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Making the Most of Driving the Wild Atlantic Way – Ireland

What is the Wild Atlantic Way?

The Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland is the world´s longest defined coastal driving route. It runs 1,600 miles (2,600 kms) along the west coast from Donegal on the north coast to Kinsale town, County Cork on the south coast of Ireland, with the counties of Donegal, Leitrim, Sligo, Mayo, Galway, Clare, Kerry and Cork along the way. It is infinitely beautiful, with miles and miles of majestic scenery, and lots of charming Irish towns dotted throughout.

Source: bbc.co.uk

Can you drive from start to finish?

Yes! It is a route designed for driving and for exploring the beauty of Ireland. There are organized tours available, however, we would recommend driving the route yourself. That way you can pick and choose the area or areas that you would like to explore. As the entire route is 1,600 miles, it is possible that you will not have time to see all of it one single holiday, so it is often a good idea to pick the northern or the southern route, or a few areas in each to maximize your enjoyment of it.

Source: Wild Atlantic Way

Drive the route South to North!

You will see that most tourism websites have advertised the route as going from north to south, however, we would recommend going from south to north, as in Ireland they drive on the left side of the road. Going south to north on the Wild Atlantic Way means that you will get to drive on the coast side of the road all the way. It improves the views that you have and means that you don’t have to worry about crossing the road in traffic when you pull over to enjoy the views or to take a photo.

Source: Lovin Dublin

What type of car should you rent?

The Wild Atlantic Way is a coastal route along Ireland´s most scenic roads, which often hug the coastline bringing you past breathtaking beaches and to the tip of peninsulas where you imagine you have reached the end of the world. There is nowhere more beautiful, but often these roads, due to their location, are narrow. For that reason, I highly recommend the car rental comparison website Car Booker when looking for a great deal on a car rental Dublin airport, or Shannon or Knock airport, which is large enough for your passengers and baggage, but no larger than that. We would avoid big SUVs, a compact or intermediate car class is more than sufficient. Also, remember that in Ireland cars come with manual transmission as standard. If you feel that you can´t or won’t be able to drive a manual, then you can opt for an automatic, but you will pay a premium price for the car.

Source: McKinlay Kidd

Where should we sleep?

There is a huge selection of different accommodation types all along the route. If you want a more Irish experience and to possibly save money, then opt for Bed and Breakfasts and Farmhouses where you will generally get to meet the families and have a more personal experience. Although if budget isn’t an issue, you can find many 5-star hotels and a few castles, and even a lighthouse to sleep in! In high season (June through August) it is highly recommended to book accommodation in advance.

Source: Brian McEniff Hotels

Highlights

Source: Wild Atlantic Way

Southern highlights:

  • Mizen Head
  • Portmagee Harbour
  • Skellig Islands
  • Slea Head Route
  • Muckross House
  • Loop Head
  • The Cliffs of Moher and the Burren

Source: Pinterest

Northern highlights:

  • The Aran Islands
  • Clifden
  • Croagh Patrick
  • Carrownisky Strand, Mayo
  • Streedagh beach and Benbulben, Sligo
  • Tory Island
  • Narin and Portnoo Beach

Source: Aran Islands

No trip along the Wild Atlantic Way, or anywhere in Ireland, for that matter, would be complete without a festival of music, food or culture. Check out the Wild Atlantic Way´s festival guide for 2019 to see what festivals are running.

To give you peace of mind, it is almost impossible to get lost along the Wild Atlantic Way, it is very well signposted, just look out for the WAW logo, and enjoy the spectacle that awaits you!

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