Wild Atlantic Way Driving Route
The Wild Atlantic Way is a designated section of the West coast of Ireland. Its tagline is that you can ‘Explore 9 counties along this unforgettable coastal touring route to enjoy breathtaking scenery and exceptional experiences.’ I first travelled this part of Ireland around 1984, when we drove from Waterford, through Cork, Kerry, Clare and into Galway before heading home east via Dublin. I remember areas like Scull, Garnish Island, the Tarbert Ferry and the amazing Cliffs of Moher. This post outlines a decent Wild Atlantic Way Driving Route which takes in some of the key areas and sights in the area. This is also a driving route which I have recently done myself in November 2017.
This Wild Atlantic Way Driving Route will bring you from Kenmare to Doolin (or vice versa). The drive, according to Google Maps would take you around 6h 15 minutes but in reality, with Irish roads, it will be more than that. Don’t forget you will want to stop off and see these places. With this in mind, I suggest stopping overnight somewhere of your choosing along the way. You are quite close to Adare and also Limerick if you feel like venturing off-route momentarily for hotels.
The Wild Atlantic Way is a part of the world I remember from my youth, as we travelled these western costal counties of Ireland in 85, 86, 87 and 89. I have memories of Galway, The Tarbert Ferry, Lisdoonvarna, a quirky hotel in Kinsale which was full of nuns on the evening we stayed. You will experience real Ireland along the Wild Atlantic Way and I just love driving along these routes. I hope this blog post will be of help to you if you are in this part of Ireland.
Wild Atlantic Way Driving Route from Doolin – Top 10 places to see
I’m going to presume that you are starting in Doolin, Co. Clare and driving south. If you are starting my Wild Atlantic Way Driving Route in Kerry then just reverse these instructions and start in Kenmare. The Top 10 places to see and do will be outlined below as headings, working from Doolin south.
The Cliffs of Moher
I first saw the cliffs of moher when I was 10 and I can recall a big field where everyone parked and a basic café with a castle nearby. Things have really changed. Now the cliffs of moher has a proper car park and a full experiential interpretive centre. If you have the time you should walk a section of the cliff top route. It is breathtaking. There is a charge for parking here. I’m a photographer also, so this is a key spot on the Wild Atlantic Way for iconic photos of Ireland.
This is a very scenic area, often overlooked. It is on the way between the two endpoints on this journey and great as a stopping off point to stretch the legs and enjoy the view of the wild Atlantic. We stopped at a local hotel, got tea and used that as a base / car park to wander the local routes for an hour or so. It’s a part of the Wild Atantic Way which I hadn’t been to before and certainly worth the visit.
This was a new one on me. I only discovered it in 2017. There are cliffs near the golf course with parking nearby and it is worth parking and taking a walk down to the sea shore. You get a great view of the sea and cliffs from here. Following on from here you can, if you wish, go straight on and visit Loop Head and the Bridges of Ross. Again, this was a fantastic spot for photos, especially on a day when the sea was a bit rough.
The Tarbert Ferry
This ferry will bring you across the River Shannon at one of the widest points. The Journey takes around 25 minutes and gives you great views of the river and the surrounding countryside. The Tarbert Ferry is a paid for service and costs around €19 per car. There is a 10% discount if you buy the Tarbert Ferry ticket online.
Ballybunion is a beautiful coastal town and seaside resort in County Kerry, Ireland. It’s 15 km off-route from the town of Listowel. If you are a golfer, bring your clubs as there is a very good links course here.
I was here many times in the 80s and it is most famous for the Rose of Tralee festival which takes place every August. The town goes into really party mode for this event. Note, if you intend getting a hotel in Tralee during the festival it is best to book ahead as availability can be tight and prices can be out of the ordinary.
This town is famous for one very special visitor and that is Fungi and dolphin. If you have the time you might take a boat trip and you could get to see him as he leaps from the water. I was there in 1992 and we went on a wetsuit swum where you could meet the dolphin but it was so cold that we ended up going in as far as our knees. Apparently, he was feet in front of me but I couldn’t see him. Anyway, it’s a lovely town and worth seeing.
The key feature of Inch is Inch Beach. This is an impressive three mile stretch of sandy beach, ideal for bathing, surfing and many other water sports.
Killarney National Park & the Ring of Kerry
The area around Killarney National Park and the Killarney Lakes is some of Ireland’s most iconic and spectacular scenery. There is also the Ring of Kerry which, if you have time, you could also do as it forms a looped drive. Most hotels in the area have maps of the various areas you can visit on the Ring of Kerry.
This is a lovely little town with many areas around to walk and explore. If you are staying here for any length of time I recommend eating at the restaurant No. 35. This amazing restaurant sources local ingredient and creates dishes which are homely in taste but with an unusual twist. I eat here every time I visit Kenmare. The best food I have tried in that region of Ireland.
Just a note regarding driving these roads, if you go off-road, i.e. down to a remote viewing point etc, you might find that the roads are not the best maintained. Some of the roads have bad potholes and soft margins so make sure you have decent tyres on the car and you know that your vehicle can make it on the terrain required. It’s worth ensuring your insurance covers for emergency callouts and things like windscreen protection. If you are looking for good insurance and a comparison of policies the Chill Insurance website has a good tool which might help you.
I hope you have enjoyed my Wild Atlantic Way Driving Route along Ireland’s West Coast. It is a route I have done many times in different directions. I love stopping at the smaller towns as well as visiting abandoned areas of the coast. Next up, I might try write a post for driving routes on Ireland’s Ancient East.