The big buzz last year in Irish tourism was all about The Gathering – the initiative to bring the Irish diaspora back to Ireland to connect with their ancestors, family, heritage and what-not. This year all the hype is about The Wild Atlantic Way – a 2500km coastal driving route taking you from Donegal in the north of the country, all the way south to Kinsale in Cork. Great idea, but… a lot of what I’ve heard/read so far is putting a lot of emphasis on the ‘driving’ aspect of this coastal route. As anyone who has spent time on Ireland’s west coast know’s, getting out on foot, on a bike, or on the water, is one of the best ways to explore our beautiful coastal areas. With that in mind, I’ve decided to share a few activities I’ve enjoyed in the past along the route, and a couple I’m looking forward to doing this year or next.
Hiking near Carrowkeel Co. Sligo
In my lates teens/early twenties, a few friends and I used to spend a few long weekends up in Leitrim. It was our reward after a tough few months of college. On one of the trips I coaxed a couple of the guys into coming along on a bit of a hike with me in neighboring Co. Sligo. I can’t remember too much about the area now, but I do remember being near Carrowkeel: a megalithic hill top passage tomb cemetery. This is a beautiful part of the country, with wonderful coastal and lakeside walks to enjoy. www.sligowalks.ie has tons of great info to get you started on your hike.
Kayaking in Killary Harbour.
My first introduction to kayaking came during a school trip to an outdoor center near Killary Harbour – one of Ireland’s only Fjords. The scenery in this beautiful part of the Connemara Countryside is like nothing else, and besides kayaking, there is a wealth of other activities to enjoy, from boating to fishing, scuba-diving to coastal hiking.
It’s been quite a few years since I was at Aillwee caves. I was nearby a couple of years ago, but time wasn’t on my side. It ended up being a toss up between the caves and the Cliffs of Moher: the cliffs won, so I’m looking forward to getting back again soon. From what I can remember, the caves are certainly worth a visit. If you get there before me, send me a photo 🙂
Clinging to the edge of the world at The Cliffs of Moher
One of Ireland’s more hyped attractions, and when you go there you’ll see why. Standing on top of the cliffs, looking over the edge, or out to sea, gives you a feeling of being on the edge of the world. It’s breathtaking! The sheer imposing size, the views from above looking down at the crashing waves, the wind! – all of this makes it one of my favorite coastal places to visit.
Horse Riding in Killarney National Park
What better way to explore one of Ireland’s most picturesque locations than on horseback. I did it in the spring of 2007, and again in 2009, with my wife. The mountain, lake and castle views are simply stunning! Bring your camera, but hold on tight to the reins 🙂
Splashing in the Atlantic on the beaches of Ballybunion and Ballyheigue
Another firm favorite on the college-break tour – the beaches of Ballybunion and Ballyheigue. Fishing, swimming, miles upon miles of beach walks, surfing, beach soccer and more is waiting for you. And if that’s not enough, don’t forget that you’re in the perfect spot for a round of golf. None other than ex-American president, Bill Clinton, is a bit of a regular at Ballybunion Golf Club.
Boat trip to see Fungi in Dingle
You’re probably one of a few if you’ve been to Dingle and not taken a boat trip out to see Fungi. Ireland’s favorite Dolphin, who just seems to go on living forever, first started entertaining his fans in the early 1980’s and is still doing so today. You can catch daily boat rides out to see the world’s friendliest dolphin from the pier in Dingle town.
Strolling the grounds of Charles fort and James’ Fort in Kinsale
I’m so happy to see that the Wild Atlantic Way route stretches all the way to Kinsale in Cork. Kinsale is one of my favorite places in Ireland. My wife grew up there, and we love spending a few afternoons there when we’re back home. Kinsale is home to many, many attractions, but 2 you shouldn’t miss are Charles Fort and James Fort. Of course the town itself is much loved too. Fine food, good nightlife, and plenty of friendly, chatty locals. Don’t miss it!
What’s your favorite thing to do on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way? Leave me a comment below.