One for the Road: The Wild Atlantic Way
The Wild Atlantic Way has been named one of the Best International Self-Drive Routes in the world at an awards ceremony in Shanghai, China. The honour, given by car rental portal HuiZuChe, was based on votes from over 10 million Chinese travellers.
The accolade adds to the growing amount of international attention the route has received in recent years, including Lonely Planet’s naming of the Wild Atlantic Way as the best of five of the planet’s top “offbeat coastal road trips” in 2015.
The longest coastal touring route in the world, the Wild Atlantic Way, which stretches from the rugged and windswept Malin Head in the northwest to the pretty fishing village of Kinsale in the south, winds through six distinct regions in the west of Ireland. There are 15 Signature Discovery Points located along the way, taking in quaint islands, peaceful harbours and towering cliffs.
Here are five special spots:
Slieve League (or Sliabh Liag) in County Donegal offers some of the highest and most impressive sea cliffs in Europe. Reaching to a height of 601 metres, the cliffs, which for more than 1000 years were the site of a devoted Christian pilgrimage, provide unparalleled views of the Atlantic Ocean, Donegal Bay and the Sligo Mountains.
The unique karst scenery of The Burren in County Clare makes for an unforgettable experience. With more than 560km2 of limestone landscapes, its eroded appearance conceals an abundance of natural treasures; over 700 types of flowering plants and ferns grow here, representing a whopping 75% of Irish native species - pretty impressive for a region that makes up just 1% of Ireland’s land mass.
As a result of its diversity, most of The Burren has been designated as a Special Area of Conservation under the EU Habitats Directive.
The Ring of Kerry in County Kerry contains some of the world’s most jaw-dropping landscapes. With something new around each bend - from ocean cliffs to islands, mountains, valleys, towns and villages - it’s simply unequalled, and driven in under a day.
The circular excursion also includes the Skellig Ring - recently named by Lonely Planet as one of the top 10 regions travellers should visit in 2017 - from which the Skellig Michael and Little Skellig Islands, where two recent Star Wars movies were filmed - can be spotted or even visited.
For those seeking their adventures out on the water, there’s big wave action to be found at Mullaghmore Head in County Sligo. The beauty of its endless sandy beach is matched only by the adrenaline-pumping swells which roll into Prowlers, sometimes reaching up to 30 metres. Of course, nothing beats warming up after an exhilarating session with a creamy pint by the fire in one of the small fishing village’s cosy pubs.
Without a doubt, no visit to the Wild Atlantic Way is complete without a trip to the fabulous Cliffs of Moher in County Clare. One of the most visited natural attractions in Ireland, it’s a place where old meets new and the natural world and the human world collide in harmony. Check out the state-of-the-art, eco-friendly visitor centre built right into the hillside before trekking across to the 19th-century O’Brien’s Tower - which visitors can still enter.
With awe-inspiring vantage points along 8km of cliffs and abundant wildlife tucked into every crevice, it’ll practically leave you breathless.
So whether it’s seeking the splendour of the Northern Lights, sampling a sip of a local craft brew, or following your fan fervor to film locations for movies and TV shows like Star Wars and Game of Thrones, you’ll find plenty of culture, views and new things to try along the route, and you’ll see why the world is currently in love with the Wild Atlantic Way.