On this drive you will explore Ireland’s beautiful far West – starting where the ancient Kingdom of Kerry meets wild West Cork – great peninsulas with mountainous spines stretch miles out into the ocean. Where ice-age landscapes meet west-coast warmth, and music is a way of life. It’s a place for clifftop walks, island-gazing, sunsets and traditional pubs … and soul-stirring views: rainbows in the ocean spray along. From the crystal waters of distant Erris to the “savage beauty” of much-loved Connemara, the Wild Atlantic Way skims south around some impressive bays. Connemara means “inlets of the sea” in Irish, and here water and land merge in a lacy shoreline of loughs, coves, islands and sea-swept blanket bogs.
Welcome to Ireland folks! Arrive in Shannon Airport (or pre night in Dublin) where you collect car. From Shannon, you will be heading to the beautiful town of Dingle in County Kerry, enroute you will stop at the pretty village of Adare and traverse the dramatic Conor Pass on what is perhaps the most dramatic and scenic peninsula in the country. Limerick City is home to King John’s Castle and the Hunt Museum. You will enjoy lunch in Adare one of Ireland’s prettiest villages with its charming thatched cottages, ancient Abbey and Castle. Dingle retains the charm of a fishing village despite being a popular tourist destination. After checking into your accommodation, explore Dingle village where you will find some lovely shops and enjoy your welcome dinner that evening.
A highlight of your trip, The Dingle Peninsula day trip. From Dingle head to the harbour village of Ventry, in which the ancient tale of the Battle of Ventry Strand is based. On leaving Ventry the Drive continues westward, past the remains of Dunbeg Fort, and the Fahan group of Clocháns or Beehive huts. At Fahan hairpin bend the road crosses a ford. The next drive now follows the coast north, past Coumenoole Strand, this drive continues with a sheer cliff on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other. The Drive now reaches Slea Head itself, marked by a stone crucifixion scene, with dramatic views to South Kerry and the Blasket Islands. Stops at Dun Chaoin, Ballyferriter, Bally David will loop you back to Dingle Village where you will be rewarded with a pint of the black stuff and a traditional Irish meal.
After an early breakfast depart from Dingle in the direction of Brandon to drive over the renowned Conor Pass, Ireland’s highest mountain pass. At the summit Brandon and Tralee Bays can be seen to the north, with the sandy Castlegregory peninsula separating them and to the south lies Dingle Bay. Continue to Tralee and Tarbert where you will take a ferry crossing on the Shannon Estuary to County Clare. Continue north to the Cliffs of Moher. The majestic Cliffs of Moher are without doubt one of Ireland’s most spectacular sights and overlook the Atlantic Ocean on the coast of West Clare. You then arrive at the village of Doolin. Doolin is world-famous for its wealth of Irish folk music and in recent years has been attracting crowds to spontaneous sessions in any one of its excellent pubs. Just north of the Cliffs you then have the lunar like Burren region and the ancient Poulnabrone Dolmen Tombs as well as the Aillwee Caves.
Today we travel north west to Galway and on to the Connemara region west of Galway. You will get a chance to visit Dunguaire Castle and take in the views of Galway Bay. You will also have the chance to stop in Galway City, the ‘City of the Tribes’ and experience all the culture the city has to offer. The Collegiate Church of St Nicholas of Myra dating back to 1320. Nearby popular sites to visit are Galway Cathedral, the Spanish Arch, Lynch’s Castle and Eyre Square. Continue west of Galway to the hauntingly beautiful Connemara Region. Situated on the most western seaboard of Europe, this unspoilt region boasts breathtaking scenery. The characteristic features of Connemara include its rugged, unpolluted coastline, dramatic mountains, numerous lakes and rivers and woodlands and the renowned Connemara National Park. Visit Kylemore Abbey and the Lough Inagh Valley as well as the spectacular Sky Road near the town of Clifden. You can also visit the fishing village of Roundstone and see how a ‘Bodhran’ (traditional Irish Drum) is made by master Bodhran maker Malachy Kearns.
Driving north from Connemara, stop to walk along the fjord at Killiary harbour or indeed take the catamaran cruise through Ireland’s only fjord. From there travel just south of Westport to see Croagh Patrick, otherwise known as Ireland’s ‘Holy Mountain’ upon which St. Patrick spent 40 days fasting. The area around Croagh Patrick is rich in archaeological remains which provide an interesting insight into life in times past. Westport House is located west of the Shannon and is one of Irelands’ most historic homes open to the public.
You have a fun packed day ahead, Leaving Westport for Achill island along Clew bay, first stop is Burrishoole Abbey, saved in your Garmin in ‘Favourites’ set in lovely quiet countryside adjacent to a still lake.
Continue along the route to Mulranny, and then on to Achill sound. A dramatic drive over the bridge onto Achill island itself. The tour across the island is both dramatic and wild, with a mix of great ocean views and mountain passes.
Onwards to Keem beach, a lovely Blue star beach, ideal place for a swim on a hot summers day. Drive back to Westport for the evening and enjoy this wonderful town, voted best town in Ireland in 2012.
On your last day you will experience a mixture of heritage, culture and beautiful landscapes. From Westport, visit the Village of Cong on route to Galway. The famous movie, ‘The Quiet Man’ starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara was filmed in this location. Here you can visit locations from The Quiet Man film such as the dying man’s house, Innisfree, Castletown, the river fight scene, ‘hats in the air’ scene, Rev. Playfairs house, Pat Cohan’s Bar and many more. Another slight detour of note on this route is the village of Knock. It is a major Roman Catholic pilgrimage site and it is claimed there was an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1879. Galway City, the ‘City of the Tribes’ also known as Ireland’s Cultural and festival capital. Galway City will enthral you particularly the Quays area of the city centre at evening time. Other sites in Galway include Ireland’s largest medieval parish church, the Collegiate Church of St Nicholas of Myra dating back to 1320. Christopher Columbus reputedly worshipped. The quay’s area of Galway City is the ideal place to spend your final evening as you will find some of the best traditional entertainment in the country in some of the finest pubs in Ireland.