Get ready for mile after mile of unforgettable memories. On this road trip along the Wild Atlantic Way— the longest defined coastal route in the world—you'll enjoy rugged scenery, gorgeous coastline, and off-the-beaten-path adventures from County Donegal’s remote Northern Headlands down to the picturesque southern peninsulas.

Highlights

  • Discover the ancient streets & modern culture of Dublin
  • Drive along the world-famous Ring of Kerry
  • See the awe-inspiring Cliffs of Moher
  • Explore the beauty of the Dingle Peninsula
  • Venture into the natural beauty of Connemara National Park

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Dublin Dublin
Day 2 Tour the Rock of Cashel - Cork Cork
Day 3 Cork to Kenmare (the Sheep's Head Loop drive) Kenmare
Day 4 Beara Way & Gleninchaquinn Park Kenmare
Day 5 Ring of Kerry to Dingle Dingle Town
Day 6 Dingle Free Day Dingle Town
Day 7 Cliffs of Moher Doolin
Day 8 Explore Galway Galway
Day 9 Connemara National Park & Clifden Clifden, Co Galway
Day 10 Sky Road Cycle/hike Westport
Day 11 Achill Island Westport
Day 12 Westport to Donegal Town Donegal
Day 13 Slieve League and back to Dublin Dublin
Day 14 Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Dublin

Dublin and the River Liffey at sunset.
Dublin and the River Liffey at sunset

Welcome to Ireland! After arriving at Dublin Airport, transfer to your accommodation and get checked in. If you're feeling rested, head out to explore in the afternoon. Visit one of the many remarkable museums, memorials, and cathedrals of this historic city—Trinity College is a great first stop, as is the Guinness Storehouse—then have dinner or a beer in a corner pub. 

Day 2: Tour the Rock of Cashel - Cork

The Rock of Cashel was the historic seat of Ireland's High Kings.
The Rock of Cashel, the historic seat of Ireland's High Kings

After breakfast, pick up your rental car in Dublin and travel south to Cork, Ireland's second-largest city. Along the way, you can make a stop at the Rock of Cashel. Once home to the High Kings of Ireland, this spectacular group of medieval buildings is perched atop a rugged outcrop of limestone. Consider having lunch at one of the many restaurants along the main road leading to the site before continuing your drive.

You'll reach Cork late in the afternoon. After settling into your accommodation, take the rest of the day to explore the city. A great place to start is the central English Market, with its ornate vaulted ceilings, columns, and polished marble fountain. Scores of vendors set up colorful and photogenic displays of the region's very best local produce here, including meat, fish, fruit, cheeses, and takeaway food.

Day 3: Cork to Kenmare (the Sheep's Head Loop drive)

Colorful foliage along the Wild Atlantic Way

After breakfast, you will set off on your first drive along the Wild Atlantic Way. You'll make your way along the coastal route, stopping off at towns such as Kinsale and Clonakilty before arriving in the town of Bantry. From there, you'll do a scenic loop drive around the Sheep's Head peninsula. This route takes in the entire peninsula; due to how narrow the land is here, you'll get fantastic views of the Atlantic on both sides.

Just 25 miles long, the journey can be done quickly. But you'll want to stop again and again for photo ops. Don't forget to walk down to Sheep’s Head Lighthouse, located in a special area of conservation. Following the loop, you will continue on your journey until you reach the town of Kenmare, gateway to the Ring of Kerry.

Day 4: Beara Way & Gleninchaquinn Park

 Islands off the Irish coast are rich with wildlife

Today you will take another glorious drive along the Beara Way. You'll have the option to visit one of two islands—Bere or Dursey—or to remain on the mainland and hike to the famous 2,500-year-old Uragh Stone Circle in Gleninchaquinn Park. This working sheep farm is home to one of Ireland's most beautiful waterfalls. Your walk takes you through fields dotted with sheep and up to the top of the waterfall with sweeping views across the valley and out to Kenmare Bay

Day 5: Ring of Kerry to Dingle

The Ring of Kerry.
Stonework along the Ring of Kerry

Today’s adventure takes you to the world-famous Ring of Kerry. Considered one of the most beautiful destinations in Ireland, this route features dramatic landscapes, wild coastline, golden beaches, blue lakes, picturesque villages, and spectacular mountain scenery.

A nice walk along the Ring of Kerry is the Derrynane Loop Walk, which is a moderate 5.5-mile route around Derrynane National Park near Caherdaniel. This walking route follows some of the Mass Path pilgrimage route and passes through the hillside woodland above the Derrynane Blue Flag Beach and Derrynane House. You will then make your way to the port village of Dingle on the picturesque Dingle Peninsula. The lively village is a great place to dine in a pub and hear some traditional Irish music.

Day 6: Free Day in Dingle

The dark blue waters around Dingle Peninsula

Today is an opportunity to take a boat trip to visit the Blasket Islands. Or you could stay in Dingle, a lovely town to ramble around visiting the numerous art galleries and other interesting shops. Alternative activities include kayaking on Dingle Harbor, visiting Dingle Distillery, or going horseback riding.

Day 7: Cliffs of Moher

Go for a cliffside walk along the spectacular Cliffs of Moher.
A cliffside walk along the spectacular Cliffs of Moher

Journey to the far western edge of Europe today to reach the awe-inspiring Cliffs of Moher. Forming a protective barrier from the Wild Atlantic Way to the rich and fertile land at the southern end of the Burren region, these iconic cliffs run for 5 miles along the coast. Their towering dominance is best appreciated on foot, so take the morning to explore their wild beauty with an easy hike, and make sure to bring a camera!

After lunch, make your way to nearby Doolin, a small coastal town filled with colorful cottages: it's known as the traditional music capital of Ireland.

Day 8: Explore Galway

The cobbled streets & colorful cafes of downtown Galway.
The cobbled streets & colorful cafes of downtown Galway

After breakfast, you will depart Doolin and travel north to the bohemian capital of Ireland, the city of Galway.

Suggested activities include:

  • Walk High Street and stop into one of the many stores selling local crafts. Stop in a café for Irish tea or try a pub for a perfect pour of Guinness.
  • If you're here on a weekend, meander the farmer's market and sample local foods.
  • Stroll the Salt Hill Promenade. Whether rain or shine, this walk to Galway Bay is relaxing and offers stunning views of the Burren—a natural landscape of limestone—off in the distance.
  • Catch a traditional music session in a pub. Taaffes Bar is known for nightly music, or try Crane Bar and Tigh Coili.

Day 9: Connemara National Park & Clifden

Dazzling reflections in Connemara National Park

Today you'll travel to Connemara National Park. Hike to the top of Diamond Hill before heading to Kylemore Abbey to get a bite to eat and explore its unique gardens. You'll overnight in Clifden

Day 10: Sky Road Cycle or Hike

Scenery along Ireland's Sky Road

It's time for a bike trip on the wonderful Sky Road, a 10-mile cycle loop. Take the quiet country road out of Clifden—overlooking Clifden Bay to the south and Streamstown Bay to the north—for spectacular views of the Atlantic and the islands of Inishturk and Turbot. You will also see the ruin of Clifden Castle, former home of John D’Arcy, who founded the town at the start of the 19th century. The terrain is relatively flat towards the end of the peninsula. Cyclists follow the coastline of the tranquil Streamstown Bay back towards the main road, which takes you back to Clifden. From here you will continue on your journey to the town of Westport. 

Day 11: Achill Island

The soft sands of Achill Island's Keem Beach.
The soft sands of Achill Island's Keem Beach

Escape to Achill Island today, driving an hour northwest of Westport and crossing the swing bridge from the mainland onto the west coast's largest island. Spend the day discovering the delights of this remarkable place, exploring its pristine beaches, searching for hidden coves, and taking a stroll through the "deserted village." The island is a paradise for watersports, with surfing, kayaking, and canoeing available to visitors, and its Keel and Keem beaches offer white sands and turquoise waters.

Day 12: Westport to Donegal Town

Northern Ireland
The sea stacks at Downpatrick Head

From Westport, you'll head for the north coast of Mayo and Ceide Fields—a 5,500-year-old Neolithic site. Nearby, you can go for a windswept coastal walk that will lead you to Downpatrick Head, where Saint Patrick is believed to have founded a church. Continue on to the ruins of Moyne Abbey near Killala, then head towards Ballina, which is also a great stop for lunch.

In the afternoon, you'll continue driving north, towards Donegal Town, via Bundoran, where you can dip your feet into the Atlantic Ocean. Your total driving distance for the day will be about 50 miles.

Day 13: Slieve League & Back to Dublin

Slieve League hiking in Donegal
Walking at the Slieve League in Donegal

After breakfast, you will continue your journey until you reach the magnificent cliffs of the Slieve League. To fully enjoy the spectacle of the Slieve League, it is best to leave your car behind and walk the few miles to the cliffs, so as not to miss the exciting scenery of the area. 

There are terrific views of the Atlantic Ocean, the Sligo Mountains, and Donegal Bay as you walk towards the terrifyingly high top of Sliabh Liag, where the cliff face of Bunglas rises over high above the raging ocean. Experienced walkers only should venture beyond the viewing point onto One Man's Pass which loops around onto the Pilgrim's Path. Then travel back to Dublin for one last night's stay.

Day 14: Departure

You will take a taxi or bus to Dublin Airport and bid the Emerald Isle Farewell. Safe travels!

Looking for more coastal trips in Europe? Check out kimkim's guide to Europe's best rugged coastlines.