The Wild Atlantic Way route runs from Derry, in the north, to Cork, in the south, and roughly follows the Atlantic Ocean coastline through nine counties and three counties. Along the way, you can stop at more than 172 stops. You can often find these stops in exceptionally beautiful locations or near a nice village or town, so you can enjoy a touch of culture, nature, or heritage for the ultimate trip.
Since the Wild Atlantic Way is so long, it's best to allow at least two weeks if you want to follow the entire route for your Ireland trip. If you don't have two weeks, you can always drive parts of the route. If you have more time, consider booking an extra night in some places, so you can explore the area at your leisure. The Wild Atlantic Way is a car route with little space for pedestrians, but here and there are parts where you can also travel by bicycle. In addition, the Wild Atlantic Way links up (more or less) with some other scenic routes, such as the Sky Road and Inagh Valley.
Know before you go
There is an airport in every corner of Ireland. To discover Ireland, travel the Wild Atlantic Way from north to south, as described in this itinerary, fly to Belfast, in the north, and depart from Cork, in the south. If you only want to cover part of the Wild Atlantic Way, you can also fly to Shannon, to the west. Finally, you can always fly to Dublin and drive from there to the Wild Atlantic way by car. You can rent a car from the airport or the city to start your journey.
For this Ireland tour, the country is divided into the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. As the United Kingdom is no longer part of the EU, you will need a passport if you fly into Belfast Airport or if you want to cross the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The Wild Atlantic Way is entirely within the Republic of Ireland.
- The Wild Atlantic Way follows coastal roads and narrow country roads. Often there are hardly two lanes, sometimes there is only one.
- In Ireland, people drive on the left side of the road and Irish drivers drive at a considerable speed. So be careful and make sure you keep driving on the left side of the road. Especially when you are tired, or when the road becomes very narrow, you will automatically drive on the right.
- The Wild Atlantic Way is marked on road signs with that typical wavy logo.
- If you don't have your own vehicle, renting a car would be the best option.
- This Ireland trip for the Wild Atlantic Way follows the coastline of the Atlantic Ocean, your trip is subject to the weather. Especially in the winter months from late November to early March, the sea breeze can be cutting cold.
- In the summer months from June to August, it is often a bit cooler than you would expect. Bringing waterproof and windproof clothing is a must, as are sturdy and warm shoes.
Travel at your own pace from north to south
As mentioned, you need at least two weeks to complete this Ireland tour of the Wild Atlantic Way. But of course, you just choose what you do and see. It's worth taking three weeks to explore this Ireland itinerary at your own pace, or just do part of the route if you're short on time. The Wild Atlantic Way is in every way a good guideline for exploring the west of Ireland.
- This Ireland itinerary lists a number of must-sees, but there are more sights on the Wild Atlantic Way than described in this guide. It is therefore advisable to explore on your own!
- For the above reasons, always allow some extra time to complete your Ireland trip. You will sometimes drive slower than you would estimate and of course, you will want to get out regularly to enjoy the view.
Day 1 - Inishowen Halbinsel
The Wild Atlantic Way starts in the village of Muff, County Donegal. Donegal County is the proverbial wild child of Ireland with its rugged, untamed landscape. Follow the Wild Atlantic Way along the coastline, and enjoy secluded beaches such as Five Fingers Strand and the dune-lined Culdaff Beach, marvelling at ruins of castles and fortresses such as the Grianán Ailigh Ring Fort, and discovering the splashing fern and moss-clad Glenevin waterfall.
Must see: Malin Head is the most northerly point of the Republic of Ireland. On the cliffs, you will find the remains of a lighthouse from the time of Napoleon and you can see the sea breaking on the rocks.
Route: you follow the Wild Atlantic Way from Muff to Letterkenny.
Where to Stay in Letterkenny:
Budget - Willow house
Mid-range - Station House Hotel Letterkenny
Luxury - Frewin Country House
Day 2 - Fanad Head
The second leg of your Ireland road tripfollows the shores of Lough Swilly, Mount Knockalla, and finally the coast of Donegal across the Rosguill Peninsula, where you can clearly see how the sea has shaped the land. From windswept, golden beaches to wave-sharpened cliffs, you'll see it all on this stage. Take a short break at Ballymastocker Bay, tucked away behind swaying grassy dunes, and enjoy the beautiful beaches.
Must see: from Horn Head, a cliff that towers over 180 meters above the sea, you have a great view over the raging sea and the island of Tory in the distance. Horn Head is especially atmospheric in August when the heather blooms on the cliffs.
Route: you follow the Wild Atlantic Way from Letterkenny to Bunbeg.
Where to Stay in and around Bunbeg:
Budget - Suil na nOilean Middle Killult Falcarragh County Donegal
Mid-range - The River House
Luxury - Bunbeg House
Day 3 - Slieve League Coast
The more you drive south on this ultimate trip, the more you see the landscape change. Donegal's wild nature gives way to the vast lakes and inhospitable swamps of The Rosses. Along the way, you will see the well-known, mysterious dolmen Kilclooney. At the Glengesh pass, the Wild Atlantic Way snakes away from the coast for a moment, through the grassy and heather-clad hills, before following the coastline south again. At the end of your day, the cosy Donegal town awaits you.
Must see: The cliffs of Slieve League are not the highest in Ireland, but they are some of the most beautiful. The rocky cliffs are covered with grasses, which form a beautiful contrast with the steel-blue sea. Take your time to stop here and enjoy the expansive view of the sea and the surrounding countryside.
Route: you follow the Wild Atlantic Way from Bunbeg to Donegal town.
Where to Stay in Donegal:
Budget - Donegal Lodgings
Mid-range - The Lodge @ Harvey's Point
Luxury - Lough Eske Castle
Day 4 - Sligo
As you drive south from Donegal town, the distinctive shape of Benbulben emerges in the distance as one of the top spots in Ireland. This flat-topped mountain is so beautiful that it crops up again and again in Irish legends, literature and even modern pop culture, such as the heartbreakingly beautiful film Song of the Sea. Stop at beautiful Mullaghmore Head en route and walk to the ruins of Classiebawn Castle. Or take a break at the disused harbour of Raghly or Easky Beach, which is a surfer's paradise with its high, rolling waves.
You can experience the magic of Sligo as part of this 6 day tour around Ireland that you can book here.
Must see: At the end of your day, stop at Inishcrone Beach for a sunset beach walk. With a bit of luck, you will have the extensive beach all to yourself and you can enjoy the sun undisturbed.
Route: you follow the Wild Atlantic Way from Donegal town to Ballina.
Where to Stay in Ballina:
Budget - The Woodlands
Mid-rand - Sunrise View
Luxury - Ice House Hotel
Day 5 - Erris
This stretch of the coast is arguably the most beautiful in all of Ireland. The jaggedly incised land with cliffs that are sometimes up to a hundred meters high, is simply breathtaking. It’s therefore best to take your time for this day, because you will want to get out of your car along the way to enjoy that natural beauty. Start your day off with this Ireland tour at the ruins of Rosserk Abbey, then discover the rock arch of Muilgelly in the Atlantic Ocean and the lighthouse of Ballyglass, then finish with the stone circle of Fallmore named Deirbhiles Twist, on the Mullet Peninsula.
Must-see: stretch your legs on a stroll through the historic village of Killala. The houses and church in gray stone are so typical of Ireland. The people here still speak the native language of Irish as well!
Route: you follow the Wild Atlantic Way from Ballina to Belmullet.
Where to Stay in Belmullet:
Budget - Kilcommon Lodge Holiday Hostel
Mid-range - Barbers Hall Apartment Town Center
Luxury - The Talbot Hotel
Day 6 - Clew Bay
When you see the bright blue coves of County Mayo, you would think that you’re in the Caribbean - yet this region is Ireland through and through. Drive along the meandering roads and enjoy the ever-changing landscape. The secluded beaches of beautiful Doohoma Head feel like you're at the end of the world. Roam through the overgrown foundations and between the roofless cottages of the abandoned village of Achill Island. Then, right before entering Westport, stop at the beautiful ruins of Burrishoole Abbey and the surrounding graveyard.
Must see: Westport is located on Clew Bay, a picturesque bay with numerous small islands. Simply beautiful to admire from the beach or from a kayak or rowing boat on the water. Especially at sunset such a trip on the water is highly recommended.
Route: you follow the Wild Atlantic Way from Belmullet to Westport.
Where to Stay in Westport:
Budget - Rosmo House B&B
Mid-range - Westport Country Lodge Hotel
Luxury - Castlecourt Hotel, Spa & Leisure
Day 7 - Killary Harbour
Every day on this ultimate Ireland trip for the Wild Atlantic Way is different from the last. Today, the jagged coastal landscape gives way to mist-shrouded valleys and heather-clad mountains that glow in the sun or deepen in colour under the shadows of the clouds. After the first part of your drive, which takes you past the ruins of Murrisk Abbey and Mount Croagh Patrick, you'll drive a little inland until you reach the beautiful, mystical Doolough Valley.
The ever-changing light makes a visit to this magical valley. After Doolough you drive along the Killary fjord - Ireland's only fjord - and the beautiful coastal roads to Clifden.
Must see: in Clifden, you can take the Sky Road and take a small side trip from the Wild Atlantic Way. Especially in summer, when the purple heather and wildflowers grow on the roadsides, the Sky Road is out of this world.
Route: You follow the Wild Atlantic Way from Westport to Clifden.
Where to Stay in Clifden:
Budget - Eriu Lodge
Mid-range - Clifden Bay Lodge
Luxury - Clifden Station House Hotel
Day 8 - Connemara
Connemara has been called the real, pure Ireland. There's something otherworldly about the swampy landscape, something that's hard to put your finger on. You follow the rocky coast, which cuts deep inland, towards Galway. Along the way, you can stop at Connemara National Park, where you can learn more about Connemara's swamp and forest areas.
You can also explore Connemara as part of a day trip that you can book here.
Or, stop in the fishing village of Roundstone, where the ships moor at the bottom of the small harbour at low tide. Another option is to blow out for an hour on Coral Beach. Once you reach Galway, enjoy the vibrant student city with its restaurants and pubs. Do you love live music? This is the place to be!
Must see: from Galway you can visit the illustrious Aran Islands. It seems as if time stands still in the Aran Islands. Wander through streets lined with gray stone houses and low stone walls, which are networked all over the island. You need a whole day to visit the islands. You can therefore consider staying an extra night in Galway.
Route: you follow the Wild Atlantic Way from Clifden to Galway.
Where to Stay in Galway:
Budget - Gardenfield House Bed & Breakfast
Mid-range - The Lane - Boutique Residence
Luxury - Glenlo Abbey Hotel
Day 9 - West Clare
This part of Ireland is something special: visit the Burren National Park and discover the arid, rocky subsoil often described as a lunar landscape. This area is especially beautiful in spring and summer when millions of wildflowers bloom. The lighthouse at Black Head is another atmospheric stop, as is the village of Doolin, with its colourful houses, where live music plays in the pubs every night.
Must see: The Cliffs of Moher are among the highest cliffs in Ireland. From the cliffs you can see very far in good weather and it is said that you can sometimes see whales and basking sharks swimming in the clear water. Not for those with a fear of heights - the cliffs tower more than 200 meters above the Atlantic Ocean.
Route: you follow the Wild Atlantic Way from Galway to Kilkee.
Where to Stay in Kilkee:
Budget - Hilltop B & B
Mid-range - Lynch's
Luxury - Bay View Hotel
Day 10 - Shannon
This part of the Wild Atlantic Way road trip takes you around the mouth of the Shannon, Ireland's longest river, where several species of birds breed on the natural banks. Because the estuary was a strategic place for the defence of the interior, you will find several ruins of medieval castles, such as Carrigaholt Castle and Carrigafoyle Castle. South of the Shannon rises the cliffs of Bromore and a little further south you'll find the ruins of Ballybunion Castle, which overlooks white sandy beaches and the verdant interior.
Must see: a little more inland is the monastery ruin of Rattoo, with a round, pointed tower. These kinds of towers are typical of Ireland. Its purpose is still not fully clarified.
Route: you follow the Wild Atlantic Way from Kilkee to Tralee.
Where to Stay in Tralee:
Budget - Derreen Tighue House
Mid-range - Castlemorris House
Luxury - Ballyseede Castle
Day 11 - The Dingle Peninsula
The Dingle Peninsula, with its whitewashed fishermen's houses and narrow lanes, is one of those places where you can really feel the authentic Ireland: it seems as if time moves more slowly here than in the rest of the country. As if the beautiful coastal route wasn't enough, you'll find several things to visit on the peninsula. From pristine beaches, such as Derrymore Beach, to lively coastal towns such as Dingle and archaeological sites such as Fahan, with its prehistoric stone huts and caves.
If you're short on time, definitely consider booking a 2 day tour that includes the Dingle Peninsula here - so you can explore the most out of it.
Must see: Dunquin Pier, in the west of the peninsula, is a place much loved by photographers. Please note - this part is best visited on foot, there is not much room to maneuver a car and you do not want to get stuck.
Route: you follow the Wild Atlantic Way from Tralee to Castlemaine.
Where to Stay in Castlemaine:
Budget - Leabrook House
Mid-range - Murphys Farmhouse B&B
Luxury - Murray's Mountain View
Day 12 - Ring of Kerry
The Wild Atlantic Way on your Ireland road trip almost completely follows the well-known Ring of Kerry, which circles the Iveragh Peninsula on this leg. That means it might be a little busier than the rest of the Wild Atlantic Way, but there's a reason: the Ring of Kerry is beautiful. Take the time to marvel at Doulus Bay and its various historic forts, such as the Iron Age Cahergal Stone Fort. These kinds of ringforts can be found all over Ireland and they date from different time periods. Cahergal is one of the most beautiful.
Must see: twelve kilometers from the coast is the UNESCO site Skellig Michael, a former monastery on a small island. You can visit the ruins and bird watchers will find a fascinating variety of seabirds, including the cute plump puffins.
Route: you follow the Wild Atlantic Way from Castlemaine to Kenmare.
Where to Stay in Kenmare:
Budget - Gortamullen House, Kenmare
Mid-range - The Kenmare Bay Hotel & Leisure Resort
Luxury - Brook Lane Hotel
Day 13 - Bearra
The penultimate stage takes you on very narrow coastal roads across the Bearra Peninsula - not suitable for large vehicles. The Bearra Peninsula is known for its several Bronze Age archaeological sites, such as the Ardgroom Stone Circle and the Leitrim dolmen. Due to the mysterious atmosphere that surrounds these types of monuments, people in the past believed that elves lived there. We now know more about stone circles and dolmens, but from the past legends, the mysterious atmosphere is still there as you discover Ireland.
Must see: the ruins of Kilcatherine Church and its cemetery are worth a visit. The thin tombstones, especially those with the characteristic Celtic crosses, look very moody. It is especially atmospheric at dusk.
Route: you follow the Wild Atlantic Way from Kenmare to Durrus.
Where to Stay in and around Durrus:
Budget - Barry's Bed and Breakfast
Mid-range - Ballycommane House & Garden
Luxury - Westlodge Hotel & Leisure Centre
Day 14 - West Cork
The final stretch of the Wild Atlantic Way leaves the rugged west coast of the island and takes you along the south coast to the city of Cork. But not before you can fully enjoy the beauty that the Wild Atlantic Way has to offer one last time. Take your time for this part, because there is a lot to see here, the highlights of which are the beach at Barley Cove, the rocky Coosacuslaun Bay with its swirling waters, the Drombeg Stone Circle, and the mysterious Coppingers Court, the ruins of a manor house from the 17th century.
You can also experience West Cork as part of a full-day tour from Cork here.
Must-see: Before heading out into the city hustle and bustle of Cork, make a stop in the coastal town of Rosscarbery, with its colourful houses and spacious beach overlooking Rosscarbery Bay. If you want to end your trip peacefully, you can book an extra night here.
Route: you follow the Wild Atlantic Way from Durrus to Kinsale.
Where to Stay in Kinsale:
Budget - Rock view B&B
Mid-range - The Lemon Leaf Café Bar and Townhouse
Luxury - The Old Bank Town House
Map of Ireland and West Atlantic Way
Here is a map of Ireland as well as your West Atlantic Way itinerary. You can follow along or click on each destination for more information: