written by
Joe Boone

Ruggedly beautiful and with plenty of attitude, Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way is a traveler’s dream come true.  
Whether you are seeking that journey of a lifetime or just want to escape the world as you know it to truly become one with nature, Ireland’s 1,553-mile-long coastal road, the Wild Atlantic Way, has you covered. Launched in 2014, the Wild Atlantic Way is the longest-defined coastal touring route in the world. Stretching along the country’s western coast, from its northern tip to its southernmost point, the route is divided into six zones, each with its own well-defined character.  
Ireland’s dramatic western sea coast, weathered and wild, has remained relatively unscathed by man’s existence. Looking out over its cliffs, you feel like you are standing at the edge of the world, just as inhabitants did in ancient times. Converting drifters to dreamers and inspiring painters and poets, it's played host to numerous TV and movie productions over the years including Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Game of Thrones. 
From the wind-whipped tip of Malin Head in northern County Donegal, to the town of Kinsal’s balmy shores in County Cork some 1,500 miles to the south, relentless Atlantic waves are forever changing the island’s coastline. Sheer cliffs plunge into crashing Atlantic waves. Remote weather-beaten islands and spectacular rock formations skirt the craggy shore. Deserted beaches with Caribbean-like waters lap at the cusp of mountain ranges, while grazing sheep peacefully enjoy verdant green pastures in between. 
One of the grand highlights along the Wild Atlantic Way are the Cliffs of Moher, formed over 320 million years ago. Nestled between the churning waters of the Atlantic and the lunar-like Burren, one of Ireland’s most fascinating landscapes, the Cliffs of Moher jut out of the Atlantic reaching a height of over 700 feet, running along the coast for nearly eight miles. Together, Burren and the Cliffs of Moher form a UNESCO Global Geopark, offering simply stunning views. The best place to take it all in is from O’Brien’s Tower, a historic lookout point on the edge of the cliffs. Encompassing some of Ireland’s most famous natural landmarks, the route also takes in a myriad of other coastal regions like the Ring of Kerry, Galway’s Connemara region, and Skellig Michael, County Kerry’s magnificent coastal isle.? 
Moving inland, rolling emerald hills lined with centuries-old stone walls stretch as far as the eye can see. Numerous lakes (known as loughs or lochs) intermittently dot the landscape, while occasional fields of spongy wet blanket bogs lie in direct contrast to karst landscapes full of caverns and sinkholes. 
But Ireland’s western coast is about much more than its natural beauty. It’s unforgettable moments like chatting with friendly locals at a pub and tapping your feet to traditional music while savoring oak-smoked salmon and a cold Guinness. It's meandering along gently rolling roads through lush open fields, occasionally stopping at quaint, pub-filled seaside villages and traditional Irish towns with thatched country cottages. Fascinating discoveries can be made around every bend, including dozens of historic lighthouses and castles like Bunratty Castle in County Clare, built-in 1424. Most of all, it’s the ancient culture and heritage that has made Ireland and its people so profoundly welcoming. 
To enjoy all that Wild Atlantic Way has to offer can take two to three weeks with hundreds of reasons to stop and explore along the way. Fortunately, it’s a well-marked route that can be easily broken into shorter sections linked with major cities in Ireland. Bus tour providers and packages are popular options among all types of travelers, offering a plethora of choices regarding destinations, accommodations, and duration of stay.? 
However, one of the most immersive ways to experience the Wild Atlantic Way is to drive it yourself. Renting a car or motorcycle allows you to choose your own itinerary and schedule while renting a motorhome or campervan can add another dimension of freedom to your holiday travels. If you’re planning to sit behind the wheel, remember that you’ll be driving on the left. If that seems a little too daunting, a popular alternative is to hire a private driver, giving you more time to focus on the sights, not the road.? 
Despite its narrow country roads, the Wild Atlantic Way has been gaining traction among bicycling and hiking enthusiasts in recent years, with car-free sections being added, including Burren Cycleway, Great Western Greenway, Berea Way Cycling Route, and the Aran Islands. Your best bet by bike is a self-guided tour where bikes, luggage transfers, lodging, and much more can be arranged for you. Walking trails and tours are also available to suit all levels including day hikers and long-distance trekkers. Large organized meetups known as walking festivals, with the Ballyhoura International Festival being the oldest and biggest of its kind, typically span a weekend, with locals and visitors taking to the trails to enjoy a bit of exercise, gorgeous views, and lively camaraderie of other trekkers, often followed by evenings at a local pub. 

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