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Wild Atlantic Way Road Trip

Experience the Wild Atlantic Way

Spanning the length of Ireland’s west coast, the Wild Atlantic Way is an epic 1600-mile (2600km) drive that’ll take you along some of Europe’s most spectacular shores. Since opening in 2014 it has already gained legendary status by attracting millions of domestic and international travelers to its roads.


If an exhilarating drive on the open road is what you like, the Wild Atlantic Way has everything you could want. Complete with windswept beaches, rugged cliffs, and quaint villages, breathtaking views are plentiful. And then there’s the culture – the west of Ireland has long been a magnet for writers, artists, and musicians alike so expect galleries, gigs, and festivals along the way.


Our guide gives you everything you need to plan your Wild Atlantic Way road trip. Whether you want to take it easy with an itinerary of several days or cherry pick the best bits for a shorter driving break, the choice is yours. However you do it, fáilte – welcome – to the Wild Atlantic Way.

Car hire Ireland
Skellig islands, Ireland

Getting to and around the Wild Atlantic Way

Travelers are spoiled for choice when it comes to getting to the Wild Atlantic Way with several airports near the start of the route. The best option depends on where you're travelling from and where you’d like to start your trip.


If you want to set off close to the start of the Wild Atlantic Way, head to Ireland West Airport (also called Knock Airport). The area bills itself as the western hub for the Wild Atlantic Way with 9 of the 15 signature discovery points nearby. Car rental at Knock Airport is easy to find in the arrivals area.


Located in the heart of the Wild Atlantic Way, Shannon International Airport is another popular starting point for keen road trippers. Having picked up your hire car at Shannon Airport, you can be driving the Wild Atlantic Way in as little as 30 minutes. Other airports offering car rental include Cork and Kerry.


Another option could be to fly into the capital and hire a car from Dublin Airport - adding a scenic extension on to your Wild Atlantic road trip.

How long does it take to drive the Wild Atlantic Way?

Driving from end to end without a break would take just 32 hours, but that would be rushing this incredible experience. Most people take between 3 and 5 days to drive the Wild Atlantic Way but you can easily stretch the journey out over a week or two. If you want to immerse yourself in western Ireland, the other option would be to drive the route in short chunks and return for more of its famed scenery and hospitality.

When is the best time to visit?

If you are planning a trip, it’s time to weigh up when is the best time to travel the Wild Atlantic Way. The weather in Ireland is notoriously unpredictable but for longer light hours head to the Wild Atlantic Way in the summer months of June, July, and August. If you want to experience the road trip in quieter times, going outside the peak months – April and May or September and October could be your best bet. If weather is not a concern, the winter months are peaceful - although some tourist attractions may be closed or have winter operating hours.

Where does the Wild Atlantic Way start and end?

The Wild Atlantic Way crosses nine counties and three provinces. The route kicks off in style on the breathtaking Inishowen Peninsula in the north of County Donegal. The finish line is in the colourful harbour town of Kinsale in County Cork.


The north-south route was the original itinerary of the Wild Atlantic Way, but you can also do it in reverse. The advantage of doing it in reverse is, since motorists drive on the left in Ireland, your passengers will get the best views from the side of the road hugging the seashore.


Whichever direction you decide to opt for, you're in for a road trip like no other. Read on for a taste of what to expect from each county along the route...

The Wild Atlantic Way route


As the starting (or end) point for the Wild Atlantic Way, County Donegal is always going to be a little bit special. Co Donegal is home to the spectacular and not-to-be-missed cliffs of Sliabh Liag – higher than the Cliffs of Moher in the Burran region of Co Clare.


You’ll be heading off the beaten track as the route enters County Leitrim. The landscape is peppered with lakes, picturesque towns and castles. Don’t miss Lough Gill, inspiration for Yeats’ poem The Lake Isle of Innisfree


The route enters a wild landscape of mountains, hills, and peat bogs as you pass through County Sligo. Renowned for its beautiful coastline, you can expect a mix of quiet coves and vibrant seaside towns. The county is firmly associated with WB Yeats whose grave is in a cemetery in Drumcliff, near flat-topped Benbulbin Mountain. Don’t miss the Yeats Memorial Building in the county capital, Sligo.


County Mayo offers a bit of everything. From the setting of Hollywood film The Quiet Man in the town of Cong, to atmospheric towns such as Westport. Don’t miss the holy mountain, Croagh Patrick.


With a mix of rolling countryside and rugged coastline, Co Clare is one of the most romantic stretches of the Wild Atlantic Way. It is often described as ‘otherworldly’ and filled with magical landscapes, lakes, and castles (you can even stay in some of them). Don’t miss the world-famous Cliffs of Moher and if you are driving the whole route, compare them to Sliabh Liag, their larger counterparts in Co Donegal.


You’ll want to take some time to soak up the vibrancy of Galway City with its historic Latin quarter, markets, and delicacies. Galway is famed for its Galway Native Oyster (which has its own festival) and is justifiably a foodie paradise.


There’s a lot to love about this section of the Wild Atlantic Way route. County Limerick is home to the bustling main city of Limerick on the banks of the River Shannon. With a mix of medieval and Georgian architecture, Limerick was the 2014 City of Culture and is renowned for its literature, arts, and music. The thatched village of Adare is definitely worth a detour.


The buzzing town Killarney and nearby Killarney National Park are integral to the Wild Atlantic Way route. As the route crosses County Kerry, you’ll be entering the setting for another of Ireland’s greatest road trips, the Ring of Kerry.


With its wild peninsulas, lush farmlands and remote islands, County Cork is a fitting end (or beginning) to the Wild Atlantic Way. Cork city itself is known as the foodie capital of Ireland, so either a great way to celebrate the end of your trip or fuel up for the journey ahead.


The Aran Islands

Just 30 miles from Galway Bay, the Aran Islands are the last islands to the west of Ireland before you reach the United States. These beautiful islands are famous for their stone walls, knitted jumpers and thriving seal colonies. You can get to the Aran Islands by ferry from Galway or from Doolin in Co Clare. Hiring a bike or boarding a horse-drawn cart is the perfect way to experience life at a different pace.


Cliffs of Moher

The Cliffs of Moher in County Clare are Ireland's most-visited natural attraction and made even more popular by a scene in Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince. There is an 18km walking path around the cliffs with dramatic views from O'Brien's Tower.


Skellig islands

Two tiny uninhabited islands, Skellig Michael and Little Skelig can be reached by ferry from Portmagee on the southwest Kerry leg of the Wild Atlantic Way. Skellig Michael has a well-preserved Christian monastery with steep steps and beehive-shaped stone huts and crosses. For bird lovers, Skellig Michael is a haven for puffins while Little Skellig is home to a colony of gannets.


Whale and dolphin watching

Taking time out during the trip for the chance of seeing whales and dolphins is a highlight of the journey. There are boat trips to go whale and dolphin spotting along the whole coastline. As well as sea safaris, guides will offer land-based trips to potential vantage points where a sighting will add to the magic of your trip.


Getting on the road

So, there you have it, our guide to the Wild Atlantic Way. We hope this gives you a taste for the fantastic variety of western Ireland.


When you’re ready to embark on your road trip, our friendly Avis team is on hand at our car rental locations around Ireland. Before you do, make sure to familiarise yourself with the latest advice and road rules with our handy guide to driving in Ireland.