People visit Ireland for many reasons. Some love its rolling hills, castles and hearty pub food. Others can’t resist having a jig in local pubs, listening to live music. Some groups will even head all the way here to trace their heritage or visit distant relatives in the countryside. Whatever the reason, almost no one leaves this beautifully green and welcoming country without fond memories by taking a road trip along Wild Atlantic Way Ireland.
(Need some tips on driving in Ireland? Check out this great post!)
It’s fairly simple to navigate from city to city via the great train or bus system. But we opted to rent a car from Dublin and cruise our way west to the Wild Atlantic Way. This stretch is 1,550 miles of rugged coastline just begging to be explored any time of year. We touched only upon a few highlights and can’t wait to return in the near future.
Sligo’s Unforgettable Music
The Wild Atlantic Way drive began through the Republic of Ireland with a few nights in the town of Sligo. Usually, this pretty and scenic destination is alive with pedestrians, café people watchers and shoppers. But even more excitement happens during the Fleadh Cheoil, which is the world’s biggest traditional music festival. This year was the second time Sligo has hosted the event, welcoming more than 400,000 concert goers throughout the week to enjoy live music demonstrations, parades, competitions and an influx of talented buskers. Even the president of Ireland made an appearance at the opening ceremony.
While the large stage shows are well-loved, our group especially were enchanted by the kiddos in town who swayed on the streets with their drums, cellos and fiddles. They’d have small crowd form on the cobblestone streets clapping along, even despite the sprinkle of rain. It’s a fun way to get everyone involved in the local music scene during the day. Make sure you give Hargadons a try for dinner, as they have some of the best mussels and chips (French fries) around. The kids will love fried cod, sausages, burgers and more. The Sligo City Hotel is ideal for accommodations, as it makes the downtown area very walkable and easy accessed as well.
Exploring Galway’s Charm
A couple of hour’s drive from Sligo is the bigger, but just as vibrant, city of Galway. This is one of the more popular spots among tourists to visit for its wide pedestrian streets, tasty seafood options, and cozy, family-friendly pubs. Grab a basket of lunch grub at McDonagh’s Seafood, then hunt for a Claddagh ring and other traditional Irish jewelry in town.
Wild Atlantic Way Ireland; Off to the Coast
Either take your car an hour or two to the coast from Galway, or hop on one of the many bus tours from Galway that will bring you to some of the historic and natural highlights. The kids might find spots like the 5,800-year-old Poulnabrone Dolmen a snore (it’s a lot smaller than you think!), but they certainly will have a great time at the Cliffs of Moer. This gorgeous spot offers dramatic cliffs that end with crashing waves into the ocean. Some will arrive early for a walk along the top at sunrise, but they are stunning to experience up close any time of day. There’s also a small museum at the visitor’s center with a children’s section, short 3-D movie, and snacks. Walk along the cliffs by first turning right for a shorter stroll and come to the O’Brien Tower. For a couple of Euros, you can climb the small tower and be rewarded with an even more spectacular viewpoint. It’s a perfect conclusion to an adventure along the Wild Atlantic Way Ireland.
Have only one day to take in Ireland’s scenery? Check out this 1-day itinerary taking you from Bantry to Mizen, where you can discover Barleycove, Sheep’s Head Peninsula, and other Irish beauties along the way.
Itching for a longer getaway? Grab your friends and plan this 5-day itinerary filled with the best of the Irish countryside and unforgettable adventures like rock climbing or zip lining.
Whether you’re on the road for a day or five, you still won’t be able to get enough of Ireland’s beautiful landscape.
Pure Wander enjoyed a trip through Wild Atlantic Way Ireland in partnership with Tourism Ireland. All opinions are our own.