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Our 11-Day Wild Atlantic Way Itinerary Will Take You On The Road Trip Of A Lifetime

Our 11-Day Wild Atlantic Way Itinerary Will Take You On The Road Trip Of A Lifetime

Welcome to our no-bullsh*t-super-detailed 11-day Wild Atlantic Way itinerary guide for 2022 and beyond.

This guide is for people looking to plan a Wild Atlantic Way road trip that’ll give birth to a million happy memories.

Here’s what you’ll get if you take the time to read it:

  • You’ll be able to plan your Wild Atlantic Way road trip with ease
  • You’ll get a full itinerary for 11 days with things to see and do
  • You’ll get recommendations on places to stay each night

While this guide takes you to many well-known tourist attractions, it’s also packed with plenty of hidden gems that lay a little off the beaten track.

Note: If you want to plan your own route, hop into our guide to each of the counties of Ireland or nip into our Ireland itinerary planner.

Here’s a quick look at the route that this guide follows.

Wild Atlantic Way Itinerary

  • Day 1: West Cork
  • Day 2: More West Cork and on to Kerry
  • Day 3: Kerry
  • Day 4: Kerry and Clare
  • Day 5: Clare
  • Day 6: Galway
  • Day 7: Galway and Mayo
  • Day 8: Mayo and Sligo
  • Day 9: Donegal
  • Day 10: Donegal
  • Day 11: Donegal

Watch: Here are some of the places you’ll visit on this Wild Atlantic Way road trip

 

A Wild Atlantic Way map & what you’ll get from this guide

If you’re looking for a map of the Wild Atlantic Way, jump into the one below.

Note: It only covers the route in this guide.

Ready to dive into the guide? Let’s go!

Wild Atlantic Way Route: Day 1 – West Cork

wild atlantic way itinerary guide

Photo © The Irish Road Trip

West Cork is hands-down one of my favourite places on earth.

The wild, ever-changing landscapes, the isolation, the people and the fact that you’ll find that many places you visit will have few or no tourists milling about make it an absolute gem of a place to spend a day or 7.

Take your time on day 1.

Enjoy every second. And don’t be afraid to deviate off the itinerary and take any and every road and notion that captivates you.

Here’s everything you need to know about our first day on the road!

// What we’ll be doing //

  • Visiting the wildest place in Ireland
  • Soaking up the Sheep’s Head Drive
  • Fooooooooooood in Bantry
  • One of the craziest roads in Ireland
  • More foooooooood, a few pints and a night in a town surrounded by mountains

// Where we’ll be sleeping //

// What you’ll need //

  • Rain gear
  • Some snacks for the drive
  • Water

1. Soaking up wilderness and isolation at Brow Head

// Brow Head – (arrive for 9:55) //

You may have heard me raving about Brow Head before – it’s justified, trust me!

Visiting places like Brow Head is what exploring Ireland is all about; experiencing the beauty of our island in its rawest, wildest form.

No fancy visitor centres. No crowds. Just nature, as it was intended.

In my opinion, these are the kind of places that you need on your Wild Atlantic Way itinerary.

It’s the off-the-beaten-track adventures that take a road trip from great to out-of-this-world.

Tip: There’s limited space to park at the top of the hill, and the road up. As you can see from the video above, is insanely tight – but it’s amazing.

2. The sensational Sheep’s Head drive

// Brow Head to the tip of Sheep’s Head Peninsula and on to Bantry – 65-minute drive (allow 3 hours with stops – leave Brow Head at 10:35 and arrive to Bantry for 1:45) //

sheeps head drive

Photo by Phil Darby/Shutterstock.com

For those of you that are avid walkers, you could easily spend a couple of days on the Sheep’s Head Peninsula, absorbing yourselves in the many wonderful walks that the area boasts.

For this road trip, we’re going to drive around it and hop out of the car whenever the notion takes us.

Measuring around 21km in length and roughly 4km across its widest point, Sheep’s Head is home to bucket-loads of wild, untouched scenery, picturesque loughs and other-worldly coastal views.

Bask in the silence. Let the windows down. Let the brisk coastal air slap against your face. And just relish every second of the glorious scenery that lays all around you.

3. Bantry for a bite to eat

// You should arrive in Bantry for 1:45 hungry, a little jaded from the driving, but full of the giddiness that accompanies a drive like Sheep’s Head. //

Head straight to Ma Murphy’s for food.

Make sure and stock up on coffee before leaving – we’ve a long, lovely journey before we reach our final destination for the night.

4. Hitting up Healy Pass (the most unique road on this Wild Atlantic Way trip)

// Bantry to Healy Pass – 48-minute drive (leave Bantry at 14:45, arrive at Healy Pass for 15:35) //

healy pass cork

Photo © The Irish Road Trip

Healy Pass is 2nd craziest road that I’ve ever driven on in Ireland.

Here are several more mad Irish roads (if you follow the Kerry section of this Wild Atlantic Way itinerary, you’ll be taken along the craziest).

The road at Healy Pass, which was constructed in 1847 during the years of the famine, looks like a giant snake from above, slithering its way through the two highest summits in the Caha mountain range.

Cafe aside, Healy Pass is a corner of Ireland that looks like time passed it by and forgot all about it, leaving it untouched and unspoiled.

When I visited recently, I met 2 or 3 other cars, max, and from talking to people who live in the area, it’s easily missed/over-looked.

Drive the road and pull in (where possible) at the top for a view.

5. Your First Glimpse of Kerry

// No travelling needed for this one – you’re already there //

healy pass kerry side

Photo © The Irish Road Trip

So, I didn’t realise how close to the border of Kerry the Healy Pass actually is – it’s literally kissing it.

Keep driving up along the Healy Pass (keep going past the café) until you reach the brow of a hill and you see a ‘Welcome to Kerry’ sign.

Just past the sign, there’s space for 3 or 4 (depending on how well people have parked) cars.

Pull in. Get out of the car. And walk up the grassy hill to your left. The view above is what you’ll be treated to.

6. The Postcard-Perfect Town of Allihies for the Night

// Healy Pass to Allihies – 58-minute drive (we’re going to allow for 2 hours for this final stretch of today’s trip – leave Healy Pass at 15:20, arrive in Allihies for 17:20) //

wild atlantic way itinerary day 3

Photo © The Irish Road Trip

I did the drive from Healy Pass to Allihies very recently as part of the Ring of Beara drive, and it’s one I’ll remember for a long time to come.

This, in my opinion, is the best part of our Wild Atlantic Way itinerary. Like Sheep’s Head, the drive out to Allihies is sensational.

This corner of Ireland possesses the unique ability to make you feel like you’re the only person left on earth. It’s just you, the mountains, the wind and the waves.

The best recommendation I can give you with this stretch of the road trip is to get lost.

Literally. Take the roads that tickle your fancy. Follow your nose. And just be curious and inquisitive. Let the Wild Atlantic Way do the rest.

When I visited here in early 2018, I checked into the Seaview Guest House (super value for money and lovely clean and comfortable rooms) – you can stay where you want but I’d 100% recommend this place!

After dumping my bags I strolled the short distance to O’Neill’s pub and grabbed some food and a pint – you should definitely do the same! A cracking end to a long, eventful day.

Wild Atlantic Way Ireland Itinerary: Day 2 – West Cork and Kerry

brow head in west cork

Photo © The Irish Road Trip

Still with me? Great!

Day 2 sees us hop aboard Ireland’s only cable car, before moving into Kerry and taking one of the best road trip routes in the world, according to Lonely Planet).

Let’s get at it!

Here’s everything you need to know about day 2!

// What we’ll be doing //

  • Climbing aboard the Dursey Island cable car
  • Exploring the gorgeous towns of Kenmare and Sneem
  • Driving the Skellig Ring
  • Fooooooooooood
  • Lots more

// Where we’ll be sleeping //

// What you’ll need //

  • Rain gear
  • Some snacks for the drive
  • Water

1. Jump aboard Ireland’s only cable car

// Allihies to Dursey Island Cable Car – 22-minute drive (leave Allihies at 9, arrive at 9:22) //

The first half of today is mighty! Point your car in the direction of Dursey Island and get ready to board the only cable car in Ireland.

Originally opened in 1969, the Dursey Island cable car remains, to this day, the most used means of transport across the choppy waters of the Dursey Sound.

The cable car runs 250m above the sea and takes just 10 minutes to transport explorers from the mainland to the most westerly of West Cork’s inhabited islands.

When you reach the island, have a ramble around and enjoy spectacular views of the gorgeous Beara Peninsula.

This is arguably one of the more unique things to add to your Wild Atlantic Way itinerary.

Love attractions that are a little bit quirky? Check out our guide to where to go in Ireland (if you love hidden gems and secret spots).

2. Kenmare

// Dursey Island to Kenmare – allow for 2 hours (leave Dursey Island at 10:40, arrive in Kenmare for 12:40) //

Kenmare town kerry

Photo © The Irish Road Trip

The road that’ll take you to Kenmare is a long and beautiful one, with an ever-changing tapestry of mountains, colourful towns (stop in Eyeries for a gander) and craggy coastline.

I haven’t put any stops in here, but I’m factoring in that it’ll take us 2 hours (the drive according to Google maps is 1 hour and 26 minutes)

There’s plenty of great restaurants in Kenmare to nip into when you arrive. Once you’ve eaten, have a stroll around the town.

Kenmare is somewhere I could see myself living. The people (the ones I’ve encountered the three times I’ve visited, anyway) are lovely, the pubs are buzzing and the town is surrounded by endless adventure opportunities.

Get your fill and let’s get going.

3. Sneeeeeeeeeem (…Sneem)

// Kenmare to Sneem – 28-minute drive (leave Kenmare at 1:40, arrive in Sneem for 2:10) //

sneem county kerry

Photo © The Irish Road Trip

Our next stop is the little village of Sneem on Kerry’s Iveragh Peninsula.

The view that unravels in front of you as you drive into Sneem is worth the visit alone – rolling mountains seem to fold in upon you from every angle as you enter one of Kerry’s most wonderfully quaint villages.

Imagine winding down with the view above laid out in front of you after a hard day exploring!

I love this place. We aren’t spending long here on this trip, but take a little time to admire the mountains that surround the town as you walk through.

4. The Sandy Shores of Derrynane Beach

// Sneem to Derrynane Beach – 27-minute drive (leave Sneem at 14:30, arrive to the sand for 15:00) //

derrynane beach

Photo by Johannes Rigg on Shutterstock

Our next stop is a beach that you’ll regularly hear people state to be the best beach in Ireland.

You’ll find Derrynane Beach just two miles north of Caherdaniel on the Ring of Kerry.

The minute you step out of the car and start to soak up the view, you’ll understand why so many people recommended adding it to your itinerary. Derrynane Beach is beautiful.

It’s reasonably sheltered and boasts a natural harbour, and there’s a lifeguarded on duty during the summer months.

On the day that I was there, there were only three other people walking along the beach. A great little spot to clear the head.

5. The Wonderful Town of Waterville

// Derrynane Beach to Waterville – 20-minute drive (leave the beach at 15:35, arrive to Waterville for 15:55) //

Waterville village and beach

Photo by WendyvanderMeer (Shutterstock)

I never need to plan a visit to Waterville. It’s like my subconscious arranges every trip to Kerry so that one way or another, I just end up there.

A friend who is unfortunately no longer with us took me here many years ago. Although I only spent 2 nights here, the place holds a lifetime of happy memories for me.

Fun fact: the town was a favourite holiday spot of Charlie Chaplin. He and his family first visited the town in 1959 and came back every year for over ten years. You’ll see a statue of him in the center of the village in his memory.

For those of you that are hungry or in need of a coffee, nip into An Corcan (the steak sandwich is unreal).

It’s a pokey little cafe/restaurant and the people working there are beyond warm and friendly. Waterville is lovely. Park the car. Stretch the legs.

6. Driving the Skellig Ring

// Waterville to Portmagee (via the Skellig Ring) – 44-minute drive, but we’re allowing for 2 hours – leave Waterville at 16:30, arrive in Portmagee for 18:30) //

the skellig ring in kerry

Photo by Tom Archer

The next two hours are going to be special. We’re about to travel along an 18km route that links Waterville to Portmagee via Ballinskelligs (read our guide to driving the Skellig Ring in style!).

Expect raw, wild, magnificent scenery, with the jagged outline of Skellig Michael on the horizon rarely far from view.

The Skellig Ring is a very straightforward drive, where you’ll discover the best it has to offer as you spin along it.

The one stop-off point I’m going to recommend is the Kerry Cliffs.

the kerry cliffs tour

Photo © The Irish Road Trip

I’ve visited the Kerry Cliffs twice now, and on both occasions, I was one of maybe 2 or 3 other people that were there at the time.

The cliffs, which are over 1,000 feet (305 meters) high, offer spectacular views of the Skellig Islands and Puffin Island.

This is one of those places that makes you really aware of how powerful mother nature is. The thunderous crash as waves collide with sharp cliff face rings out in your ears constantly.

7. Portmagee for the night

// You should arrive to Portmagee for around half six or so. //

Portmagee in Kerry

Photo by Tom Archer via Tourism Ireland

Portmagee is one of the most beautiful little villages in Ireland.

I’m going to recommend that you stay in The Moorings Guesthouse, which is at the heart of the lovely little village of Portmagee.

Check-in and then head down to the bar for some food and a couple of pints.

You may have seen videos from this pub back when Star Wars was being shot in the area (Mark Hamill was shot pulling a pint at the bar).

Wild Atlantic Way Route: Day 3 – Kerry

Slea head road

Photo by Lukasz Pajor/shutterstock.com

Day 3 is one that I’ve been looking forward to since I started writing this guide.

It takes us through a corner of Ireland that I fell in love with many years ago, and that I revisit as often as physically possible.

Get some breakfast into you and prepare your mind for the beauty that awaits.

Here’s everything you need to know about day 3!

// What we’ll be doing //

  • Visiting Valentia Island (one of the best places to visit in Ireland in my opinion)
  • Fooooooooood
  • The Rossbeigh Loop Walk (the view from the top is insane)
  • Lunch by the beach
  • Saying ‘howaya’ to a dolphin in Dingle

// Where we’ll be sleeping //

// What you’ll need //

  • Hiking boots
  • Rain gear
  • Some snacks for the hike
  • Water

1. Valentia Island

// Portmagee to Valentia Island – 2-minute drive (leave Portmagee at 9, arrive to Valentia for 9:02.. handy or what) //

wild atlantic way road trip geokaun mountains time

Image © The Irish Road Trip

Ah, Valentia Island – easily one of my favourite places in Ireland.

Connected to the little town of Portmagee by the Maurice O’Neill Memorial Bridge, Valentia Island is one of Ireland’s most westerly points.

Our first stop-off is the car park near Bray Head.

bray head valentia island

For those of you that fancy an early morning walk, you can do the Bray Head Walk if you like, but for this trip we’re going to just admire the view below, out towards the Skellig Islands.

From here, make your way up to the Geokaun Mountain and Cliffs (€5 entry fee), and start the steep ascent (it’s insanely steep – keep the car in first gear the entire way up) towards one of the best views in Ireland.

valentia island lighthouse

Valentia Lighthouse: By Chris Hill

I’ve done a reasonable amount of travelling outside of Ireland, and there are very few places that I’ve been to that offer a view as spectacular as the Geokaun Mountain and Cliffs.

Kick-back, relax and just soak up what lies before you.

2. the Rossbeigh Hill Loop Walk

// Valentia Island to Rossbeigh Beach (aim for the car park) – 50-minute drive (leave Valentia at 10:20, arrive at the beach for 11:10) //

rossbeigh hill loop walks

Photo by @adrian_heely (follow him on Instagram here)

We’ve a bit of walking up next. Aim the car in the direction of Rossbeigh Beach Car Park – the starting point for the Rossbeigh Hill Loop Walk.

This walk will take you between 3 and 4 hours depending on your fitness levels, and it offers a magnificent view out over the surrounding countryside.

The view of Rossbeigh Beach that you’ll be treated to is worth the trip alone.

This is one of many great walks that you can add to your Wild Atlantic Way itinerary. Check out loads more great Irish walks here.

3. Lunch by the sea

// Rossbeigh Beach to Inch Beach – 49-minute drive (leave beach 1 around 14:30, arrive at beach 2 for 15:20) //

inch beach county kerry

Photo © The Irish Road Trip

We’re going to stop off at Inch Beach for a spot of lunch and a strong cup of coffee. This is arguably one of the best beaches in Kerry.

At this stage, you’ve packed in a lot already. Take some time to kick back and relax while gazing out at the waves.

If you’re not too fatigued, spend a bit of time walking along the shore – you usually get a good crowd of surfers here tackling the waves.

4. Checking out a dolphin in Dingle

// Inch Beach to Dingle – 26-minute drive (leave Inch at 16:20, arrive in Dingle for 16:50) //

fungie the dolphin kerry

Photo via Failte Ireland

Our last activity of the day will see us hop on a little boat (it’s a 1-hour trip and boats leave regularly)

If you’ve never heard of him (or her… I’m never sure which) Fungie is a wild Bottlenose Dolphin that lives in the waters around Dingle.

He has been in the area for around 32 years and according to experts, he has a lifespan of between 40 and 50 years.

The boats leave Dingle Pier at regular intervals during the day, all year round (weather permitting). This is a nice unique experience to round your day off in style.

5. Dingle for the night

// The Fungie tour takes around an hour, so your feet should be safely back on dry land for 18:00. //

dingle kerry sunset

Photo © The Irish Road Trip

Dingle is one of my favourite places to visit on the Wild Atlantic Way

It’s a cracking town packed with buzzy pubs and brilliant restaurants. Great as a base to explore the surrounding countryside and cracking for a weekend with friends.

I’m going to recommend staying in the Skellig Hotel this evening, so get checked in and chill for a while.

I recently ate in John Benny’s Pub and I’m going to recommend it for this evenings meal. Once you’ve been fed, head to Dick Mac’s Pub for a few and then on to Foxy John’s.

Two of my favourite pubs in the country.

Enjoy the food, the drink and the craic.

Check out our guide to the best pubs in Dingle (for trad music, a fine pint, and craic)

Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland: Day 4 – Kerry

boardwalk on torc

Photo by Randall Runtsch/shutterstock.com

We’ve another adventure-packed day planned for today as we start to really explore the Dingle Peninsula.

From spinning along the Slea Head Drive to navigating our way along a road that’s unlike anything I’ve ever encountered, day 4 is all systems go from start to finish.

Fuel up with breakfast from your hotel and get ready for another eventful day.

Here’s everything you need to know about day 4!

// What we’ll be doing //

  • One of the most enjoyable driving routes in Ireland – the Slea Head Drive
  • Fooooooooood and ice cream in Dingle
  • The narrow road out of Kerry (not one for nervous drivers)
  • The long road to Clare

// Where we’ll be sleeping //

// What you’ll need //

  • Rain gear
  • Some snacks for the hike
  • Water

1.The Unforgettable Slea Head Drive

// This Drive takes roughly 1 hour and 10 minutes – we’re going to allow 4 hours. Start the drive at 9:00) //

Dun chaoin pier kerry

@ Tourism Ireland photographed by Tom Archer

I’m excited for any of you that are doing this drive for the first time.

The Slea Head Drive is a circular route that begins and ends in Dingle. It takes in an abundance of attractions and fabulous views on the western end of the peninsula.

My only piece of advice for this drive is to stop and wander wherever and whenever the feeling takes you.

The best parts of this drive aren’t the stops, they’re the ever-changing landscape that engulfs it.

Slea Head Stop #1 – The magnificent Coumeenoole Beach

slea head drive dingle

Photo left: Adam Machowiak. Photo right: Irish Drone Photography (Shutterstock)

Our first stop is at Coumeenoole Beach, a place I’ve been to many times before.

This is a fantastic little beach that’s surrounded by jagged cliffs and spectacular coastal scenery.

For any fans of the movie ‘Ryan’s Daughter’, you may recognise Coumeenoole Beach as it was one of the locations used in the film. This place really is wild.

What you won’t get from the images above and below is the power of the wind that was gushing over me constantly, rocking me from side-to-side when I was taking the photos above and below.

Park the car and explore the area. The beach is to the left, down the little winding hill, and then to the right you have a path that, if you take it, will offer spectacular views of the surrounding area.

Slea Head Stop #2 – Admiring the view of Dunmore Head

Ireland in June

Photo by Chris Hill

You’ll find the lookout point for Dunmore Head a short distance from Coumeenoole Beach, so make sure you keep an eye out for it.

This is another one of those places that tends to rock you a little bit (the best places to visit in Ireland generally do).

When you step out of your car and gaze out, the sound of wind and wave combined with the view that you’ll be treated to is immensely special.

Spend time here. Who cares how long. Soak up the sights and sounds. Put down the phone and the camera and focus on capturing this little chunk of bliss in your mind forever.

Slea Head Stop #3 – Dun Chaoin Pier

dunquin pier dingle

Photos via Shutterstock

Dun Chaoin Pier is the departure point for the Blasket Island Ferry, and you’ll find it at the northern end of a small secluded bay enveloped by rocky cliffs.

You can take a stroll down the pier itself or admire the view from above (be careful – the cliff is unguarded).

When gawked at from above, the narrow, winding road that leads up to the pier can only be described as a charming little slice of architectural madness.

The quirky road combined with the gorgeous rocky peaks that jut out from the water in front of the pier make for a wonderfully unique scene on County Kerry’s dramatic coastline.

Slea Head Stop #4 – the stop that isn’t a stop

Slea head road

Photo by Lukasz Pajor/shutterstock.com

I tried to emphasise this earlier, but I really believe that you need to go with your gut on this drive.

Take your time and just enjoy the scenery that envelopes you from start to finish.

If you’d like some more guidance on what to do here, hop into our guide to the Slea Head Drive stops.

2. Dingle for Lunch and Ice Cream

// The Slea Head Loop will get you back to Dingle for around 13:00 if you take 4 hours to drive it. //

dingle kerry sunset

We’re going to fuel up in Dingle for a long afternoon and evening on the road.

Head to Ashe’s Bar for a bite to eat and then tip on over to Murphy’s Ice Cream for a bit of a #TreatYoSelf buzz.

The Caramelised Brown Bread and the Dingle Sea Salt are both ammmmmmmmmmmazing!

3. The absolutely mental road at Conor Pass

// Dingle to Conor Pass – 8-minute drive (leave Dingle at 14:00, arrive for 14:08) //

conor pass dingle

It’s rare that a road bothers me in any way.

I love the narrow country roads that you encounter across Ireland, and I’m never (normally) in any way apprehensive about driving along them.

Until I drove Conor Pass for the first time recently, that is.

conor pass in dingle

Photo © The Irish Road Trip

Conor Pass runs from Dingle out towards Brandon Bay and Castlegregory, and is one of the highest mountain passes in Ireland, standing a whopping 410 m above the sea level.

The tight, narrow road snakes alongside the mountain and weaves its way along sharp cliff faces on one side and an enormous drop to the other. Driving the Conor Pass was one of my highlights from my last trip to Kerry.

Yes, I had a semi oh-shit moment when I met a van coming towards me with no intention of stopping and I had to reverse back around the mountain on a road barely wider than the car, but it was amazing.

You can pull in at the side of the road before the pass and admire the views around you. On a busy day, this’ll be a nervous drivers nightmare, but just take your time and drive carefully.

If you’re planning on using a car during your Wild Atlantic Way itinerary, read our guide to driving in Ireland for tourists first.

4. Taking the long road to Clare

// Conor Pass to Kilbaha – 3-hour drive (leave at 14:25 and arrive for 17:25) //

kilbaha cliffs loop head

Photo © The Irish Road Trip

Our 4th stop of the day takes us out of Kerry, and on to the next coastal county that we’ll be diving into – Clare. Our first stop is to Kilbaha to check out the cliffs at Loop Head Lighthouse.

I’ve visited here a handful of times in the past and am always blown away by the sheer lack of people that you meet.

Park the car at the lighthouse and walk along the grass to the right of the wall that surrounds it. You’ll find a gorgeous sea stack and a wonderful view of the surrounding cliffs.

Warning: the cliffs are unguarded, so please be careful.

This is another place where you’ll feel the full force of Mother nature. The wind crashes against you from every angle and the thunder of the waves smashing against jagged cliff is like music to the ears.

5. Lahinch for the night

// Kilbaha to Lahinch – 1 hour and 5-minute drive (leave at 18:10, arrive to Lahinch for 19:05) //

Lahinch Beach guide

Photo left: shutterupeire. Photo right: Kristin Greenwood (Shutterstock)

That was a pretty long day, so we’re going to head to our base for the night and then out for food.

I’m going to recommend you stay at Lahinch Coast Hotel and Suites. Check-in and then take a stroll to Danny Mac’s for dinner.

Get an early night, tonight, as we’ve another busy day tomorrow (we’ll factor in a lie-in, of sorts, for the morning of day 10… promise)

Wild Atlantic Way Route Planner: Day 5 – Clare

wild atlantic way in 5 days

Clare is an absolutely magnificent county that often gets overshadowed by it’s biggest attraction – the Cliffs of Moher.

While we’ll be checking out the cliffs, we’ll also be exploring much more of what this fabulous county has to offer. Get up for 5 and get out the door for 7:45.

Here’s everything you need to know about day 5!

// What we’ll be doing //

  • The Doolin cliff walk
  • Chocolate that’ll make you want to retire on Fisher St.
  • Wandering around the Doolin Cave
  • A ferry ride to the wonderful Inis Oirr
  • The Cliffs of Moher boat tour
  • Pints and food in Doolin

// Where we’ll be sleeping //

// What you’ll need //

  • Hiking boots
  • Rain gear
  • Some snacks for the cliff walk
  • Water

Note: If you’re looking to do the Wild Atlantic Way in 5 days, you could easily plan your trip up until this point.

1. The Doolin Cliff Walk

// Lahinch to Fisher Street, Doolin – 18-minute drive (leave at 7:45, arrive for 8:03) //

doolin cliff walk

Photo by Foto Para Ti on Shutterstock

The guided Doolin cliff walk is a unique and active way to experience the Cliffs of Moher and is run by local expert Pat Sweeney.

The 3-hour walk kicks off from Fisher Street in Doolin, just outside O’Connors Pub.

The walk takes adventurers towards Doonagore Castle and up to the walking trail along the Cliffs of Moher.

As you walk, you’ll be greeted with spectacular views of the cliffs as they rise up into view in the distance.

If you can manage to tear your eyes away from the scenery along the route, Pat will take you through the history of the area, recounting memorable stories, myths and past memories.

The walk costs just €10 and finishes up at the Cliffs of Moher visitor centre. As the car will be back in Doolin, we’ll need to take a shuttle bus back.

2. Chocolate…

// You should arrive back in Doolin for around 11:30 (depending on how long it takes to get the bus) //

doolin chocolate

Photo © The Irish Road Trip

So, we’re after doing a long-ass walk, and stop #3 is going to involve coffee, so we’re going to grab some chocolate to compliment it.

I’m not a huge fan of chocolate, but the stuff this place is churning out is just stupidly tasty.

Known as the Doolin Chocolate Shop, it’s actually a sister company of Wilde Irish Chocolates where they’ve been perfecting their craft since 1997.

Try the white chocolate Oreo meringue. It tastes even better than it sounds.

3. Caves and Coffee

// Fisher Street to the Doolin Cave – 9-minute drive (arrive for 12:00) //

the doolin cave

Photo via the Doolin Cave

Hop back into the car and head in the direction of the Doolin Cave. After a long walk along the cliffs, a trip to the Doolin Cave is a perfect follow up.

Armed with a chunk of chocolate that’ll knock you sideways, grab a cup of coffee in the little café in the visitor center first, and rest your legs a little.

When you’re adequately satisfied and buzzed from copious amounts of caffeine and sugar, head off on the tour (book it when you arrive).

The Doolin Cave is home to the largest free-hanging stalactite in the Northern Hemisphere. Known as ‘The Great Stalactite’, it hangs from the ceiling like some giant cone-shaped chandelier.

Particularly mesmerising when you think it formed from a single drop of water many years ago.

The tour itself packs a punch, taking visitors to the natural entrance of the cave, a stream sink at the base of a cliff face, through the main chamber where a guide turns on a light to illuminate the Great Stalactite.

Definitely worth adding to your Wild Atlantic Way itinerary.

4. A Ferry to the Cliffs

// Doolin Cave to Doolin Pier – 10-minute drive (leave the cave at 13:30, arrive at the pier for 13:40) //

inis oirr island

Photo © The Irish Road Trip

Our next stop takes us to Doolin Pier – the departure point for the ferry to Inis Oirr Island.

There are several ferry companies to choose from. I can recommend the Doolin Ferry Company based on past experience.

For this trip, we’re going to go for the ferry that cruises beneath the Cliffs of Moher on the return journey from Inis Oírr.

The trip to the island takes just 30 minutes but when you arrive you’ll reach a slab of rural paradise off Ireland’s West Coast.

inis oirr island

Photo © The Irish Road Trip

Rent a bike for a tenner and cycle along the narrow country roads, surrounded by hand-built stone walls that separate the different fields on the island.

It’s like taking a step back in time. I can’t even begin to recommend this enough. Finish off your trip with a creamy pint of Guinness in the pub near the pier.

pub on inis oirr

Photo © The Irish Road Trip

5. Sailing below the Cliffs of Moher

// This isn’t a stop – you’ll do it on the return leg of the ferry back to Doolin. //

This. Is. Amazing! So, you’ll have seen the cliffs during your walk earlier in the day, but this is a different ball game altogether.

I did this a couple of years back (OK… it’s way more than a couple of years at this stage…) and it’s cracking.

You get surprisingly close to the cliff face, and it’s only when you approach from below that you truly appreciate the sight of the 700-foot cliff that’s towering above you.

Couple the view with the fact that you’re on a relatively small boat that’s swaying side-to-side thanks to the rough Atlantic Ocean and you’ve an incredible experience, just waiting to be seized.

Tip: Read our guide to visiting the Cliffs of Moher to avoid getting scammed before/when you visit.

6. Warming up in Gus O’Conners

// You should aim to arrive back to Doolin Pier for around 16:40, depending on how long you spend on Inis Oirr. //

gus o'conners pub doolin

Photo via Gus O’Conners on Facebook

After the trip back across the sea from Inis Oírr and the busy day that you’ve had so far, the chances are you’ll be tired, hungry and probably cold/wet (hopefully just tired and cold).

Gus O’Conners pub is the perfect spot to recharge the batteries. This place has been rocking since 1832 – a welcome sight for many a weary traveller returning from a day of exploring.

For those in need of a feeding, the beef and Guinness stew is a hearty bowl of pure and utter goodness that’ll warm the coldest of cockles.

7. A bed with a view for the night

hotel doolin

Photos via Booking.com

It’s been a long productive day. Hop into our Doolin accommodation guide to find a place to stay in the town.

There are plenty of restaurants in Doolin where you can grab a bite to eat and there are plenty of pubs in Doolin for post adventure pints.

Wild Atlantic Way itinerary: Day 6 – Clare and Galway

wild atlantic way road trip galway time

Photo by Hillwalk Tours

Today is pretty packed. But packed in the best possible way. We’ll be squeezing in many of the best things to do in Galway over the next day or so.

Get a lie-in this morning and get on the road for 10:30.

Here’s everything you need to know about day 6!

// What we’ll be doing //

  • The magnificent drive from Doolin to Kinvarra
  • Fooooooooood and a ramble in Galway City
  • The Quiet Man Bridge
  • The lovely road that leads to Clifden
  • The sensational Sky Road

// Where we’ll be sleeping //

// What you’ll need //

  • Rain gear
  • Some snacks for the hike
  • Water

1. The Drive from Doolin to Kinvarra

// Doolin to Kinvarra – 1-hour drive (we’re going to allow for 3 – Leave Doolin at 10:30, arrive in Kinvarra for 13:30) //

So, I’ve never known what this drive is called – I’ve spent time Googling it, but I can’t tell if it’s officially called ‘the Burren Drive’ or not.

Whatever it’s called, it’s amazing. I took this route very recently (see the video below for some clips towards the end) and it’s just special.

Doolin to Kinvarra drive

Via Google Maps

There’s no other way to describe it. The landscape changes by the minute, there’s a multitude of stop-off points, and it’s another fantastic example of why Ireland is such a wonderful place to road trip around.

This is another drive to play by eye, and to just let your nose lead the way (it’s a straight forward drive, so you’ll stumble upon the best bits.

Some places you can add into your sat nav

You’ve three hours to explore as far and wide as you fancy (I’d recommend getting out in the Burren for a nosey around as the landscape is like something you’ll have never experienced).

2. Galway City for Lunch and a Wander

// Kinvarra to Galway City – 45-minute drive (leave Kinvarra at 13:30, arrive in Galway City for 14:15) //

Tigh Neachtain pub galway

Photo via Tigh Neachtain on Facebook

This is the only time that we’ll be in Galway City on this Wild Atlantic Way itinerary, so I’m keen for you to get as good a sense for the place as you can in a couple of hours.

For food, we’re heading straight for Dough Bros. It’s pizza. And it’s CLASS (aka amazing if you’re not familiar with Irish slang).

After you’re full to the brim, take a walk towards the City’s bustling Latin Quarter, take in the colourful pubs and shops, and bask in the City’s soundtrack that is chatter mixed with a good dash of street music.

3. The Quiet Man Bridge

// Galway city to the Quiet Man Bridge – 44-minute drive (leave the city at 16:15, arrive at the bridge for 17:00) //

quiet man bridge galway

Photo by Newbert12 via Wikicommons

This one is for everyone that’s watched the movie The Quiet Man starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara.

The Bridge is located around 5 miles past Oughterard, on the N59 heading west.

Even if you haven’t seen the movie, this is a real chunk of what I’d call ‘old world Ireland’ that’s worth checking out.

4. Slow down and take it all in

// The Quiet Man Bridge to Clifden – allow an hour with stops, but take longer if needed (leave the bridge for 17:10, arrive in Clifden at around 18:10) //

n59 connemara

Photo via Google Maps

Ok, so this isn’t really a stop. After leaving the Quiet Man Bridge, you’ll be driving along the N59 road towards Clifden.

The mountainous, ever-changing landscape that you’ll pass through over the course of this stretch of road is simply superb.

Drop the windows (hopefully the rain isn’t hopping down), dial up the radio and just cruise and take it all in. We’re in no rush. Just soak up the magic of Connemara.

5. The Skyroad, Clifden

// Clifden village to the Skyroad viewing point – 11-minute drive (arrive at the viewing point for 18:22 – allow plenty of time to stop… it’s amazing) //

sky road clifden

Photo by Andy333 on Shutterstock

Grab a cup of coffee to go from one of the cafes in Clifden and drive along the Sky Road at your leisure.

The Sky Road is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the Connemara region. It’s a circular route around 11km long that takes you out west from Clifden.

The scenery you’ll be treated to as you spin along the Sky Road will etch itself upon your mind.

There are few places in Ireland that can go toe-to-toe with Clifden when it comes to raw beauty.

As you travel away from Clifden, the Sky Road splits into a lower and an upper road. The lower road will give you a close-up gander of the landscape, while the upper offers views out over the entire area.

You can park your car at the highest point of the road and step out and soak of the glorious scene that lays in front of you.

If you visit Ireland during the winter months when the sun sets early, leave this drive until the morning.

7. Clifden for the evening

clifden town connemara

Photo by Chris Hill

Your base for the second night is the bustling little town of Clifden. OK, first things first – let’s grab a bed for the night.

For this trip, I’m going to recommend Foyles Hotel as it’s extremely central, the reviews are exceptional and a bed for the night and a full Irish in the morning will set you back around €99.

For a bite to eat, nip into Guys Bar & Snug for fish and chips (or whatever you fancy, obviously). It’s a short stroll from your hotel and the reviews speak for themselves.

Next, we’re heading to Lowry’s Bar for drinks and live music. At this stage, you’ll have driven and walked a fair amount, so you should be wrecked.

Wild Atlantic Way Road Trip: Day 7 – Galway and Mayo

Things to do in Mayo Downpatrick head

Photo by Gareth McCormack

I know I keep saying it, but day 7 of our Wild Atlantic Way itinerary is AMAZING! We’ll be mixing road trippin’ and hiking to form an absolute peach of a day.

Drop into our guide to the best things to do and places to visit in Mayo if you fancy seeing what else this county has to offer.

Here’s everything you need to know about day 7!

// What we’ll be doing //

  • Hiking in Connemara
  • Kylemore Abbey for a post-hike coffee
  • Leenaun for lunch and a view
  • Aasleagh Falls
  • A drive that’ll stick in your mind forever
  • Westport for lunch
  • On to Achill

// Where we’ll be sleeping //

// What you’ll need //

  • Hiking boots
  • Rain gear
  • Some snacks for the hike
  • Water

1. Diamond Hill

// Clifden to Diamond Hill (park at the visitor center) – 21-minute drive (Leave Clifden for 8:30, arrive at Diamond Hill for 8:52) //

The view from Diamond Hill Connemara

Photo by Gareth McCormack

Our first stop of the day offers the perfect opportunity to escape the car and stretch your legs.

Something I’ve heard said on many occasions is that to truly appreciate the beauty of Connemara, you need to see it from above – enter Diamond Hill. There are two walks to choose from;

The Lower Diamond Hill walk

Connemara walks

Photo by Gareth McCormack

This trail measures around 3 km and has modest climbs along the route.

You’ll enjoy fantastic views of the surrounding Connemara countryside, coastline and islands over the course of the 1 – 1 and a half hours that it takes to complete.

The Upper Diamond Hill trail

view from the hill

Photo by Gareth McCormack

This is a continuation of the Lower Diamond Hill walk which takes you up to the summit of Diamond Hill. For those that fancy giving this a shot, the entire circuit of the Lower and Upper trails measures around 7km and should take between 2.5 – 3 hours.

At the summit, you’ll be treated to panoramic views across all of Connemara. Expect to see the Twelve Bens mountain range, Tully Mountain and Mweelrea to the North.

2. Kylemore Abbey for coffee and a gawk

// Diamond Hill to Kylemore Abbey – 7-minute drive (Allow yourself 1.5 to 3 hours to climb Diamond Hill. We’re going to allow for 2.5 hours, so you’d arrive to the Abbey for 11:27) //

kylemore abbey connemara

At this stage, you should be still buzzing from your early morning ramble. We’re heading straight for the café in Kylemore Abbey in Connemara for coffee and cake (if you’re feeling peckish).

The Abbey itself is a Benedictine monastery that was founded in 1920 on the grounds of Kylemore Castle, in Connemara. The whole place looks like something plucked straight from a fairy-tale.

When I visited here last, I literally just walked along the edge of the lake and took it all in from afar. You can do the tour if you like, but the view from the other side of the water is amazing.

3. The Lovely Little Village of Leenaun

// Kylemore Abbey to Leenaun – 20-minute drive (spend 40 minutes – longer if you do the tour – at Kylemore Abbey and get to Leenaun for 12:27) //

Killary Harbour boat tour

Photo by Big Smoke Studio

Leenaun is hands-down one of my favourite little (and I mean ‘little’) villages in Ireland.

It’s small, has a buzzy atmosphere from all of the tourists and locals milling about the place and the views out over the Killary Fjord are nothing short of sensational.

Any time I’m here I nip into the little café that’s attached to the gift shop right across from the big parking area (you literally can’t miss it).

where to eat in leenaun

Photo © The Irish Road Trip

I can vouch for the vegetable soup and coffee both being class.

It’s not long since you’ve eaten, but if you’re feeling a little tender after a few drinks the night before, grab a coffee by the window and soak up the view.

For those of you that have watched ‘The Field’, you may recognise Gaynors pub in Leenaun as the pub that featured so frequently in the movie.

4. Aasleagh Falls

// Leenaun village to Aasleagh Falls – 5-minute drive (spend 30 minutes in Leenaun – more if you’re eating – and aim to get here for around 13:00) //

Aasleagh Falls

Photo by Bernd Meissner on Shutterstock

There are few sounds that rival the soft ‘plops’ that emit from a waterfall the size of Aasleagh Falls.

You’ll find the waterfall a stone’s throw from Leenane village on the River Erriff, just before the river meets Killary Harbour.

You can park the car at a lay-by close to the falls and there’s a pathway that allows visitors to make the short stroll to the waterfall.

Stretch the legs and gulp down lungfuls of fresh air.

5. One of the most breath-taking drives in Ireland

// Aasleagh Falls to Louisburgh (Co. Mayo) – 40-minute drive but allow 1.5 hours minimum (you’ll have spent 20 minutes at Aasleagh Falls, so you should arrive in Louisburgh for around 14:50) //

leenaun to louisburg drive

Photo © The Irish Road Trip

OK, so this isn’t necessarily a stop, but you’ll be stopping plenty of times over the course of the drive. The Leenaun to Louisburgh Drive is special.

I’ve driven this route many times and on every occasion, I’ve been taken aback by the sheer lack of people driving along it. The scenery varies from icy lakes to rugged mountains to open country.

things to do in connemara national park

Photo © The Irish Road Trip

As you make your way along the road, you’ll pass Doo Lough, a long dark freshwater lake on the Murrisk peninsula.

Keep an eye out for a plain stone cross – it stands as a memorial to the Doolough Tragedy which took place in 1849.

The only advice I can give you during this drive is to take your time and stop and stretch your legs as often as possible.

6. Westport for a late lunch

// Louisburgh to Westport – 26-minute drive (arrive around 15:25) //

westport ireland

Photo © The Irish Road Trip

We’ve another tonne of things to do today, so we’re going to take some time to eat up in the gorgeous town of Westport.

I’m going to recommend you head to J.J O’Malleys Bar & Restaurant for a bite to eat but here’s a map of all of the best places to eat in the area – just zoom in on Westport.

Fuel up and have a ramble around the town before heading back to the car.

7. Exploring Achill Island (my favourite spot on our Wild Atlantic Way road trip)

// Westport to Achill – 52-minute drive (leave Westport at 16:55, arrive on Achill for 17:47) //

wild atlantic way road trip mayo time

No Wild Atlantic Way itinerary (or Ireland itinerary, for that matter) is complete without a spin over to Achill.

Achill Island is (thankfully) connected to the mainland by The Michael Davitt Bridge, which makes getting to it an absolute doddle.

The island is scattered with peat bogs, rugged mountains, towering sea cliffs and beautiful clean beaches and bays.

We’re going to skip Keel beach on this occasion, but here’s a picture I took on a recent trip to give you a sense of what it’s like (feel free to stop here if you like).

keel beach achill island

Photo © The Irish Road Trip

Our destination for this road trip is Keem Bay. Pop it into Google maps and make your way there.

If you take the road that hugs the coast, you’ll be guided along narrow roads that, at times, meander through the island and are an absolute joy to cruise along.

achill island aerial photo

Photo © The Irish Road Trip

The first time you lay eyes upon Keem Bay is something that carves itself upon your memory.

If you can, pull in at the side of the road after you come up the hill just before the bay comes into view (there’s limited parking on either side – literally enough space for one car).

achill island beach

Photo © The Irish Road Trip

Admire the scene in front of you from above, then make your way to the car park at the end of the winding road.

Spend some time on the beach admiring the view before making your way up a little way up the hill that sits to the right of Keem. From here, the view is just out of this world.

8. Newport for the Night

// Achill to Newport – 56-minute drive (leave Achill at around 16:55, arrive to Newport for 20:50) //

guinness at the dingle Skellig hotel

Now that, was a busy aul day. Time for a bit of R&R in a town called Newport. I’m going to recommend that you stay in a B&B called Brannen’s, which is right in the center of the town.

I completely stumbled upon this place last winter and managed to get a night’s bed and breakfast for €55 – bargain. Nip over to The Grainne Uaile for a bite to eat and then back to Brannen’s for a pint.

brannens of newport mayo

Brannen’s pub in Newport is one of those places that I imagine hasn’t changed a whole lot in 40 years – it’s what I’d call a proper traditional Irish pub.

No frills, pictures of local GAA teams on the wall, and locals sat up at the bar having a chat.

Chill for the evening. We have, you guessed it, another cracking day ahead tomorrow as we explore more of Mayo before heading onto Sligo and Donegal.

Wild Atlantic Way Ireland Guide: Day 8 – Mayo and Sligo

Gleniff Horseshoe Drive in Sligo

The Gleniff Horseshoe Drive in Sligo

Today, we’ll be visiting a place that’s older than the pyramids, before driving along the gorgeous Mayo coastline that leads to Sligo.

Grab your breakfast in Brannen’s and then get on the road! Hop into our guide to the best places to visit in Sligo if you fancy seeing what else this county has to offer.

Here’s everything you need to know about day 8!

// What we’ll be doing //

  • The 6,000 years old Céide Fields
  • An even older sea stack at Downpatrick Head
  • Lunch by the beach
  • A grand hike in Sligo
  • Fish and chips by the sea
  • A waterfall
  • One of the best places to visit in Ireland if you’re a photographer

// Where we’ll be sleeping //

// What you’ll need //

  • Hiking boots
  • Rain gear
  • Some snacks for the hike
  • Water
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1. The Céide Fields

// Newport to the Céide Fields – 1 hour and 5-minute drive (leave Newport at 9:030, arrive at the Céide Fields for 10:05) //

the Céide Fields county mayo

Photo by Peter McCabe

Our first stop of the day is the Céide Fields. Beneath the boglands of North Mayo lies the Céide Fields – the most extensive Stone Age monument in the world.

The Céide Fields consist of field systems, dwelling areas, and megalithic tombs.

The magnificent stone-walled fields, which extend over thousands of acres, are a whopping 6,000 years old. 6,000… mad stuff!

Enjoy the drive on the way from Newport and then drop into the Céide Fields visitor centre for a ramble around.

2. Downpatrick Head

// Céide Fields to Downpatrick Head – 18-minute drive (spend 1 hour at the Céide Fields, arrive to Downpatrick Head for 11:25) //

downpatrick head walk

Photo by Alison Crummy

You’re in for another early-morning treat. This is hands-down one of my favourite places to visit in Mayo.

Jutting out of the ocean and rising roughly 40m above the wild Atlantic waves, Downpatrick Head treats visitors to unparalleled views of the enormous Sea Stack known as Dún Briste.

Dun Briste (and the surrounding cliffs) were formed around 350 million years ago when sea temperatures were higher and the coastline was a greater distance away.

There’s something incredible about standing out near the edge of the cliff (be careful!) at gazing at 350 years’ worth of exposed rock layer. Spend a bit of time having a gander.

3. Enniscrone for lunch and a walk on the beach

// Downpatrick Head to Enniscrone Beach – 48-minute drive (spend 35 minutes at Downpatrick head, arrive to the beach for 12:48) //

Enniscrone village sligo

Photo by walshphotos/shutterstock.com

We’re going to grab a spot of lunch in Gilroy’s Bar in Enniscrone.

Get fed and then head to Enniscrone Beach for a stroll to let the food settle.

4. Walking the Knocknarea Queen Maeve Trail

// Enniscrone Beach to Knocknarea – 47-minute drive (leave Enniscrone at 14:00, arrive at Knocknarea for 14:47) //

Knocknarea Mountain Walk

Photo by Alison Crummy

This is one of my favourite walks on our Wild Atlantic Way itinerary. We’re going to take the Queen Maeve Trail up Knocknarea Mountain, which should take us around 1 and a half hours to complete.

This mountain dominates the Sligo skyline from many angles, so you should get a good look at it from the distance as you approach.

When you leave the car park, follow the path along the bog bridge all the way until you reach the summit. You’ll be treated to panoramic views of Sligo from the top.

5. Fish and Chips by the sea

// Knocknarea to Shell’s Cafe – 11-minute drive (leave Knocknarea at 16:40, arrive at the cafe for 16:51) //

You’ll have built up an appetite after the stroll, so we’re heading to Shell’s Café for fish and chips by the sea.

Eat up, grab and coffee (and a cake, if you like) and walk outside to soak up a lungful of sea air.

6. Glencar Waterfall

// Shell’s Cafe to Glencar Waterfall – 30-minute drive (leave Shell’s at 17:30, arrive at Glencar for 18:00) //

If you’re familiar with the work of W.B. Yeats, then you may recall mention of a line in his poem ‘The Stolen Child’ that goes, ‘Where the wandering water gushes From the hills above Glen-Car’.

The place he referenced was none other than Glencar Waterfall, stop #6 for today.

This is a beautiful place to spend some time listening to the music of the water as it tumbles into the water from above.

7. The Gleniff Horseshoe Drive

// Glencar Waterfall to the start of the Gleniff Horseshoe Drive – 35-minute drive (leave Glencar at 17:25, arrive for 18:00) //

gleniff horseshoe sligo

Photo by Hugh Sweeny via Failte Ireland

The final stretch of our day takes us on a lovely little drive that’ll take you through a part of Sligo that has graced many an Instagram feed.

Pop ‘Gleniff Horseshoe Drive’ into your phone or sat nav and start making your way there.

The Gleniff Horseshoe Drive is a roughly six-mile loop of single lane road enveloped by spectacular mountain views.

We’re going to take our time on this drive. Get out of the car at will and bask in the beauty that inspired one of Ireland’s most celebrated poets.

8. Enjoying Benbulben from your Bed

// We’ll be heading straight here from the drive, so aim to get to the b&b for 19:00) //

benbulben farmhouse bed and breakfast

Photo via Benbulben Farmhouse Bed & Breakdast

Tonight, we’re staying in Benbulben Farmhouse B&B. Check-in and chill for the evening.

You’ll be waking up to an incredible view of Benbulben from the comfort of your b&b the following morning.

WAW road trip: Day #9 – Donegal

Ballymastocker Bay Donegal

Photo by Martin Flemming

The next couple of days are dedicated to Donegal. Set the bar high in your head – they’re going to be a mind-blowing 48 hours as we make our way around one of the most breath-taking corners of our little island.

You’ll have gotten to bed early the previous night, so get up for 7, eat, and take a little stroll to check out Benbulben.

You need to be on the road for 8:30 – we’ve a long, wonderful day ahead.

Here’s everything you need to know about day 9!

// What we’ll be doing //

  • A stroll around the Slieve League Cliffs
  • Moseying along the shores of Malin Beg
  • Tipping on down to Glencolmcille Folk Village
  • A spin along one of the most beautiful roads in Ireland
  • A waterfall
  • Caves
  • Lunch in Ardara
  • Glenveagh National Park

// Where we’ll be sleeping //

// What you’ll need //

  • Rain gear
  • Water

1. Slieve League

// Benbulben Farmhouse to Slieve League – 1 hour and 45-minute drive (leave the b&b at 7:00, arrive for 8:45) //

slieve league cliffs donegal

Photo © The Irish Road Trip

We’re having our earliest start of the whole trip this morning, but it’ll be worth it. The first stop of the day takes us to the Slieve League Cliffs (officially known as the Sliabh Liag cliffs).

Towering above the ocean at 2000 foot (Twice the height of the Cliffs of Moher), the Slieve League Cliffs are an adventurers dream.

On a clear day the cliffs offer breath-taking views across Donegal Bay, Sligo and Mayo, and they’re perfect for those that may be unable to partake in any strenuous activity or for those looking to stretch the legs and get the heart rate up with a more vigorous climb.

2. Malin Beg and Silver Strand Beach

// Slieve League to Malin Beg – 37-minute drive (leave Slieve League at 10:00, arrive for 10:37) //

malin beg beach donegal

Photo by Paul_Shiels/shutterstock

Silver Strand Beach aka Malin Beg is one of those places that makes me question why I’m living in Dublin.

Whether you’re sitting on the grass above and gazing down at it, or walking along the sandy shores and listening to the waves crash, this horse-shoe shaped beach is an unspoiled gem.

Take your time here and bask in the brilliance that surrounds you. This is one of the best beaches in Donegal for good reason.

3. Glencolmcille Folk Village and/or beach

// Malin Beg to Glencolmcille – 15 minute drive (leave Malin Beg at 11:20, arrive to Glencolmcille for 11:35) //

Glencolmkille folk village

Photo by Christy Nicholas/shutterstock

Our next stop is the Folk Village in Glencolmcille. This is a thatched-roof replica of a rural village offers a glimpse into what daily life was like in years past.

Each cottage is an exact replica of a dwelling used by locals in each of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. Wander through the village at your leisure or take a guided tour if it tickles your fancy.

If the Silver Strand gave you a lust for sea air, you can also take a stroll along Glencolmcille beach.

4. Spin along the Glengesh Pass

// Glencolmcille to Glengesh – 27-minute drive (leave Glencolmcille at for 12:15, arrive to Glengesh for 12:45) //

gelngesh pass donegal

Photo © The Irish Road Trip

The chances of encountering another road like the one at the Glengesh Pass is slim to none.

It meanders through the seemingly endless mountainous terrain that connects Glencolmcille to Ardara, with more twists and turns than my stomach cares to remember.

Tip: As you approach Glengesh from the Glencolmcille side, you’ll come across a little van selling coffee, with a bench close by. Stop off here and you’ll get some great views of the valley below.

5. Assaranca Waterfall

// Glengesh to Assaranca Waterfall – 16-minute drive (leave Glengesh at for 13:15, arrive to the waterfall for 13:31) //

ardara waterfall donegal

Photo by Yevhen Nosulko/shutterstock

The first time I visited here, we found it by complete fluke.

We had just driven along Glengesh and had managed to get semi-lost. We kept driving away hoping that we’d happen upon something interesting and BANG – Assaranca Waterfall.

What I love about this place is that it’s literally at the side of the road, so if it’s raining away you can kick back in your car, lower the window a tad and soak up the sights and the sounds.

A lovely little surprise.

6. The Caves of Maghera and Maghera Strand

// Assaranca Waterfall to Maghera Strand – 4-minute drive (leave the waterfall at 13:55, arrive at the strand for 14:00) //

Our next stop is just one kilometer from Assaranca Waterfall – Maghera Strand. Maghera Strand is wild. That’s the only way to describe it.

But wild in the best possible sense – it’s exactly as nature intended. Pure raw natural beauty.

You’ll find the Maghera Caves beneath Slievetooey mountain and some of the 20 caves are accessible when tides are low from Maghera Strand.

Note: you need to be extremely careful of tides and strong currents – check locally regarding the best time to visit.

7. A Late Lunch in Ardara

// Maghera Strand to Ardara – 17-minute drive (leave the strand at 14:40, arrive to Ardara for 14:57) //

By this stage you’re probably starving, so we’ll stop for a bit of food not far from Maghera Strand.

I’ve eaten in Sheila’s Coffee and Cream in Ardara twice now and on both occasions, it was brilliant.

If the weather is good, grab a seat outside and watch the world pass you by. Fuel up and get read for a busy afternoon and evening.

8. Glenveagh National Park

// Ardara to Glenveagh National Park – 1 hour and 2-minute drive (leave Ardara at 15:50, arrive to Glenveagh for 16:52) //

Glenveagh National Park walks guide

Photo left: Gerry McNally. Photo right: Lyd Photography (Shutterstock)

Spanning an impressive 16,000 hectares, Glenveagh National Park encompasses most of the Derryveagh Mountains, the Poisoned Glen and part of Errigal Mountain.

For those looking to get a lungful of fresh air, there are several walks you can choose from.

We’re going to do the View Point Trail (takes 1-hour) on this trip. Here’s how the folks at Glenveagh describe it;

‘The View Point Trail is perhaps the best short walk option in the Park. It leads to an ideal vantage point for enjoying views of the rugged scenery, with magnificent perspectives of the castle below, Lough Veagh and the surrounding landscapes.

This circular 1.5Km trail starts and ends at the castle, taking from 50-60 min at a leisurely pace. The surface is good at all stages and very steep for several short distances. Follow the direction of the road behind the castle, taking the path uphill just outside the garden gates. The route is signposted from here.’

Walk at your leisure and soak up the sights, smells and sounds.

9. Gweedore for the night

// Glenveagh to Gweedore – 20-minute drive (leave the park at 18:00 and arrive for 18:20) //

Tonight we’ll be staying in Gweedore – I’m going to recommend An Chuirt, Gweedore Court Hotel, but you can stay wherever tickles your fancy based on your budget.

Check into your room and chill for an hour or two. For dinner, drive to Leo’s Tavern – it’s is a leisurely 9-minute spin from the hotel.

Get an early night and bask in the happiness that accompanies a day of exploring like the one you’ve just had.

Wild Atlantic Way Ireland itinerary: Day 10 – Donegal

Slieve league hike

Photo taken by MNStudio (shutterstock)

Set your alarm for nice and early. I know I’m like a broken record saying this at this point, but you’ve a sensational day ahead.

Fuel up with a good breakfast and hit the road. If you fancy checking out the best that this corner of Ireland has to offer, hop into our guide to Donegal’s top attractions.

Here’s everything you need to know about day 10!

// What we’ll be doing //

  • A panoramic view of Donegal from Horn Head
  • A ramble through Ards Forest Park before heading on to Killahoey Beach
  • A castle that looks like something from a Disney movie
  • The awe-inspiring Atlantic Drive
  • Lunch in the Singing Pub
  • Lough Salt for a view that’ll give you goosebumps
  • Fanad Lighthouse
  • Glamping by the sea

// Where we’ll be sleeping //

// What you’ll need //

  • Hiking gear
  • Snacks
  • Rain gear
  • Water

1. An incredible view of Donegal from Horn Head

// Gweedore to Horn Head – 37-minute drive (Leave Gweedore at 8, arrive at Horn Head for 8:37) //

horn head donegal

Photo by Susanne Pommer/shutterstock

Our first stop of Day 10 takes us up to Horn Head, close to the little town of Dunfanaghy.

There’s two options for this stop – you can throw on the walking boots and head off on a walk along the cliffs (takes roughly three hours), or you can drive the Horn Head loop.

If you’d prefer to avoid the walk (which we’ll be doing for this trip), the drive around Horn Head is also fantastic.

There are two viewing points where you can get out at and admire the scenery that surrounds you; the first is on the north side and here cliffs dominate.

The second overlooks Dunfanaghy with Muckish and the Derryveagh mountains providing the perfect backdrop.

2. Killahoey Beach

// Horn Head to Killahoey Beach – 13-minute drive (leave Horn Head at 9:47, arrive at the beach for 10:00) //

Dunfanaghy in Donegal

Photo via LR-PHOTO on shutterstock.com

You’ll hear Killahoey Beach often referred to as Dunfanaghy beach – it’s a gorgeous Blue Flag beach that’s popular for water sports.

Stop off here, take the shoes and socks off and get a lungful of Atlantic air as you trudge along the shore.

3. Ards Forest Park

// Killahoey Beach to Ards Forest Park – 12-minute drive (leave the beach at 10:30, arrive to the forest for 10:42) //

ards forest park in donegal

Photo left: shawnwil23. Right: AlbertMi/shutterstock

Our next stop is to Ards Forest Park where you can choose from nine different trails to head off on.

Over the course of your stroll you’ll encounter sand dunes, beaches, salt marshes, saltwater lakes, rock face and, of course, coniferous and deciduous woodlands.

You’ll also happen upon the remains of four ring forts together with a holy well and a mass rock. Grab a coffee in Ards Coffee Tree and head off on your merry way.

4. Doe Castle

// Ards Forest Park to Doe Castle – 13-minute drive (leave the forest at 11:50, arrive to Doe Castle for 12:03) //

Doe Castle donegal

Photo via Tourism Ireland

Doe Castle is one of those structures that looks like it was plucked straight from a Disney movie.

The castle was strategically built out on a jutting rock that places it within the protection of an inlet from Sheephaven Bay.

You can access the grounds of the castle for free or you can take a guided tour for €3 euro per person.

5. The Loop around Tra Na Rossan

// Doe Castle to Downings – 16-minute drive / Downings to Tra Na Rossan – 13-minute drive (leave the castle at 12:35, arrive to Tra Na Rossan for 13:05) //

Tra Na Rossan

Photo by Chris Hill

The drive we’re about to do is called the Atlantic Drive. I did a trip around Donegal a few months ago and this, for me, was the best part of the trip.

The sun was blazing, the roads were quiet, and around every narrow bend some new, unexpected piece of scenery slapped me in the face.

From Doe Castle, you want to point the Batmobile in the direction of ‘Downings’ and continue on to ‘Tra Na Rossan view’ (it’s marked out on Google Maps).

Pull in to the first safe spot you find at the side of the road and just soak up the view.

6. Lunch at the Singing Pub

// Tra na Rossan view to the Singing Pub – 6-minute drive (leave the viewing area at 13:40, arrive at the pub for 13:46) //

the singing pub donegal

Photo via thesingingpub.ie/

If you land here on a sunny day, grab a seat outside and enjoy the view.

I was driving by here and it was the name that caught my eye, so I decided to head up to see what it was all about.

The lads serving on the day were a bit of craic and more than happy to chat away, offering a good dollop of local knowledge along with a decent feed.

7. Lough Salt for an absolute peach of a view

// The Singing Pub to Lough Salt – 20-minute drive (leave the pub at 14:40, arrive to Lough Salt for 15:00) //

Lough salt donegal

Photo © The Irish Road Trip

This became one of my favourite places to visit on the Wild Atlantic Way after I stumbled upon it last year.

I didn’t know this place existed – I simply saw a road that caught my eye and kept driving. Lough Salt is a small mountain lake located at the base of Lough Salt Mountain.

Keep driving until you come to the little parking area that’ll be on your left as you drive up an incline.

From here, you can check out the lake to your left. When you’ve had your fill, take a look around to your right and you’ll see a small grass hill.

Cross the road and climb up it. The 360 view you’ll be treated to is just out of this world. On the day that I visited, I took a book with me and chilled for an hour or so.

8. Fanad Head Lighthouse

// Lough Salt to Fanad head – 40-minute drive (leave Lough Salt at 15:40, arrive to Fanad for 16:20) //

fanad lighthouse donegal

Photo © The Irish Road Trip

You’ll see Fanad Head Lighthouse dominate many guides on the best things to do in Donegal.

There’s no real mystery why – it’s a special place. The drive to and from Fanad Lighthouse is worth the trip alone, as you pass through the beautifully quaint countryside that leads to it.

Standing proudly between Lough Swilly and sandy Mulroy Bay, Fanad Head Lighthouse has been voted one of the most beautiful lighthouses in the world.

Sit up on the stone wall to the left of the lighthouse and switch off for a while. Soak up the sounds of the ocean and bask in the beauty of one Ireland’s most spectacular corners.

9. Ballymastocker Bay

// Fanad Head to Ballymastocker Bay – 22-minute drive (leave Fanad at 16:40, arrive to the bay for 17:02) //

Ballymastocker Bay

Photo by Chris Hill

Ballymastocker Bay is a superb Blue Flag beach, and it’s our final stop for day two of our road trip.

Once voted the 2nd most beautiful beach in the world by the Observer Magazine, it offers tremendous views out towards the Inishowen Peninsula.

When you’re finished here, take the short spin to Portsalon Beach and have a ramble or just kick-back and take it all in.

10. Glamping by the Beach

// You’re a 9-minute drive from your accommodation for the night – you should arrive here for around 18:00) //

glamping in donegal

Photo via Portsalon Luxury Camping

At this stage of the day you should be well and truly wrecked, but content that you’ve filled your day with a tonne of exploring.

Grab a bite to eat in the Pier Restaurant (7-minute drive from where you’re staying) and get back to enjoy your unique bed for the night.

Tonight, you’re glamping in Portsalon Luxury Camping, which is nestled on a hillside and enjoys spectacular views of Lough Swilly, Mulroy Bay, Knockalla mountain and the Inishowen Peninsula.

Kick-back in a hammock and listen to the crackle of the fire from your wood-burning stove.

Love staying somewhere unique? Check out our guide to the most unusual places to stay in Ireland.

Wild Atlantic Way road trip: Day 11 – Donegal

mamore gap donegal

Photos by Ondrej Prochazka/Shutterstock

So, we’re on to our final lap of the Donegal stretch of our road trip as we move into day 11.

Just writing about Donegal has given me an itch to book a couple of nights there over the next few months!

If you can, get up early and enjoy the sunrise from your bed and then get on the road for 8.

Here’s everything you need to know about day 11!

// What we’ll be doing //

  • Grianan of Aileach (you’ll enjoy the drive up to this)
  • Letting the mouth drop at Mamore Gap
  • Glenevin Waterfall
  • Malin Head
  • Kinnagoe Bay

// Where we’ll be sleeping //

// What you’ll need //

  • Rain gear
  • Water

1. Grianan of Aileach

// Portsalon Luxury Camping to Grianan of Aileach – 1-hour drive (arrive for 9) //

Grianan of Aileach donegal

Photo by Tom Archer

The Grianan of Aileach is a hillfort that sits on top of the 801 ft high Greenan Mountain on Inishowen.

The stone fort is said to date back to the 1st century on the site of an early Iron Age multivallate hillfort.

The drive up to Grianan of Aileach is worth the trip alone.

When you reach the top you’ll be treated to a magnificent 360 view that takes in Lough Swilly, Lough Foyle and the gorgeous countryside of the Inishowen Peninsula.

2. Dunree Head

// Grianan of Aileach to Fort Dunree Military Museum – 40-minute drive (leave Grianan of Aileach at 9:50, arrive to the fort for 10:30) //

dunree fort military museum

Photo left: Lukassek. Right: Lucky Team Studio/shutterstock

Our second stop of the day takes us to Dunree Head to check out Dunree Fort and the military museum.

The Museum is positioned in a wonderful setting that overlooks Lough Swilly on the on the Inishowen Peninsula.

There are several weather-beaten barracks which you can have a gander at and if you fancy along with an audiovisual presentation.

3. Mamore Gap

// Dunree Head to Mamore Gap – 15 minutes drive (leave the fort at 11:15, arrive to Mamore Gap for 11:30) //

mamore gap donegal

Photos by Ondrej Prochazka/Shutterstock

If you’ve never visited Mamore Gap before, then you’re in for a treat.

Found on the Inishowen Peninsula this immensely scenic drive twists and turns through the gap along a steep route.

It’s hard not to admire the sheep and cyclists battling their way up the steep hillsides as your car (mine did anyway) struggles against the incline.

Once you reach the summit of Mamore Gap it’ll immediately become evident why this is one of the best things to do in Donegal.

The view from the top is one of those scenes that paints itself upon your mind forever. Wild. Remote. Unspoiled. Mamore Gap will take your breath away.

4. Glenevin Waterfall

// Mamore Gap to Glenevin Waterfall – 13-minute drive (leave Mamore at 12:10, arrive to the waterfall for 12:23) //

Glenevin Waterfall donegal

Photos by The Irish Road Trip

The first time I laid eyes upon Glenevin Waterfall it mustered up images in my mind of the first Jurassic Park movie.

The waterfall looks like something that you’d find on a prehistoric island from a land that time forgot.

Once you’ve parked the car, you’re around a 15 minute walk away that’ll take you along a lovely pathway that’s surrounded by trees. Glenevin Waterfall is well worth adding to your road trip itinerary.

5. Malin Head

// Glenevin Waterfall to Malin Head – 31-minute drive (leave the waterfall at 13:00, arrive to Malin Head for 13:31) //

malin head drone shot

Photo © The Irish Road Trip

Our next stop takes us to Malin Head – the most northerly point of the island of Ireland.

After visiting Malin Head recently, the one thing that hit me, and that stuck with me long after my visit, was the sheer power of mother nature.

As I stood and gazed out at the jagged rocks that jutted from the water nearby, I was half deafened from the whistle of the gales that whipped over the Atlantic coupled with the sound of water clattering against rock.

There are several walks you can do here – the road walk to Banbas crown is roughly 12km and will take you around 5 hours depending on fitness levels.

As you explore Malin head, keep an eye out for a large ‘EIRE’ on the ground nearby, written out in white stones to remind aircraft that they were flying over a neutral state during the war.

6. Lunch in the Seaview Tavern

// Malin Head to the tavern – 4-minute drive (leave Malin Head at 14:30, arrive for foooood at 14:34) //

Our stop-off point for lunch is a short 4-minute drive from Malin Head.

Drop by the Seaview Tavern and fuel up for the busy afternoon and evening ahead.

7. Kinnagoe Bay

// The tavern to Kinnagoe Bay – 38-minute drive (leave the tavern at 15:34, arrive to Kinnagoe for 16:15) //

kinnagoe bay donegal

Photo by Chris Hill via Failte Ireland

The final stop of our 11 day Wild Atlantic Way itinerary takes us to the gorgeous Kinnagoe Bay.

We’ve visited many a great beach over the past few days, and this one is the icing on the cake.

You can view the bay from the road above or take a walk down to the sand to give the legs a ‘wee stretch’.

That’s a wrap on our 11 day Wild Atlantic Way itinerary

I hope you’ve found the above guide useful.

Need help planning your trip or have a WAW related question? Add your question in the comments section below and we’ll help you out ASAP.

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Frequently Asked Questions

I originally published this guide at the start of last summer. Since then, I’ve received a fair few emails with questions about the Wild Atlantic Way.

Below, you’ll find the most frequently asked, along with some answers.

How long does it take to do the Wild Atlantic Way?

The Wild Atlantic Way is 2750km long. You could spend 11 days driving along it and you could just as easily spend 11 months. It depends on how long you have to explore.

Where does Wild Atlantic Way start and finish?

The Wild Atlantic Way beings on the beautiful Inishowen Peninsula in Donegal and travels through Leitrim, Sligo, Mayo, Galway, Clare, Limerick and Kerry. It finishes up in Kinsale in Cork.

What counties are in the Wild Atlantic Way?

The Wild Atlantic Way takes in 9 coastal counties. Those who explore it in its entirety will visit Donegal, Leitrim, Sligo, Mayo, Galway, Clare, Limerick, Kerry and Cork.

Is the Wild Atlantic Way signposted?

While the Wild Atlantic Way is signposted, it’s worth having a physical or digital map handy to ensure that you’re staying on track. Of course, if you’d rather skip the maps, you can follow the signposts.

Is there a Wild Atlantic Way map that I can use?

If you’re looking for a map of the Wild Atlantic Way, scroll back up to the top of this guide and you’ll find one. If there’s a county in particular that you’d like to explore more of, dive into our counties of Ireland guide.

Can you do the Wild Atlantic Way in 5 days?

The quick answer is no. It’ll take longer. However, if you’re looking to do the Wild Atlantic Way in 5 days, pick a chunk of the guide that tickles your fancy the most and run with it.

I’m only visiting for a week. This guide is too long!

Only visiting Ireland for 7 days? Check out our detailed guide to spending one week in Ireland.

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Teresa Lynch

Wednesday 27th of July 2022

Great Website! We will vacation in Ireland in April/May 2023. We will be touring on our own by car after a guided Dingle Peninsula tour. Do you think this itinerary is too packed? Day 1: day tour to Great Blasket, drive to Kenmare for overnight Day 2: drive Healy Pass, overnight in Kenmare Day 3: drive to Kilkee for overnight (what to see along the way?) Day 4: drive Loop Head, Cliff Walk in Kilkee, Loop Head lighthouse, Bridges of Ross, drive to Galway for overnight Day 5: day trip to Inishmore, overnight in Galway Day 6: drive to Donegal for overnight (what to see along the way?) Day 7: drive to Teelin, visit cliffs at Slieve League, drive back to Donegal for overnight Day 8: drive to Derry, visit and maybe lunch, drive to Portrush for overnight Day 9: Giants Causeway, Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge, The Dark Hedges, maybe visit Bushmills Distillery, drive to Belfast for overnight Day 10: Belfast, tour sectarian neighborhoods, maybe Titanic Belfast, overnight in Belfast Day 11: Drive to Shannon Airport

Thank you so much for any advice !

Tina McKee Gibson

Sunday 27th of February 2022

My husband and I are planning our 30th wedding anniversary trip to Ireland in 2023, and I was so excited to come across your guide. Thank you for the detail and what seems to be priceless information.

Mary Shea

Wednesday 23rd of February 2022

How to get to Dursey Island in 2022? Trying to plan a September 2022 trip based on this itinerary and discovered the cable car will be under maintenance in 2022. Any idea how I could get to Dursey Island in September 2022? I was so looking forward to a hike there.

Carole V

Wednesday 9th of February 2022

I love this guide - thank you!!! One question, we are really trying to take our little 6 lb doggie places with us lately. How easy is it to find pet-friendly hotels on this trip? Any thoughts on how easy it is to bring a dog from the US to Ireland - looks like no quarantine as long as she has her shots and is microchipped (she is not, but I think we can still do that even though she's sort of old now.)

James

Saturday 8th of January 2022

Hi, in total how much the the trip cost to the pocket. all in accommodation, food, drink, fuel, snacks etc. Thanks

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