow the route’s 15 designated Signature Discovery Points as a guide. These are marked locations dotted all over the Wild Atlantic Way and are considered absolute must-sees, so back up your phones and prepare to get snap happy.

If you’d like a more personalised approach to your visit, then start charting your course via My Trip Planner and get ready to fling your heart, mind and arms open wide. Why? Well, you’re about to embrace the Wild Atlantic Way of life and even a glimmer of that makes for the ultimate souvenir.

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