Aran Islands

7 Day Road Trip Along The Wild Atlantic Way

Getting There

Ireland is well serviced by most international airlines with Aer Lingus and Ryanair offering seriously low fares to most of its airports. The Wild Atlantic Way stretches the entire length of the country so if you’re planning on undertaking this immense road trip, it doesn’t matter what airport you arrive into as you’re never more than a few hours drive away. However if it is possible then try to fly into Cork or Donegal Airport as their north and south locations make for good start and end points.

Getting Around

The Wild Atlantic Way is vast, covering over 2,500 km of some of the most jaw dropping rugged scenery Ireland has on offer. You can choose to travel all of it or some of it but word of warning; allow as much time as possible because no matter what corner you turn on this long and windy road, you will find yourself stopping whatever mode of transport you’re traveling in to take another photo to add to your already full memory card. Buy a local data sim card the moment you arrive in Ireland so you can access Google Maps, a life saving app when you find yourself lost in the Irish countryside miles away from any form of civilisation. Getting lost is encouraged by the way.

Hire Car
Hiring a car is the best way to travel along the Wild Atlantic Way with rentals available from all the usual suspects.

Camper Van
If like us you’re feeling like you want to truly live and breathe the Wild Atlantic Way then get your hands on a fully kitted out camper van from Retro Camper. If you’re flying into Dublin airport they will even pick you up because they’re real nice like that. Remember that camper vans are slow so allow loads of extra time to get around.
WebRetro CamperMap: Co. Meath

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Public Bus 
57 Euro Approx / 3 Day Travel Pass
Bus Eireann offer a nationwide 3 Day hop-on hop-off pass with the option of adding extra days if 3 days is just not enough time, its really not by the way.
WebBus Eireann

Itinerary

There are so many ways of doing the Wild Atlantic Way but we chose to do it over 7 days in a bright red camper van, the absolute craic! We packed a lot in (too much at times) and sometimes drove for hours at a time but no regrets and all that. We’d also like to be able to say that we followed every inch of the 2,500km route but sadly 7 days just wouldn’t be enough time. We’ve listed our full 7 day itinerary below with some unmissable choice food picks. Btw, our journey starts and finishes in our home town, Dublin.

Day 1 – Dublin / Cork

Kinsale 
The perfect first stop, a picture postcard quaint Irish seaside town with personality seeping from its veins. You would be a fool to not stop and spend a few hours here.
WebKinsale | Map: Here

Lunch @ Dino’s
Fish & chips that would rival Irelands best. In fact, we’d put it in our top 3 best fish & chips we’ve ever had. We’ve had loads by the way so thats saying something.
WebDino’s | Map: Kinsale

Signal Tower & Lusitania Museum 
If in the area, a quick visit to this old signal tower is fascinating. Its also a chance to find out about the sinking of the Lusitania which took place just a few miles off the coast.
WebOld Head | Map: Kinsale

Old Head of Kinsale 
Awesomeness in the form of a spectacularly jagged coastline jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean. Think of this as your first taste of rural Ireland where land and sea collide. An ideal spot to clear the mind and get you in the mood for the journey ahead.
Map: Kinsale

Dinner @ O’Connors Seafood Bar 
Ireland is famed for its fresh seafood and to be quite honest if you’re not into seafood then we can’t be friends. I jest, I jest! Of course we can be friends but you will have to try to love seafood first.
WebO’Connors | Map: Bantry

Eagle Point Camping 
Ireland has lots of good campsites and this is one of the best, the location alone will blow you away.
WebEagle Point | Map: Bantry

Day 2 – Cork / Kerry

Mizen Head
This is Ireland’s most southerly point where you truly get a sense of being on the end of the world. Nothing stands between you and the elements or even Brazil for that matter.
WebMizen Head | Map: Mizen

Dursey Island Cable Car
It doesn’t get any more remote than this, a tiny cable car that connects the mainland to Dursey Island.
WebCable Car | Map: Dursey Island

Dinner @ O’Neill’s – The Point Bar 
The menu is extensive, I know this because I had EVERYTHING. Not a place you’ll want to hold back.
WebThe Point | Map: Cahirsiveen

Mannix Point Camping
You will not regret staying here, especially if you get the chance to meet Mannix who has been running the campsite for years. A true gent.
WebMannix Point | Map: Cahirsiveen

Day 3 – Kerry / Galway

Coasteering 
This is your chance to test your inner bravery / insanity. Think climbing high cliff faces and then throwing yourself off said cliff faces into the Atlantic ocean. We chose to go Coasteering in Cahirsiveen but don’t worry, Michael from Mór Active will look after you.
WebMór Active | Map: Cahirsiveen

Dinner @ Ard Bia at Nimmos, Galway 
There are plenty of restaurants in Galway doing their take on contemporary Irish cuisine but in our eyes, Ard Bia takes top prize. The Kilary mussels are other worldly.
WebArd Bia | Map: Galway

Tigh Neachtain (Naughtons Bar), Galway 
When in Rome, do as the Romans do. When in Galway, do as the Galweigians do by pulling a stool up beside the bar in Tigh Neachtain. It would be hard to beat the banter in this place.
WebT. Neachtain | Map: Shop St

Salthill Caravan Park, Galway 
Located right by the sea, this is a top spot to use as a base when you’re this side of the world.
WebHere  | Map: Salthill

Day 4 – Galway / Sligo

Inis Mór, Aran Islands 
An island with beauty thats hard to comprehend. Located off the west coast of Galway, think stone walls as far as the eye can see and thick Aran jumpers that will keep you warm on the coldest of days. Top Tip: Hire a bike and go get lost. We recommend flying to the island with Aer Arann on one of their tiny 8 seater aircrafts. The short 9 minute flight is so exhilarating it may well become the highlight of your trip.
WebAran Islands | Map: Inis Mór

Temple House 
Sleeping in a camper van can sometimes get a bit much. The experience of sleeping in an old manor house fit for a queen like myself should be compulsory from time to time. Having dinner and breakfast served to you in the drawing room, no words. If for one second you think you may not be comfortable staying in such grandeur, think again as Roderick will make you feel right at home. There’s even a falconry on the edge of the estate for all you birds of prey lovers.
WebTemple House | Map: Ballymote

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Day 5 – Sligo / Donegal

Bike to Bath – North West Adventure Tours 
Yes you read that correctly, a bike tour ending in a bath! And not just any old bath, a bath filled with seaweed that will have you feeling refreshed in no time. In fairness, you’ll deserve a dip after cycling around Queen Medb’s grave having taken in the beyond breathtaking views of Sligo Bay and the Ox Mountains.
WebNWA Tours | Map: Strandhill

Lunch @ Eithna’s by the Sea, Mullaghmore 
Seafood seafood and more seafood, no trip to Mullaghmore is complete without a pitstop in Eithna’s. If you’re like me and want to order everything then the sharing platter is a no-brainer.
WebEithna’s | Map: Mullaghmore

Slieve League Cliffs 
If you’re not a fan of heights then its probably best you stay well clear of here as Ireland’s highest cliffs will have you picking your jaw up off the ground. Catching a boat trip along the bottom of the cliffs will leave you wondering all kinds of how and why but don’t underestimate how powerful the views from the viewing area are.
WebSlieve League | Map: Here

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Day 6 – Donegal

Tory Island
A small island off the north west coast of Donegal but unlike Inis Mór, this island receives very few tourists so still has an isolated feel to it. Oh and it even has its own King and if you’re lucky you’ll get the chance to have a royal meet and greet. A beautifully untouched part of the word, rural Ireland in its truest form.
WebTory Island | Map: Here

Dinner @ Sarahs, Port Salon 
Perched right beside the pier in Port Salon is Sarahs. I’d love to recommend something other than the seafood on offer but it’s just too good.
WebSarah’s  | Map: Port Salon

Donegal Glamping, Port Salon
Theres glamping and there’s the type of glamping that makes you want to live out the rest of your days being at one with nature. Donegal Glamping have nailed it, we’re dying to get back.
WebDonegal Glamping | Map: Port Salon

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Day 7 – Donegal / Dublin

Fanad Lighthouse 
We couldn’t possibly pick our favourite lighthouse along the Wild Atlantic Way as there are so many of them…ok ok its this one!
WebFanad Head  | Map: Here

Malin Head
Irelands most northerly point and the last stop on our Wild Atlantic Way jaunt. Sadly, our trip happened to coincide with filming for some low budget cult movie called Star Wars so we couldn’t get anywhere near the headland or the Millennium Falcon. It is however a place we’d visited before so we can vouch for its stunningness, thats a word right.
WebMalin Head  | Map: Here


Wanderlust is a serious life pox. Yes, it gives me my fix of cultural experiences that I cannot live without. Yes, it pushes me to go and explore far flung destinations that are incredibly difficult to reach and yes, the thoughts of heading off to some new part of the world is the only thing that truly excites my soul but this pox is an all consuming addiction. Thinking about travel in this way may seem a little extreme but I travel a lot and the one thing that always reminds me that this type of addiction is actually ok, is knowing that travel is a privilege that I should never take for granted.

I also equate traveling to living out my dreams, I mean why would you plan a trip that doesn’t have dream like qualities to it? Well, ever since those clever marketing geniuses launched the mere notion of a route called the Wild Atlantic Way, I knew it wouldn’t be long before I had to live out another dream of mine.

Living in Ireland all of my life and in particular growing up in the west, I had already experienced lots of what this little country of ours has to offer but there was something that really attracted me to the idea of travelling the entire route in one go, north to south or vice versa.

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Where to even start? Looking at the map you kind of think it will be easy peasy, sure Ireland isn’t that big. The sudden realisation that this is the longest coastal route in the world measuring a not-to-be-laughed-at two and a half thousand kilometres is enough to put to put a stop to any dream trip planning which is probably why it took me so long to do it I suppose.

Myself and Daniella’s free time schedules are ying and yang at the best of times but in June, the holiday gods answered our prayers by presenting us with a 7 day window that would allow us to live out our dream but the question was, did we have enough time to complete the entire journey in just seven days? My heart is screaming at me right now to tell you that the answer is no, but if I allowed my heart to be the thing that decides when I go home from any holiday then I doubt I’d make it home at all. Thats completely normal right?

Ok ok, enough about my love of travel and more about the Wild Atlantic Way. I just felt it was important to tell you how I approached this trip, thinking that it would be like living out one of my many dreams etc. I can tell you now, thats exactly how I felt every minute of every hour I travelled the Wild Atlantic Way.

Doing the trip in a bright red camper van has its pros and cons. Pros: Ability to park and sleep anywhere you want, the chance to cook a relatively simple home cooked meal whenever you want and the constant attention from passer-bys, if you’re into that sort of thing that is *blushes. Cons: Having to add at least an hour or two onto most legs of your journey as camper vans are notoriously slow however we’d like to stress that this shouldn’t be a race and the pros far outweigh the cons.

Our journey starts and finishes in our home town, Dublin. First stop would be Kinsale, a quaint and gorgeous seaside town in Cork. Its the type of town that most Irish people would be proud of, knowing that any foreign visitor spending time here will have a joy filled experience. After a few hours of moseying around the small shops we had a quick pit-stop in Dino’s restaurant which resulted in being served some of the best fish & chips we’d ever gorged on in Ireland. I stand-by this statement as I am a lover of all things fast and food, Daniella not so much but let it be known that we barely spoke during the meal.

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Just a few miles down the road we reached Old Head which is the first location on our trip where we we were faced with Ireland’s rough and ready coastline. Find a perch and allow mother nature to feed you with the kind of soul food that you can only find when there’s no one around for miles.

Making our way towards Mizen Head you’re very aware that very little lies ahead in the form of solid ground. In fact, the moment you actually reach Ireland’s most southerly point you’re also very aware that there is literally nothing between you and that other big landmass called South America. An hour or two here is mandatory.

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A couple of hours north west and you’ll find yourself at the Dursey island cable car. It doesn’t get any more Irish than this, a tiny cable car connecting the island to the mainland. If you’re lucky you may get the chance to share the cable car with one of the local farmers who at times use it to transport sheep to and from the island. Once on the island there isn’t that much to do other than watch the wildlife go by but thats the whole point. Oh, just don’t sit on any sheep shit as its a total killer to get out.

Making our way through Kerry you are reminded of how flipping beautiful the Irish countryside. We we’re marving by the time we reached Cahirsiveen so it was straight into dinner at The Point bar and restaurant. What I wasn’t prepared for was a standard of seafood that surpassed any previous seafood experience I have ever had in this fair isle. I spent most of the meal in a rage thinking about all the years I had lost by not visiting this place, the world can be cruel sometimes I suppose. Special shoutout to the monkfish casserole but don’t let that stop you ordering everything else to accompany it.

After waking the next morning I started to bring Daniella up to speed on what activity I had lined up for us (insert evil laugh here). Coasteering is a fairly new craze that seems to have slipped past me over the years but now was my time and I was bringing Daniella down with me, down to the bottom of the ocean that is as it mainly involves throwing yourself with force off a cliff into the ocean. Not just any ocean either, the Atlantic which will have your nipples cutting glass in a matter of seconds. Fear not though as wetsuits and guidance are provided by the lovely Michael from Mór Active Tours who has spent his life travelling the world in search of serious adrenaline kicks.

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We now found ourselves bobbing around in the Atlantic ocean near a secluded foggy harbour in Cahirciveen, its the kind of place you will never find without help from a local. In fact, this place is so secluded Michael mentioned that even few of the locals know it existed. He led us through a dark sea cave and you know that scene in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory where the room keeps getting smaller the further you walk through it, well the same applies here. Now imagine that room filled with ice cold water, constantly lifting you up and down against the cave wall. Don’t worry though as the further you go the darker it gets, are you with me?! A mind blowing experience that everyone should try at least once in their lives. Coasteering is an to physically connect with and witness the immeasurable force of the Atlantic ocean and the effects it has on the westerly coastline.

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I feel like the only thing I need to tell you about Galway town is that it should absolutely be on everybody’s must do list, if you are a foodie then I’d put it right on top with the following restaurant name in capital letters – ARD BIA. From Galway town we headed west to Connemara Airport where I got to live out a childhood dream of mine by flying in one of those small aircrafts to Inis Mór, the largest of the Aran Islands. The small plane can fit approx 8 people with each passenger strategically told where they can sit so that the planes weight is evenly distributed. I completely lucked out by nabbing the seat next to the pilot which was alarmingly close to all of the planes instruments *DO NOT PUSH THE RED BUTTON* I was so close to the pilot that our shoulders we’re touching and every body movement made by him was felt by me. The short flight to Inis Mór is another reminder of how insanely gorge the west coast is, sorry east coast you’re gorge and all but don’t even try to argue with me as you don’t have a leg to stand on.

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We spent approx 6 hours on the island and we managed to squeeze loads in. All parts of the island are accessible by bike and hiking but you can also hire a driver near the port who will show you the island way. Top tip: When walking back down the hill from the majestic fort that is Dun Aonghasa, hang a right about half way down and head towards the sea. Grab a seat near the edge and thank us later. In fact, make this viewing point and a visit to the worm hole a must do. I chose to visit Inis Mór because because I had already visited the other Aran islands, it would be hard to say which one was my favourite as they are all very different but I think Inis Mór ticks a lot of boxes from a visitor perspective. Yes its a little more touristy but that doesn’t in any way take away from its charm, there are plenty of places to go and hide.

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On we went to Sligo, at which point we had already spent a few nights in the camper van and needed to feel human again so we checked into Temple House near Ballymote. Think big manor house set on acres and acres of the greenest grass with hundreds of lambs frolicking freely. Having dinner and breakfast served in the drawing room, no words. If for one second you think that you might not be comfortable staying in such grandeur, think again as Roderick and Helena will make you feel right at home. There’s even a falconry on the edge of the estate should you wish to get up close and personal with some eagles and the likes. Oh and we wont mention the honesty bar.

On we went to Sligo, at which point we had already spent a few nights in the camper van and needed to feel human again so we checked into Temple House near Ballymote. Think big manor house set on acres and acres of the greenest grass with hundreds of lambs frolicking freely. Having dinner and breakfast served in the drawing room, no words. If for one second you think that you might not be comfortable staying in such grandeur, think again as Roderick and Helena will make you feel right at home. There’s even a falconry on the edge of the estate should you wish to get up close and personal with some eagles and the likes. Oh and we wont mention the honesty bar.

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North to Donegal where a visit to the cliffs at Slieve League is essential. Irelands highest cliffs will undoubtably leave you completely speechless. The views from the viewing area are some of the best that Ireland has to offer making it an incredibly unique spot. Also, if you happen to see an ice cream van make it your business to try out whats claimed to be Ireland’s best ice-cream. We’re not sure if it takes that title but that didn’t stop us stuffing our face.

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A few hours north of the cliffs lies Tory Island, Ireland’s most northerly inhabited island off the coast of Donegal. A jaunt here is an absolute must if you find yourself this far north. We spent half a day walking around the island, again not much to do but embrace the barren landscape and rejoice in the fact that nobody in Ireland is further north at this moment in time. It truly feels like a land that time forget. Do not leave without meeting Patsy who is the reigning king of Tory Island, yes an actual king and on every other day you’ll find him waiting to greet visitors near the pier when you get off the boat. That evening we arrived in Port Salon. Now I promise this will be the last time I mention seafood but I just couldn’t leave it out. Sarah’s restaurant near the harbour has all kinds of fresh seafood on offer. The razor clams we’re a first for me, delish.

After a substantial bite we we’re more than ready to roll into bed and thankfully we had once again booked some real beds at Donegal Glamping. They have a range of yurts, each kitted out with everything one should need while sleeping in the elements including a solid fuel stove which they had lit before we had arrived. This meant we we’re stepping into an already warm yurt for the night, mmmm, warm yurt. The campsites hilltop location means you can see for miles and during the night, every possible noise can be heard outside of the canvas. Both fascinating and terrifying at the same time. Our last day had arrived but we we’re determined to pack in as much as possible before we had to hit the road to Dublin so we flew over to Fanad Lighthouse for a goo. The breathtaking location here is everything. Do not leave without climbing to the top.

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Malin Head was to be our last stop and as luck would have it the entire headland was closed off due to a certain Luke Skywalker filming scenes for the upcoming Star Wars movie. If Ireland’s most northerly point is good enough for JJ Abrahams then its a clear indication that you need to add it to your list. I visited Malin Head a few years ago and it wildness does not disappoint.

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There are good and not so good parts to every dream. What I mean by that is that every dream has some really really good parts and the other parts are just good. Driving through the Irish countryside is one of the really good parts of this dream, knowing that every which way you look will further remind you that Ireland is a very special place thats also filled to the brim with very special people. Yes I’m Irish and that might sound a tad bias but Ireland’s breathtaking beauty is a fact of life that is undeniable *raises tri-colour / wipes tear.

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