Welcome to the stunning western coast of Ireland, where the Wild Atlantic Way uncovers hidden treasures that will leave you in awe an wanting to experience more. While the popular spots along this epic route are certainly worthwhile, we’re here to take you off the beaten path and unveil the lesser-known, yet equally breathtaking, destinations. Join us on a journey to County Donegal, County Galway, and other picturesque landscapes that will capture your heart and soul and allow you to experience the best of the Wild Atlantic Way.
County Donegal: The Hidden Treasure
Prepare to fall in love with County Donegal, a hidden gem tucked away on Ireland’s western coast. We absolutely loved with this part of the Wild Atlantic Way as although we visited in peak summer season, this area was quiet and we were made to feel like the only people in the country at many of the spots that we visited!
Slieve League Cliffs
This untouched corner of the country boasts unspoiled landscapes, dramatic cliffs, and a sense of tranquility that is hard to find elsewhere. Begin your exploration with a visit to the majestic Slieve League Cliffs, where towering cliffs meet the Atlantic Ocean, offering breathtaking views that will leave you speechless. Slieve League Cliffs are the highest sea cliffs in Europe so it is definitely worth a visit! Be sure to take your time here and soak in the awe-inspiring beauty of this natural wonder.
You can either bring your vehicle and park in the nearby car park which is a 45 minute walk from the cliffs and costs €5 for 2 hours or €15 for the day. Another option is to park up at the Visitor Centre for free and get on a shuttle bus for €6 return. The drive is 10 minutes and drops you off right at the cliffs. The driver also gives a lot of information about the area.
Glenveagh National Park
Continue your journey to the exquisite Glenveagh National Park, a pristine wilderness nestled amidst mountains and loughs. Here, you can wander through the lush forest trails, marvel at the reflection of mountains in tranquil loughs Look out for the red deer that call this park home as well. It’s an oasis of peace and serenity that will leave you feeling connected with nature.
Fanad Head Lighthouse
For a touch of maritime charm on your Wild Atlantic Way trip, make your way to Fanad Head Lighthouse. Perched on a rugged headland, this picturesque lighthouse offers panoramic views over the wild Atlantic waves crashing against the cliffs. Take a leisurely stroll along the surrounding beaches, feel the wind in your hair, and let the beauty of this remote location sink in.
Malin Beg Beach
While you’re in the area, don’t miss the chance to visit Malin Beg Beach, a hidden cove with crystal-clear waters that will leave you tempted for a swim!
County Donegal has more to offer than just breathtaking landscapes. Venture into Donegal Town, a charming town steeped in history and culture. Explore the historic architecture, wander through the quaint streets, and delve into the local pubs where the warmth of the Irish welcomes you. Immerse yourself in the traditional music and the lively atmosphere, and you’ll be captivated by the genuine hospitality of the locals.
Exploring County Galway: Gateway to Adventure
Welcome to County Galway, a region filled with vibrant culture and natural wonders that you will not want to miss! County Galway offers a perfect blend of history, stunning landscapes, and a sense of adventure.
Connemara National Park
Begin your trip at Connemara National Park, where rugged mountains and pristine loughs create a landscape of unrivalled beauty. Hike through the wilderness, breathe in the fresh air, and lose yourself in the tranquility of this captivating national park.
No visit to County Galway would be complete without a trip to Kylemore Abbey, a breathtaking castle that seems to have emerged straight from a fairytale. Explore the historic Victorian walled gardens, stroll by the tranquil lough, and uncover the fascinating history of this iconic landmark. Allow yourself to be transported to a bygone era as you wander through the stunning surroundings.
For a true hidden gem, venture to Inishbofin Island, a haven of unspoiled beaches and walking trails. Take a boat trip to this remote island and uncover its pristine beauty as you explore its secluded beaches, hike along its scenic trails, and marvel at the untouched landscapes. The ferry leaves from Cleggan Pier and costs €12 per adult for a return ticket. The journey takes around 30 minutes.
Immerse yourself in the tranquility of this hidden paradise, and let the magic of the Atlantic Ocean work its wonders.
Before leaving County Galway, make sure to pay a visit to Dunguaire Castle. Perched on the shores of Galway Bay, this medieval tower offers stunning views and a glimpse into Ireland’s feudal past. Allow yourself to be transported to a time of chivalry and romance as you stand on the castle’s battlements, surrounded by the beauty of the surrounding landscape. Capture the essence of history and create memories that will last a lifetime.
Check out Dunguaire Castle website for exclusive banquets that you can attend here in the castle ruins.
While County Donegal and County Galway are just the tip of the iceberg, the Wild Atlantic Way has many more hidden gems waiting to be explored.
County Sligo boasts the iconic Benbulbin, an incredible table mountain that dominates the skyline. Hike to the summit and be rewarded with stunning panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. Make a stop in Strandhill, a charming coastal village known for its invigorating surf and laid-back atmosphere. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore Sligo town, with its rich literary heritage and vibrant arts scene. Spend some time there enjoying the live music that is on in many of the bars in the town.
County Mayo is home to Achill Island, Ireland’s largest island, where rugged cliffs, golden beaches, and quaint villages await. Climb to the top of Croagh Patrick, a holy mountain that affords breathtaking views of Clew Bay and the surrounding countryside. End your journey in the picturesque town of Westport, where colourful Georgian buildings, lively pubs, and a warm sense of community create an inviting atmosphere.
Continuing south, County Clare offers the rugged beauty of Loop Head, with its dramatic cliffs and scenic walks that will take your breath away. Discover the hidden gem of Kilkee, a seaside town with its stunning horseshoe-shaped bay and natural rock pools. And marvel at the beautiful Blackhead, where the wild Atlantic meets the limestone cliffs, offering a spectacle of nature that cannot be missed.
County Kerry invites you to embrace the wonders of the Dingle Peninsula, a place of breathtaking landscapes and rich cultural heritage. Take a boat trip to the Skellig Islands and marvel at their beehive huts and intriguing history. Explore the rugged cliffs and captivating views of Valentia Island. And lose yourself in the enchanting charm of the town of Dingle, renowned for its music and thriving arts scene.
Tips for Exploring the Wild Atlantic Way
Now that you’re armed with knowledge of these hidden gems along the Wild Atlantic Way, let us provide you with some practical tips to make the most of your adventure.
First and foremost, be prepared for unpredictable weather. The Atlantic Ocean has a strong influence on the climate, bringing a mix of rain, sunshine, and changing conditions. Dress in layers and ensure you have a waterproof jacket, warm sweater, and sturdy boots to keep you comfortable no matter the weather.
Driving along the Wild Atlantic Way is relatively straight forward. Take your time to familiarise yourself with Irish traffic regulations, including speed limits and road signs. In Ireland, they drive on the left and the speed is in km/hour. Always drive cautiously and keep a safe distance from other vehicles, using passing places on single track roads.
As you explore the quieter locations on the route, be mindful of wildlife who may be roaming on the roads. In rural areas, it’s not uncommon to come across sheep and deer on the roads. Reduce your speed, watch for signs indicating potential animal activity, and avoid sudden movements or honking the horn if you encounter them. Give them space and let them pass safely.
From the rugged landscapes of County Donegal to the vibrant culture of County Galway, and the hidden treasures in between, Ireland’s western coast is a playground waiting to be explored. Take the road less traveled, immerse yourself in the breathtaking scenery, and let the hidden gems of the Wild Atlantic Way weave their magic into your heart and soul. Step into a world of natural wonders, rich history, and warm hospitality, and discover the beauty of Ireland’s western shores. With so much to explore, you’ll undoubtedly want to return and discover even more hidden gems along this incredible part of Ireland.
Before You Leave for the Wild Atlantic Way
Before you set off on your way to the Wild Atlantic Way, there are a number of things you will need to get organised to ensure a smooth and enjoyable journey. These include what to pack, where to stay and what is the best insurance for your trip to Scotland. All of this is discussed in detail below.
How to Get to the Wild Atlantic Way
In order to reach the Wild Atlantic Way, there are mant ferry terminals you can arrive into from the UK.
Ferry terminals from the UK:
Fishguard to Rosslare Ferry.
Holyhead to Dublin Ferry.
Pembroke to Rosslare Ferry.
Cairnryan to Larne Ferry.
Cairnryan to Belfast Ferry.
Liverpool to Dublin Ferry.
Liverpool Birkenhead to Belfast Ferry.
Douglas to Dublin Ferry.
Where to Stay on the Wild Atlantic Way
Explore the Wild Atlantic Way’s charming stays and choose your ideal hotel with our map for an unforgettable coastal adventure.
What to Pack for Your Trip to the Wild Atlantic Way
When it comes to packing for a trip to the Wild Atlantic Way there is one item of clothing that you are going to need all year round: a waterproof. It rains in Ireland on average 225 days a year on the Wild Atlantic Way, meaning that during your trip to the west of Ireland, you can expect rain at some point. Due to this, the number one item on your packing list is a good waterproof jacket.
Second to that, another item to not leave home without is a good pair of warm and, if possible, waterproof boots. A lot of the best sights on the Wild Atlantic Way can require a bit of walking to reach them and the conditions underfoot can become very muddy if it has been raining. You do not want to ruin a good pair of white trainers so pack some sturdy boots.
You will definitely need a hat and gloves during the winter months as the wind chill can be bitter.
Given the beautiful sights and scenery that you are no doubt going to see on the Wild Atlantic Way, we highly recommend packing a good camera for your trip. If you want to read more about the cameras we use and why we love them, check out the link below.
Microphone – Shure VP83 Condenser Shotgun Microphone
Main Lens – Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8
Zoom Lens – Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8
Camera Tripod – ZOMEI Z669C Camera Tripod
Gorilla Pod – JOBY JB01507-BWW GorillaPod
Drone Camera – DJI Mavic Pro 3
Sturdy Phone Tripod & Selfie Stick – ATUMTEK 61″ Selfie Stick Tripod, Sturdy Phone Tripod Stand with Wireless Remote
What is the Best Travel Insurance for the Wild Atlantic Way
I know travel insurance is the least enjoyable thing to purchase and look at when you’re planning a trip, however, you wouldn’t want to be without it in the event that something happened. Accidents can happen anywhere and the extortionate medical bills will ruin your trip if you are not covered.
To ensure you have a stress-free trip with no worries about potential medical bills, make sure you cover yourself when you travel. We can recommend using SafetyWing, a backpacker-friendly and cheap insurance company that provides good coverage and support. It is also nomad-friendly, unlike most other insurance companies, meaning you do not need to worry about being out of your home country for too long.
So there you have it, a general guide to visiting the Wild Atlantic Way. If you are visiting this incredible country and have any other questions on what to expect, leave us a comment down below. We love to chat about this stuff! If you have already been, let us know how it was!
Also, remember to share this with your friends and family that you are going to share this amazing experience with. Sharing is caring and we want to ensure that everyone is fully prepared to maximise their experience completing this stunning road trip.
If you are planning an Ireland trip soon then check out our other Ireland content right here. Come and find us on social media to see where we are currently exploring. Tag us in your photos from your stay and we will share them with the rest of our community of explorers and backpackers.
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