7 of the Wildest Sights Along the Wild Atlantic Way

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Along the western shore of Ireland, where the Atlantic Ocean crashes against the rugged coastline, you will find the longest sign-posted driving route in Europe. The Wild Atlantic Way winds through 1500 miles of Ireland’s most rugged terrain; skirting mountains, hugging the sea-side cliffs, and passing through areas of incredible history.

To fully explore the Wild Atlantic Way- and do it well- would take months. Since few of us have that much vacation time, use these recommendations- one for each county along the route- as a starting point for your own Ireland itinerary.

Must-See Sights along the Wild Atlantic Way

Traveling from the most northerly point in Ireland to the most southerly, these are some of the wildest spots to visit along the Wild Atlantic Way.

Inishowen Peninsula, Donegal

EIRE navigational marker from WWII at Malin Head in County Donegal. Wildest sights along the Wild Atlantic Way. Ireland travel tips.
EIRE navigational marker from WWII at Malin Head

Reaching into the chilly North Atlantic, the Inishowen Peninsula is Ireland’s most northerly, and most remote, point. The 100 mile drive around the peninsula leads you through thousands of years of history – from 1700 BC at the Grianan of Aileach Ring Fort to The Great Hunger at Doagh Famine Village to British Naval History through World War II at Fort Dunree. Don’t skip Malin Head, Ireland’s most northerly point, where you’ll find the ruins of a Napoleonic Tower and one of the EIRE navigational markers used by pilots in WWII.

2 other Wild Atlantic Way sites in County Donegal

  • The Slieve League Cliffs are 3 times higher than the famed Cliffs of Moher.
  • Fanad Head is home to one of the most beautiful lighthouses in the world- as well as a stunning beach.

Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery, County Sligo

Dolmen at Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery in County Sligo. Queen Maeve's Tomb atop Knocknakae is in the distance. Wildest sights along the Wild Atlantic Way. Ireland travel tips.
Dolmen at Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery. Queen Maeve’s Tomb atop Knocknarae is in the distance.

Only a slight detour from the coastal route leads you to one of Ireland’s most ancient spots: Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery. At least 30 passage tombs can be found within the heritage site, with that many more on the private land surrounding. The largest tomb on site has been excavated and can be entered, revealing a roofed central dolmen and megalithic art.

2 other Wild Atlantic Way sites in County Sligo

  • View the rugged shoreline from the ocean with an Eco Tour from Ewing Sea Charter in Rosses Point.
  • The tabletop mountain of Benbulben is a spectacular sight- and well worth the climb if you enjoy a challenging hike.

Achill Island, County Mayo

Strong winds on Achill Island, County Mayo. Wildest sights along the Wild Atlantic Way. Ireland travel tips.
Strong winds on Achill Island

Accessible by bridge, windswept Achill Island is the largest island off Ireland’s coast. Achill is home to a high percentage of native Irish speakers, as well as 5 of Ireland’s best beaches. Explorations of the island reveal a castle of Ireland’s pirate queen, Neolithic tombs, a famine village, and the dramatic White Cliffs of Ashleam.

2 other Wild Atlantic Way sites in County Mayo

  • Discover how farmers in Stone Age Ireland lived at Ciede Fields archaeological site.
  • You’ll travel ‘beyond the end of the road’ to learn the history of Ireland’s Lost Valley.

Sky Road, Connemara, County Galway

View from the Sky Road, Connemara, County Galway. Wildest sights along the Wild Atlantic Way. Ireland travel tips. Photo by Jody Halsted.
Views from the Sky Road.

Few drives in Ireland offer the perception that your car may just launch off the edge of the cliff and into the churning waters of the Atlantic Ocean- but that is exactly the feeling you will get as you wind along the Sky Road. With often just a small row of stones separating you from the precipice, and the high probability of encountering cyclists, walkers, tours buses, and oncoming cars, you’ll likely white-knuckle this scenic drive. Pull of at the few designated parking areas to take in the views of the rugged landscape and endless ocean.

2 other Wild Atlantic Way sites in County Galway

  • The Aran Islands, reachable by ferry or small plane, offer an incredible feeling of ‘authentic Ireland’.
  • If you enjoy hiking or great views stop at Connemara National Park and hike to the top of Diamond Hill.

The Burren, County Clare

Poulnabrone Dolmen in the Burren, County Clare. Wildest sights along the Wild Atlantic Way. Ireland travel tips.
Poulnabrone Dolmen

Too often passed through as people drive between the famed Cliffs of Moher and Galway, the Burren is a section of Ireland you will see nowhere else. Known for its barren-ness, one only has to look a bit more closely to discover hardy vegetation thriving in the limestone terrain. Animals, both wild and domestic, make their home atop the stone-covered hills, and a thriving food trail leads you through the delicious flavors harvested locally from land and sea.

2 other Wild Atlantic Way sites in County Clare

  • The Cliffs of Moher are the most popular tourist attraction in Western Ireland, and well worth a visit.
  • Remote Loop Head Peninsula takes you off the tourist trail and rewards you with wildlife sightings, a stunning lighthouse, and untouched coastline.

Skellig Islands, County Kerry

Little Skellig from Skellig Michael. Wildest sights along the Wild Atlantic Way. Ireland travel tips.
Little Skellig from Skellig Michael

One of Ireland’s three UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Skellig Islands are located off the Kerry coast. Skellig Michael, or Great Skellig, was the location of a Celtic Christian monastery from the 6th thru 12th centuries. Skellig Michael is both a remote and dangerous site, and not suited for all visitors– especially the very young or infirm. For those that do visit, Skellig Michael is easily one of the most amazing sites you can experience in Ireland. The second island, Little Skellig, is home to large populations of seabirds and is closed to the public.

2 other Wild Atlantic Way sites in County Kerry

  • The Ring of Kerry has long been a tourism destination for its famed beauty.
  • The smaller, but no less scenic, Dingle Peninsula is host to beehive huts, ancient stone forts, and a resident dolphin.

Sheep’s Head Peninsula, County Cork

Sheep's Head Lighthouse, County Cork. Wildest sights along the Wild Atlantic Way. Ireland travel tips.
Sheep’s Head Lighthouse

If you wish to visit a spot where tour buses can’t go- and very few tourists venture- the peninsula of Sheep’s Head will delight you. At the end of the road sits the charming café, Cupán Tae, where you can enjoy a freshly made scone, an ice cream, or a beverage. For a view that even fewer people see, lace on your hiking shoes and venture toward the signal house at the end of the peninsula. It’s 2km as the crow flies, but you’ll easily traverse twice that distance as you climb the rocky peaks and wind through the verdant valley to reach the end of Ireland.

2 other Wild Atlantic Way sites in County Cork

  • Mizen Head, with its lighthouse and span to the rocky island, is the farthest south-westerly point of Ireland.
  • The village of Kinsale is the end (or beginning) of the Wild Atlantic Way and famous as a ‘foodie’ destination.

 

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About the Author: Jody H

Jody Halsted has been traveling across Ireland for over a decade, discovering sites and activities on the tourist trail and off. Dedicated to family travel in Ireland, her website Ireland Family Vacations, provides exceptional advice for a magical Ireland vacation. Jody is also the author of Planning the Ireland Vacation of Your Dreams, a step-by-step guide to planning your dream vacation to Ireland.

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