The incredible Wild Atlantic Way is the top offbeat coastal route where you’ll find impressive scenery, “quirky cultural experiences”, and a fantastic place to lose yourself, according to Lonely Planet.
The 1,553-mile coastal route spans the scenic roadways along the extent of Ireland’s west coast, taking in some of the country’s finest sites of natural beauty, windswept beaches, lively towns and historical sites including the Burren, the Ring of Kerry, the Cliffs of Moher, and the Céide Fields.
“For a taste of Ireland's wild and rugged hills, glorious beaches, ancient heritage sites and world-renowned surf, try the 2,500km [1,553 mile] Wild Atlantic Way,” Lonely Planet writes.
“This scenic route along the west coast takes in a hugely diverse range of attractions, from the towering cliffs at Slieve League to the unique karst scenery of The Burren and the epic landscapes of the Ring of Kerry.
“There are countless mesmerizing beaches and plenty of surf schools all along the coast but for big wave action Mullaghmore Head and the legendary Aileen’s waves, which swell off the Cliffs of Moher, are the ones to catch.”
One of the best quirks of our famous west coast, however, is “the irresistible charm of the road less traveled,” they say, including boat trips out to the isolated 6th-century monastic site Skellig Michael, the recent filming ground of the latest addition to the Star Wars franchise; traditional Irish music sessions in towns from Westport, Galway, Doolin and Dingle; or resting up with a traditional seaweed bath in Enniscrone.
The Wild Atlantic Way has been a massive success since it was first established in 2014, adding enormously to the number of both Irish and international tourists traveling along the west coast. The Irish Central Statistics Office (CSO) have already revealed that 2015 is set to be a record year for Irish tourism with massive increases in the number of visitors for the first six months of the year, mainly of whom have taken full advantage of the route laid out along the Atlantic.
The record 3,876,200 visits to the country has been a result of a big growth in the number of American visitors to Ireland which was up by 14.7% to 659,200 visitors.
Stretching from Co. Donegal to Co. Cork, through the provinces of Ulster, Connacht and Munster, the route was established as a Failte Ireland tourism initiative in 2014 to be the longest fully-signposted driving route in the world with 157 “Discovery Points” bringing drivers and their passengers to the must-see and lesser-known spots along the coast.
The Wild Atlantic Way tops Lonely Planet’s list of five offbeat coastal trips as an alternative to those coastal drives that normally reach the worldwide travel headlines. Others on the list include a trip along the Pan-American Highway in southern Peru through the coastal desert between Lima and Tacna; the idyllic Adriatic Coast, Croatia’s famed coastline; and an epic trip through the fjords and islands in Norway.
The full Lonely Planet list is:
- Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland
- Gaspésie Tour, Québec, Canada
- Norway's fjords and islands
- Pan-American Highway, southern Peru
- Adriatic Coast, Croatia
More information on the Wild Atlantic Way and how you can plan your own road trip can be found at wildatlanticway.com.