Stroll via our historical past, take pleasure in our spectacular surroundings, expertise our western seaboard.
The journey guides might speak of the Camino in Spain, however right here in Eire, we’ve a long-distance manner of our personal, much more in depth (and certainly much more dramatic) than that historical pilgrim route. Simply to provide you some thought, the Camino is a few 800 km in size from the Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela; our Wild Atlantic Method is over 2,600 km.
It’s in actual fact one of many longest outlined coastal routes on the earth. Stretching from Kinsale in Co Cork to Derry within the far north, it encompasses all that’s most breathtaking about our wave-washed shoreline, the place the ocean has carved and indented over 1000’s of years, creating sheer cliffs and sandy seashores, deep inlets and rugged promontories.
Offshore are islands, every with its personal story to inform, its personal lure, tempting us to take to a ship as so lots of our ancestors have achieved earlier than us.
Right here the previous traditions are nonetheless practised, and our native tongue nonetheless spoken. In some ways, travelling the Wild Atlantic Method is a gathering with the previous in addition to the current.
After all, it’s an enormous endeavor, all the route. You could possibly spend all the yr strolling it. Alternatively, you’ll be able to drive, or cycle. That’s the good attraction of this glorious seacoast route — it’s open to all types of journey (though it’d take a bit longer on a skateboard or scooter, they’re nonetheless choices). The primary factor is, first to understand what a nationwide treasure this Method is, and second, to get on the market and discover it.
Given its 2,600km+ size (and that doesn’t embody journeys to offshore islands), it’s in all probability best to have a look at the Wild Atlantic Method in sections, and maybe take one area first, following up with the others. However the place to begin? On the high or the underside — the Inishowen Peninsula in Donegal or the coast of West Cork?
Midway via, in Galway of the Tribes, or Lahinch in Clare? The best cliffs in Europe or our nation’s solely cable automobile? Granuaile’s castles or Daniel O’Connell’s house? Islands or museums? They’re all there.
The very best factor may be to search out an space you actually don’t know very properly or in any respect, whether or not north, west, or south, and make that your vacation spot area for the primary all-important journey of the yr. Wherever you select, you may be certain of discovering nice motels, great eating places, welcoming guesthouses, pleasant bars and cafes, and, possibly better of all, new pals to make and hold. The photographs you are taking, the experiences you acquire, the surroundings that lifts your soul to new heights, will all stay with you forevermore.
To make the selection simpler, let’s divide this magnificent long-distance route into 4 sections: Donegal to Mayo; Mayo to Clare; Clare to Kerry; and Kerry to Cork.
The Wild Atlantic Method formally begins within the feisty little walled city of Derry on Lough Foyle, with the cannons lining its ramparts a tribute to its turbulent previous. It’s an important place to spend the morning exploring and having fun with the native chat, earlier than heading up the gorgeous Inishowen Peninsula.
Moville, additional north, was one of many nice departure factors for transatlantic ships taking emigrants to the New World. It’s a must to go to Malin Head, essentially the most northerly level in Eire, and look out to Inishtrahull Island which over the centuries held a status second to none for smuggling.
Down by Letterkenny and on to views of Tory Island from Fanad Head with its lovely lighthouse. A number of ferry companies providing journeys to each Tory and Gola may be present in one of many many harbours alongside this stretch of coast.
No matter you do, don’t miss Sliabh Liag, at greater than 600m, the best cliffs in all Eire and one of many highest in all of Europe. There may be an accurately-named One Man’s Path main up and over these dizzying cliffs, positively not one to be tried by these affected by vertigo.
From right here, comply with south to Donegal city, then on to full of life Killybegs with its crowded harbour of trawlers displaying that the fishing business is alive and properly. Cross the county bounds for Sligo, and head out to the traditional Ceide Fields the place our far ancestors tilled the soil 1000’s of years in the past.
Then into Mayo and the Mullet Peninsula, of which Percy French wrote so movingly:
And I by no means can neglect you,
although it’s oh so way back,
Within the lavatory beneath Belmullet,
within the county of Mayo…
The cruel fantastic thing about this countryside is unforgettable, and should have stayed within the minds of so many who have been compelled to go away to hunt their fortune in far-off lands.
Achill Island is definitely reached as of late by a bridge from the mainland, and boasts spectacular seashores in addition to a abandoned village and considered one of Granuaile’s many castles. Granuaile, that nice sea pirate queen, favoured Clare Island in Clew Bay (and is claimed to be buried there), however to get a good suggestion of what she actually appeared like, head for the gardens of Westport Home the place there’s a splendid statue. Look out too for the lofty hill of Croagh Patrick with its many winding tracks worn by pilgrims all through the years.
Killary Harbour is considered one of Eire’s only a few real fjords, an extended sea inlet, with Leenane, lengthy a Mecca for fishermen, at its base. That is Connemara, which maybe encapsulates all of the craving photographs of Eire: whitewashed cottages, blue mountains, stone bridges, and the tender brown of turf bogs.
In actual fact, Derrigimlach Bathroom close to Clifden is the place Alcock and Brown crashlanded on the primary transatlantic flight from Newfoundland. Wander the winding lanes across the coast to Roundstone and are available to historic Spiddal and Galway metropolis. Or take a voyage out to the three Aran Islands: Inishmore, Inishmaan and Inisheer. You will see sufficient on the market to fascinate you for days. Then head for Doolin in Co. Clare to listen to a number of the finest fiddle music within the land.
The Burren, that unusual stone panorama, is claimed to have impressed Tolkien, who spent many holidays there (did Poulnagollum Cave recommend the title for considered one of his anti-heroes?) It’s one other of these unforgettable locations, the place what looks like clean stone pavement truly hides uncommon wildflowers inside little niches and grykes.
Lahinch is legendary for its splendid seashore and browsing. Kilkee has been a summer time vacation resort since Victorian occasions. That is the area of the West Clare Railway and you may nonetheless see remnants of its well-known line alongside the panorama by the coast.
It’s recorded that the railway firm used to throw heavy weights into the carriages on wild days to make sure the prepare didn’t tip over when traversing the windy coastal stretches.
At Moyasta, a museum cherishes relics and historical past of this legendary prepare. The dramatic cliffs of Loop Head, the westernmost level in Co Clare, not solely boast an exquisite lighthouse, but in addition featured in Star Wars.
Crossing the Shannon from Killimer to Tarbert, from Clare to Kerry, is one thing everyone ought to do, not simply as soon as, however a number of occasions a yr.
Being out on the waters of this mighty river (which right here feels extra like the ocean) offers your journey that nice sense of journey. As soon as safely on the Kerry aspect, make a journey upriver to Foynes Flying Boat museum for a peek into the previous when nice transatlantic passenger flights rendered the lengthy sea voyages out of date. They’ve the world’s solely full-size reproduction of a B314 flying boat right here.
Ballybunion has essentially the most splendid bay and seashore, splendid for household holidays. Tralee not solely hosts the well-known Rose competition annually, but in addition maintains a wonderful Nineteenth-century canal.
That is the beginning of one of many really breathtaking experiences of the Wild Atlantic Method, the Slea Head drive, by full of life little Dingle, full of retailers, pubs, and completely satisfied individuals, to Dunquin, and your first views of the legendary Blasket Islands.
Time was, visiting these may solely be undertaken on the calmest days, however in the present day’s ferries will undertake the quick crossing at most occasions, and you may wander on the well-worn grass tracks main from cottage to cottage, and bear in mind the writings of such greats as Peig Sayers, Tomas O’Crohan, and Muiris O’Suillebhain. Higher nonetheless, purchase copies of their books to refresh your reminiscence within the Blasket Centre on the mainland.
It’s additional alongside the coast that glimpses are provided of the Skelligs rising virtually sheer from the ocean. Skellig Michael was a spiritual web site for hundreds of years, however earlier than that was an historical druidic web site of energy. Little Skellig is a haven for wild birds, particularly gannets.
You may have the ability to go to by boat — it relies upon not solely on the climate, but in addition the crowds, drawn there by Skellig Michael’s temporary look in a Star Wars film. Valentia Island, additional on, may be reached by bridge. This was the place the primary commercially-viable transatlantic cable was laid, reaching far throughout to Newfoundland.
Killorglin is legendary for Puck Truthful, held on the identical three days in August since historical occasions. That is the event on which a wild goat (echoing very previous druidic rites) is hoisted to a excessive platform and there fed and cared for in the course of the truthful, later to be launched again into the mountains. Now we’re on the Ring of Kerry.
Derrynane was the house of the Liberator, Daniel O’Connell, and his household house may be visited, plus the bay the place, it’s mentioned, his household sometimes practised a little bit of smuggling to and from France.
And so forth to Sneem, and Kenmare the place it’s tempting to linger awhile within the retailers and cafes. However the Beara Peninsula beckons, with, at its very tip, Dursey Island and the one cable automobile within the nation. It’s a swaying journey throughout from the mainland to the island, however price it for the expertise. On the way in which again, name to see An Cailleach Beara, the Hag of Beara, and pay your respects to this historical stone which represents the feminine deity controlling the life and fertility of land and sea. The wealthy micro-climate of Glengarriff makes it a haven for uncommon and delicate vegetation, nowhere greater than on Garnish Island the place very good Italian gardens are lovingly tended.
Bantry city is a good base from which to discover Sheep’s Head and Dunmanus Bay, earlier than heading out to Mizen Head, held by most to be the southernmost level in Eire (truly Forehead Head, a stone’s throw away, is barely forward). The crashing waves listed below are exceptionally dramatic after a storm, and the previous sign station may be visited. The vast golden seashore of Barley Cove is rightly well-known, and everyone leads to Crookhaven on the finish of the day to take pleasure in native seafood and chat over drinks.
Baltimore is the place the ferries for Sherkin and Cape Clear depart, or you’ll be able to simply take pleasure in wandering alongside the quaysides and admiring the O’Driscoll citadel. Then it’s on to Skibbereen, Clonakilty, all of the beauties of the Seven Heads, and extra seashores than you possibly can presumably discover, earlier than the lengthy peninsula of the Outdated Head of Kinsale, a beacon for mariners for untold centuries, tells you that you’re nearing the tip of your journey. The bustling city of Kinsale, lengthy famed as a vacation spot for gourmets with its many well-known eating places, awaits. Now it’s time to take a seat down, chill out, and plan your subsequent exploration of The Wild Atlantic Method.