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Wild Atlantic Coastal Walks



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Since the Wild Atlantic Way runs the length of Ireland’s west coast, it’s no surprise that there’s an abundance of scenic coastal walks waiting to be explored. Along each one you’ll find an invigorating mix of breathtaking cliffs, hidden coves and miles of golden beach.

When you’re in the mood for a walk - whether an easy stroll or a day's hike - there’s plenty of variety to be found. Read on below.

 
 
Bloody Foreland Walk, County Donegal
 

NORTHERN HEADLANDS

Bracing coastal walks await in the expansive Northern Headlands. The wild and remote Inishowen Head Loop (8km with a 250m climb) is a fantastic introduction to the region. You’ll be brought on a tour through the ages, beginning at a WWII lookout tower atop Inishowen Head and passing the point from where St. Columba left Ireland for Iona in the sixth century. Visitors can gaze out to sea as this adventurous missionary would have done before he set sail; indeed, on a clear day, the distant hills of Scotland are visible from the viewing point there. 

The Bloody Foreland Walk (13km), meanwhile, is named for the rich red hue that illuminates the area when the sun shines and from the russet-coloured ferns covering the hillside in autumn. From this remote gem, you’ll enjoy amazing views of Donegal’s many islands. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, the Sliabh Liag Pilgrim Path (2.8km with a 425m climb) will take you to the highest point of the soaring Sliabh Liag sea cliffs. Do note though that those planning to embark on this route should have the correct walking equipment and boots – as well as a strong head for heights!
 

SURF COAST

The windswept Surf Coast boasts scenery that has inspired many down through the ages, perhaps most famously the iconic scribe WB Yeats. You certainly won’t be disappointed by its beauty, either. On the Rosses Point Coastal Walk (2.9km), you’ll stroll along the Sligo promenade where the River Garavogue flows into the bay. Drink in fantastic views of Ben Bulben, Sligo’s distinctive flat-topped mountain, and the old village of Rosses Point. Look out for the ‘Lady Waiting on the Shore’ sculpture too; it’s dedicated to the many women who waited behind on the shore as loved ones headed out to sea.

 
  • Lady Waiting on the Shore, Rosses Point Slí, County Sligo
 

The dramatic West End Cliff Walk (4.5km) offers fantastic views of Donegal Bay from the soaring clifftops and seashores of the surf town Bundoran, while the Carrowteige Loop Walks (14km in total) received high praise from a very well-known source: popular travel publication Lonely Planet described it as “the finest sustained coastal walk in western Ireland, with a profusion of precipitous cliffs, crags, caves, chasms and islands along the remote north Mayo coast."

The dramatic West End Cliff Walk (4.5km) offers fantastic views of Donegal Bay from the soaring clifftops and seashores of the surf town Bundoran, while the Carrowteige Loop Walks (14km in total) received high praise from a very well-known source: popular travel publication Lonely Planet described it as “the finest sustained coastal walk in western Ireland, with a profusion of precipitous cliffs, crags, caves, chasms and islands along the remote north Mayo coast."


BAY COAST

The pretty Bay Coast is home to a whole host of secluded islands, which we highly recommend you explore! The Inishbofin Cloonmore Loop (8km with an 80m climb) will lead you down green paths, bog roads and laneways, all along the island’s scenic East End Beach with its 14th-century chapel. Back on the mainland, the Diamond Hill Loop (7km with a 400m climb) starts at Connemara National Park and takes you along the idyllic Sruffaunboy Nature Trail, before branching off towards the Diamond Hill mountain, which stands 442m tall.
 

CLIFF COAST

To the rugged outline of the Cliff Coast next, and a truly iconic walk: the 8km-long Cliffs of Moher reaches 214m at its highest point, offering panoramic views of the Aran Islands, the popular surf headland Áill an Searrach (Foals’ Leap) and of course, glorious Galway Bay. The Cliffs of Moher Coastal Walk (18km with a 250m climb) is historically significant and should be reserved for the bravest of visitors, as the path leads out onto a remote, barrier-less trail and exposed to a wild and elemental seaface! If you're thinking of embarking on this route, stay safe by wearing appropriate footwear (hiking boots with ankle support), check the weather before you set out, stay on the official trail and do not wander to the cliff edge.
 
Further south on the Ballybunion ‘Walking the Beach’ trail (7.5km), you’ll make your way across the beautiful north and south Kerry beaches, both of which have been awarded Blue Flag status. 

 
 
Beara Peninsula, County Cork
 

SOUTHERN PENINSULAS

But the north can't have all the glory; you’ll find a whole host of pretty walks in and around the Southern Peninsulas, too, along a series of jutting headlands in Kerry and Cork. The mammoth Beara Way (206km, but you can break it into sections) in Cork is one of the more remote walks on our list, and as a result offers magical views of its rich and unspoilt territory. You’ll catch a glimpse of  Ireland’s rich history, too, as you pass standing stones and burial monuments along the route.

Also in Cork you’ll find the handsome Sheep’s Head Loops, a series of walks totalling 175km with a 2,190m climb. They boast wild scenery, picturesque loughs and stunning coastal views. Take your pick from a short version or a longer one that takes you to the top of Ballyroon Mountain. The Derrynane Coastal Circuit (8km), meanwhile, starts on the grounds of Derrynane National Historic Park and showcases the area’s mountains, islets and beaches. Or if you fancy visiting one of Kerry’s unforgettable islands, check out the Great Blasket Island Looped Walk (6.5km). On this gentle trail you’ll explore the hardy island that until 1953 was inhabited by a small fishing community of Irish language speakers.

 
  • Old Head of Kinsale
  • Sheep's Head Loop
  • Inchydoney Beach
 

HAVEN COAST

Though the 48km Seven Heads Walk can be strenuous, this route between the towns of Clonakilty and Kinsale in idyllic west Cork is well worth the effort. Spread it over a few days if you’d prefer a gentler adventure, but don’t miss the opportunity to take in the dramatic Old Head of Kinsale as well as soaring clifftops, lush woods, and of course, the charming seaside village of Clonakilty

If these descriptions have given you an appetite for adventure, check out more great walking options. Elsewhere, start putting your own unique itinerary together here.