Welcome to our no-bullshit-super-detailed 11-day Wild Atlantic Way Itinerary that aims to give you everything you need to explore one of the best road trip routes in Ireland.
This guide will take you the well known tourist attractions along with the hidden gems that lay a little off the beaten track.
Here’s what you’ll get from reading this guide:
- A full 7-day itinerary packed with the best things to do on the Wild Atlantic Way
- Recommendations of places to eat and sleep
- Recommendations of traditional pubs to sink a few pints in at the end of a long days exploring
- No boll*x – there’s no hidden agendas here. No spammy ads or any of that craic. Just stuff to help you find the best Wild Atlantic Way route to suit you
Our Wild Atlantic Way Itinerary Mapped Out
Here’s a rough guide of where we’ll be travelling to over the course of the next 11 days.
If you have less time to spare (or more) adjust the route to suit you.
Day 1 – Exploring Glorious West Cork
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!
- 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
- Rain gear
- Some snacks for the drive
Day 1 Stop #1 – Soaking up wilderness and isolation at Brow Head
// Clonakilty to Brow Head – 1 hour and 23-minute drive (leave Clonakilty at 8:30 and arrive at Brow Head 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 centers. No crowds. Just nature, as it was intended.
In my opinion, these are the best kind of places to visit on the Wild Atlantic Way.
It’s the off-the-beaten-track adventures that take a trip from great to out-of-this-world.
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.
Day 1 Stop #2 – Soaking up the Sheep’s Head drive
// Brow Head to the tip of the Sheep’s Head Peninsula and on to Bantry – 2 hours and 5-minute drive (we’re going to allow for 3 hours for stop-offs – leave Brow Head at 10:35 and arrive to Bantry for 1:45) //
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.
Ladies and gents – take your time here.
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.
Day 1 Stop #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.
Day 1 Stop #4 – Hitting up Healy Pass – one of Ireland’s craziest roads
// Bantry to Healy Pass – 48-minute drive (leave Bantry at 14:45, arrive at Healy Pass for 15:35) //
Healy Pass is 2nd craziest road that I’ve ever driven on in Ireland – 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 – magic.
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.
Day 1 Stop #5 – Your First Glimpse of Kerry
// No travelling needed for this one – you’re already there //
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 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.
Day 1 Stop #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) //
I did the drive from Healy Pass to Allihies very recently, and it’s one I’ll remember for a long time to come.
This, in my opinion, is the best part of the Wild Atlantic Way.
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 #NotAnAd) – 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.
Where the road trip will take us on day 2 (stop 1 is all-aboard Ireland’s only cable car!)
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).
Day 2 – Getting Lost in West Cork before tipping on to County Kerry
Still with me?
We’ve another mighty day in store for you for our second day on the road, so let’s get at it!
Here’s everything you need to know about day 2!
- Climbing aboard the Dursey Island cable car
- Exploring the gorgeous towns of Kenmare and Sneem
- Driving the Skellig Ring
- Lots more
- Rain gear
- Some snacks for the drive
Day 2 Stop #1 – Jumping Aboard Ireland’s Only Cable Car
// Allihies to Dursey Island Cable Car – 22-minute drive (leave Allihies at 9, arrive at 9:22) //
I’m buzzing for the first half of today!
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 Beara Peninsula.
This is arguably one of the more unique things to add to your Wild Atlantic Way itinerary.
Day 2 Stop #2 – Kenmare
// Dursey Island to Kenmare – allow for 2 hours (leave Dursey Island at 10:40, arrive in Kenmare for 12:40) //
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)
When you arrive in Kenmare head to Mick & Jimmy’s Restaurant for a bit of lunch.
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.
Day 2 Stop #3 – Sneeeeeeeeeem (Sneem… I got a little over-excited – blame copious amounts of caffeine)
// Kenmare to Sneem – 28-minute drive (leave Kenmare at 1:40, arrive in Sneem for 2:10) //
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 below 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.
Day 2 Stop #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) //
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.
Day 2 Stop #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) //
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.
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.
Fun fact: the town was a favourite holiday spot of Charlie Chaplin. He and 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
Day 2 Stop #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 next two hours are going to be special.
We’re about to travel along an 18km route that links Waterville to Portmagee via Ballinskelligs.
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.
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.
Day 2 Stop #7 – Portmagee for the night
// You should arrive to Portmagee for around half six or so. //
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).
Where the road trip will take us on day 3 (A dolphin, a hike you may have never heard of and more)
Day 3 is a cracker.
We continue our Wild Atlantic Way road trip and move deeper into Kerry, with Dingle firmly in our sights.
Day 3 – My Favourite Place in Ireland and lots lots more
Day 3 is one that I’ve been looking forward to.
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!
- Visiting Valentia Island (one of the best places to visit in Ireland in my opinion)
- The Rossbeigh Loop Walk (the view from the top is insane)
- Lunch by the beach
- Saying ‘howaya’ to a dolphin in Dingle
- Hiking boots
- Rain gear
- Some snacks for the hike
Day 3 Stop #1 – Valentia Island
// Portmagee to Valentia Island – 2-minute drive (leave Portmagee at 9, arrive to Valentia for 9:02.. handy or what) //
Ah, Valentia Island – easily one of my favorite 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.
Here’s a guide, and a tonne of photos, of Valentia Island – visit it, it’s deadly!
Our first stop-off is the car park near Bray Head.
For those of you that fancy an early morning walk, you can do the Bray Head Loop 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.
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.
Day 3 Stop #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) //
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.
Day 3 Stop #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) //
We’re going to stop off at Inch Beach for a spot of lunch and a strong cup of coffee.
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.
Day 3 Stop #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) //
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.
Day 3 Stop #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 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.
We’re staying in Pax Guest House (mainly for the amazing views) this evening, so get checked in and chill for a while.
Check out 20 of the best places to stay in Ireland if you want an out-of-this-world view.
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.
Where the road trip will take us on day 4 (stop 8 is the only road in Ireland that’s ever made me nervous…)
We’ve another adventure-packed day planned for tomorrow.
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.
Day #4 – Exploring Kerry 😮😮😮
Today we’re going to explore one of the most beautiful corners of Ireland.
Fuel up with breakfast in Pax and get ready for another eventful day.
Here’s everything you need to know about day 4!
- 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
- Rain gear
- Some snacks for the hike
Day 4 Stop #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) //
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
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
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 focusing on capturing this little chunk of bliss in your mind forever.
Slea Head Stop #3 – Dun Chaoin Pier
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
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.
Here are some other things you can do along the drive, if you’d like a bit more guidance.
Day 8 Stop #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. //
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!
Day 8 Stop #3 – The absolutely mental road at Conor Pass
// Dingle to Conor Pass – 8-minute drive (leave Dingle at 14:00, arrive for 14:08) //
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 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, 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.
Day 4 Stop #4 – Taking the long road to Clare
Conor Pass to Kilbaha – 3-hour drive (leave at 14:25 and arrive for 17:25)
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.
Day 4 Stop #5 – Lahinch for the night
// Kilbaha to Lahinch – 1 hour and 5-minute drive (leave at 18:10, arrive to Lahinch for 19:05) //
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 Castleview Golf Course B&B. 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)
Where the road trip will take us on day #5 (cliff walks, caves and Guinness stew)
It’s crazy to think we’re only on our 9th day.
We’ve stopped by what feels like a tonne of the best places to visit in Ireland, and still have only scratched the surface.
Day 5 – Cliffs, caves and lots, lots more
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!
- 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
- Sailing below the Cliffs of Moher
- Pints and food in Doolin
- Hiking boots
- Rain gear
- Some snacks for the cliff walk
Day 5 Stop #1 – The Doolin Cliff Walk
// Lahinch to Fisher Street, Doolin – 18-minute drive (leave at 7:45, arrive for 8:03) //
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.
Day 5 Stop #2 – Chocolate…
// You should arrive back in Doolin for around 11:30 (depending on how long it takes to get the bus) //
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.
Day 5 Stop #3 – Caves and Coffee
// Fisher Street to the Doolin Cave – 9-minute drive (arrive for 12:00) //
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 a visit!
Day 5 Stop #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) //
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 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.
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.
Day #5 Stop #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 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.
Day 5 Stop #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. //
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 traveler 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.
Day 5 Stop #7 – A bed with a view for the night
It’s been a long productive day.
Tonight, I’m going to recommend you stay in the Limestone Lodge.
If you look at the picture below, you’ll get a taste of the view out to the Cliffs of Moher that awaits you in this charming guesthouse.
The hand-built stone wall sealed the deal for me.
Check-in and go back and chill in your room for a bit.
We’re heading to McDermott’s Bar for food (bar food served until 21:30), drinks and a dollop of live music tonight.
Kick-back. Relax. Have the craic. And enjoy the atmosphere.
Where the road trip will take us on day #6 (Galllllwaaaaaaaayyy…)
Day ten sees us work our way to Galway.
Over the next two days, we’ll take our time exploring this county, and packing in as much of it as physically possible.
Day 6 – A Rocky Drive Before Diving into Galway
Today is pretty packed.
But packed in the best possible way.
We’ll be squeezing in a lot of driving, a lot of exploring, and a tonne of raw, natural beauty.
Get a lie-in this morning and get on the road for 10:30.
Here’s everything you need to know about day 6!
- The magnificent drive from Doolin to Kinvarra
- Fooooooooood and a ramble in Galway City
- The Quiet Man Bridge
- The lovel road that leads to Clifden
- The sensational Sky Road
- Rain gear
- Some snacks for the hike
Day 6 Stop #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.
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.
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).
Day 6 Stop #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) //
This is the only time that we’ll be in Galway City on this trip, 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.
Day 6 Stop #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) //
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.
Day 6 Stop #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) //
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.
Day 6 Stop #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) //
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 the raw beauty and vast range of scenery that those who drive along the Sky Road experience.
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.
Day 6 Stop #7 – Clifden for the evening
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.
Kick-back, listen to the music and soak up some chill time.
Where the road trip will take us on day #7 (Connemara and one of the best drives in the West of Ireland)
Some of the best places to visit in Ireland are rarely mentioned in tourism campaigns or on social media.
They’re the gems that are a little off the beaten track and that aren’t as easily accessible.
We’ll be visiting a couple of places like this on day 7.
Day 7 – Diving into Connemara before taking the best drive on Ireland’s West Coast to Mayo
I know I keep saying it, but we’ve another action packed day on the road in store.
We’ll be mixing road trippin’ and hiking to form an absolute peach of a day.
Here’s everything you need to know about day 7!
- 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
- Hiking boots
- Rain gear
- Some snacks for the hike
Day 7 Stop #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) //
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.
Hit play above and check out the view 😮
There are two walks to choose from;
The Lower Diamond Hill walk
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
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.
Day 7 Stop #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) //
At this stage you should be still buzzing from your early morning ramble.
We’re heading straight for the café in Kylemore Abbey 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.
Day 7 Stop #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) //
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).
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.
Day 7 Stop #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) //
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.
Day 7 Stop #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) //
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.
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.
Day 7 Stop #6 – Westport for a late lunch
// Louisburgh to Westport – 26-minute drive (arrive around 15:25) //
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.
Day 7 Stop #7 – Exploring Achill Island
// Westport to Achill – 52-minute drive (leave Westport at 16:55, arrive on Achill for 17:47) //
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).
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.
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).
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.
Here’s a tonne of pictures of Achill Island if you’re hankering for more!
Day 7 Stop #8 – Newport for the Night
Achill to Newport – 56-minute drive (leave Achill at around 16:55, arrive to Newport for 20:50)
Now that, was 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 nights bed and breakfast for €55 – bargain.
Nip over to The Grainne Uaile for a bite to eat and then back to Brannens for a pint.
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.
Where the road trip will take us on day #8 (a place that’s older than the pyramids, cliffs and more)
Day 8 will give you the perfect mix of active and chilled exploring.
Get a good rest the night before and awake ready for battle!
Day #8 – More Mayo Before Tipping on to 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!
Here’s everything you need to know about day 8!
- 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
- Hiking boots
- Rain gear
- Some snacks for the hike
Day 8 Stop #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) //
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.
Day 8 Stop #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) //
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 stand 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.
Day 8 Stop #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) //
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.
Day 8 Stop #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) //
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 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.
Day 8 Stop #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.
Day 8 Stop #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.
Day 8 Stop #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) //
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.
Day 8 Stop #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) //
Tonight, we’re staying in a place that featured in our guide of the best 20 places to stay in Ireland if you’re looking for an out-of-this-world view – 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.
Where the road trip will take us on day #9 (en route to explore the wonders of Donegal)
I would have liked to have had another day in Sligo, but I’m wary of time and all that’s left to see.
The next few days are going to be well spent soaking up Donegal – lets get going!
Day #9 – Exploring Donegal
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 on of the most breath-taking corners of our little island.
You’ll have gotten to bead 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!
- 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
- Lunch in Ardara
- Glenveagh National Park
- Rain gear
Day 9 Stop #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) //
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.
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 (you can drive right the way up to them) or for those looking to stretch the legs and get the heart rate up with a more vigorous climb.
Grab a coffee or an ice cream from the little cart at the base of the steps and sit back and absorb the mighty sight in front of you.
Day 9 Stop #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) //
Silver Strand Beach 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.
Day 9 Stop #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) //
Our next stop is the Folk Village in Glencolmcille.
This is 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.
Day 9 Stop #4 – Spin along the Glengesh Pass
// Glencolmcille to Glengesh – 27-minute drive (leave Glencolmcille at for 12:15, arrive to Glengesh for 12:45) //
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.
Pro 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.
Day 9 Stop #5 – Assaranca Waterfall
// Glengesh to Assaranca Waterfall – 16-minute drive (leave Glengesh at for 13:15, arrive to the waterfall for 13:31) //
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!
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.
Day 9 Stop #6 – The Caves of Maghera and Maghera Strand
// Assaranca Waterfall to Maghera Strand – 4-minute drive (leave the waterfall at 13:55, arrive to 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.
Day 9 Stop #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.
Day 9 Stop #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) //
Spanning an impressive 16,000 hectares, Glenveagh 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.
Day 9 Stop #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 (#NotAnAd), 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.
Where the road trip will take us on day 10 (Cliffs, Caves and Glamping by the sea)
The route on the map below looks a little bit crazy, but you’ll love every minute of it – I promise!
Our 10th day on the road sees us travel from Gweedore to Portsalon, absorbing every adventure opportunity that we can physically squeeze into the day.
Day #10 – Cliffs, Forests and Castles
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.
Here’s everything you need to know about day 10!
- 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
- Hiking gear
- Rain gear
Day #10 Stop #1 – A 360 view of Donegal from Horn Head
// Gweedore to Horn Head – 37-minute drive (Leave Gweedore at 8, arrive at Horn Head for 8:37) //
Our first stop of Day 14 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.
For those that want to walk it, John O’Dwyer provides a fantastic guide in the Irish Times here.
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.
Day 10 Stop #2 – Killahoey Beach
// Horn Head to Killahoey Beach – 13 minute drive (leave Horn Head at 9:47, arrive to the beach for 10:00) //
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.
Day 10 Stop #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) //
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.
Day 10 Stop #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 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.
If you’d like to read about the history of the castle before visiting, you can do so here.
Fancy checking out more of Ireland’s castles? Here are 7 of the best medieval castles Ireland has to offer.
Day 10 Stop #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) //
The drive we’re about to do is called the Atlantic Drive (thanks Frances-anne Gallagher for pointing it out in our 3-day Donegal Road Trip Guide).
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.
Day 10 Stop #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 to the pub for 13:46) //
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.
Day 10 Stop #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) //
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.
Day 10 Stop #8 – Fanad Head Lighthouse
// Lough Salt to Fanad head – 40-minute drive (leave Lough Salt at 15:40, arrive to Fanad for 16:20) //
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.
The whole craggy coastal area that surrounds the lighthouse is just out of this 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.
Fancy exploring Cork, Kerry, Galway, and Mayo over the course of a 5-day road trip? Here’s our full 5-day road trip guide.
Day 10 Stop #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 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.
Day 10 Stop #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) //
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.
Where the road trip will take us on day 11 (panoramic views, forts and loads more)
The 11th day of our Wild Atlantic Way road trip takes us onto the absolutely gorgeous Inishowen Peninsula, before making our way towards Derry.
Day 11 offers a solid mix of natural beauty and history (and, of course, food, coffee and a sneaky pint or three…)
Day 11 – Forts, Panoramic Views and Loads More
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 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!
- Grianan of Aileach (you’ll enjoy the drive up to this)
- Letting the mouth drop at Mamore Gap
- Glenevin Waterfall
- Malin Head
- Kinnagoe Bay
- Derry City Walls
- Free Derry Corney
- Rain gear
Day 11 Stop #1 – Grianan of Aileach
// Portsalon Luxury Camping to Grianan of Aileach – 1-hour drive (arrive for 9) //
The Grianan of Aileach is a hillfort that sits on top of the 801 ft high Greenan Mountain on Inishowen.
According to these lads, 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.
Day 11 Stop #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) //
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.
Day 11 Stop #3 – Mamore Gap
// Dunree Head to Mamore Gap – 15 minutes drive (leave the fort at 11:15, arrive to Mamore Gap for 11:30) //
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.
Ever wanted to check out the Northern Lights? Did you know you can see them light up the sky above Donegal? Click here for more info and tonnes of photos.
Day 11 Stop #4 – Glenevin Waterfall
// Mamore Gap to Glenevin Waterfall – 13-minute drive (leave Mamore at 12:10, arrive to the waterfall for 12:23) //
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.
Day 11 Stop #5 – Malin Head
// Glenevin Waterfall to Malin Head – 31-minute drive (leave the waterfall at 13:00, arrive to Malin Head for 13:31) //
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.
Day 11 Stop #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.
Day 11 Stop #7 – Kinnagoe Bay
// The tavern to Kinnagoe Bay – 38-minute drive (leave the tavern at 15:34, arrive to Kinnagoe for 16:15) //
Our next stop 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.
If you have, let me know in the comments below. If you haven’t, let me know what else you would have found useful.
Cheers – Keith!