Connecting Malin Head in Donegal in the north of Ireland to Kinsale in Co Cork in the south of Ireland, the Wild Atlantic Way is the world’s longest defined coastal touring route. Taking in breathtaking views and passing by famous landmarks, it should be on the top of anybody’s agenda that is travelling to Ireland.
The Wild Atlantic Way is also full of something Ireland is famous for – quaint, picturesque towns. Here are ten worth visiting between the north and south of the famous coastal route.
Kinsale is an incredibly beautiful fishing town in Co. Cork that is known for two things – a fascinating and extremely well-preserved fort and a plethora or bars and restaurants. The fort – Charles Fort – is one of the finest surviving examples of a 17th Century star-shaped fort, and much of the construction that begun in 1678 remains. The bars and restaurants? You’ll discover them when you get there.
The town of Kenmare is a well-known stop-off point for those driving the Ring of Kerry. Full of tour buses stopping off for their Irish stew, there’s always a lovely atmosphere here. If you’re there in the evening try to catch one of the stunning sunsets on Kenmare Bay.
Dingle is arguably Ireland’s most famous town thanks to more pubs than you can shake a stick at and a dolphin that is one of Ireland’s best-known inhabitants. The scenery in the surrounding Conor Pass and Dingle Peninsula will leave you lost for words.
Built around a horseshoe bay that hugs a kilometre stretch of golden sand, Kilkee is also the biggest town on the Loop Head Peninsula. It’s another spot boasting some stunning scenery and sea cliff panoramic views.
A sport you might not associate with Ireland is surfing, but the west coast of the country is where you’ll find some of the world’s best waves. Lahinch is one of the towns serving those surfers looking to catch their next tube. If surfing isn't your thing, Lahinch is also one of the many towns you can stop in to visit Ireland’s world-famous Cliffs of Moher.
Photo courtesy of Andrew Whitacre
I love Spiddal because people there do exactly what you heard they do – speak to each other in Irish. Stop off to refuel your car, and you might overhear somebody saying ‘Tá sé fuair!’ (It is cold) in winter or, hopefully, ‘Tá sé te’ (It is hot) in summer.
When I think of Westport, I think of three things – Clew Bay, Croagh Patrick, and stag parties. Having been on a stag party or two there, I prefer to think of the more natural aspects of the town when pondering over it. Stop here, and you’ll have endless photo opportunities on Clew Bay, while bringing your hiking boots if you want to get to the top of one of Ireland’s highest mountains.
Another town well-known for its surfing, Strandhill also offers visitors hiking up Knocknarea (The Hill of Kings), delicious seafood in its restaurants and a beach to bake in if the weather is on your side.
Dating back to 1613, Ballyshannon is thought to be the oldest town in Ireland. It’s surrounded by archaeological sites and is quieter than many of its counterparts along the Wild Atlantic Way.
Ireland’s largest fishing port is for many the final stop north for those driving the Wild Atlantic Way. Home to a host of heritage trails, folk villages and more, it’s a pleasant place to stop along the route. Just make sure to try some seafood before you leave.
Don't forget to check out our guide to the 15 best cafés in Ireland to stop off at.
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