The Must-Visit Art Galleries On Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way

The Must-Visit Art Galleries On Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way
At just over 2,400 km in length, Ireland’s newest travel trail, the Wild Atlantic Way, is longer than California’s Pacific Coast Highway and South Africa’s Garden Route. Stretching from its northerly point at Donegal’s Malin Head down to Cork’s Mizen Head in the south, this trail captures the essence of Irish heritage and culture. We profile ten must-visit gallery spaces for those who make the journey.

Doswell Gallery

Housed in a renovated Georgian building, the Doswell Gallery is situated in the heart of historic Rosscarbery in west Cork. The gallery occupies three separate spaces, displaying contemporary Irish art in a variety of media, from painting to ceramics to sculpture. Hailing from Limerick, Chris Doswell founded the gallery in 2007, and the gallery has since played host to a number of solo exhibitions for both Irish and international artists. From abstract landscape painters to innovative ceramic artists, the Doswell gallery provides a taste of the rich artistic culture the south-west of Ireland has to offer.

Image courtesy of Doswell Gallery

Catherine Hammond Gallery

Located just outside the picturesque village of Glengarriff near the Kerry border, the Catherine Hammond Gallery provides an oasis for both established and emerging contemporary Irish artists. The gallery was founded by Catherine Hammond in 2002 and has since become the artistic jewel in the crown of west Cork, attracting visitors from all corners of the globe.

Image courtesy of The Purcell Gallery

The Purcell Gallery

Situated on the famous Ring of Kerry, and on the south-east Beara peninsula, the Purcell Gallery in Kenmare is home to outstanding works produced in the south of Ireland. Artists have often travelled to the Kerry area to capture its beautiful landscape in their work, and the Purcell Gallery provides a unique venue to showcase their art. The resulting array of artworks on display shows a variety of personal responses to the spectacular scenery of Kerry, from the rugged landscapes to the swelling seas. Since its opening in 2009, the Purcell Gallery has continued to provide an intimate environment to experience truly breath-taking Irish art and is worth taking the time to visit.

Image courtesy of The Purcell Gallery

The Old Oratory

First opening its doors in the charming coastal town of Cahirsiveen in 1985, the Old Oratory reopened its doors in 2013 after a renovation as an innovative arts centre, café, and music venue. The Old Oratory occupies an old Church of Ireland building that has stood in Cahirsiveen for over 150 years, making it a historical landmark and unique cultural centre. Owned and run by artist Áine O’Driscoll, the Old Oratory strives to showcase only the best in Irish art, music and tradition. Stopping here along the Wild Atlantic Way is a must; not only for the spectacular views but also for the exceptional art at the Old Oratory.

The Russell Gallery

Opened in 2001, the Russell Gallery regularly hosts exhibitions and works by over 20 Irish artists. The building which houses the gallery had been previously restored in 1997 from the ruins of an old 18th-century house which consisted of a mere four walls. Today, it is now a three-storey premises with not only a gallery but a shop, café and wine bar also. Exhibitions are frequently held both in the gallery and also in an innovative online format. The gallery is owned by Andy and Stefania Russell and features the Raku ceramic works of Andy himself. The process, design and style of Andy’s ceramics reflect the beauty and wildness of the adjacent Atlantic and the natural landmark, the Burren.

Image courtesy of The Kenny Gallery

The Kenny Gallery

Entering Connemara and the true west of Ireland, the Kenny Gallery is located just outside the city centre of Galway, in Liosbán. Specialising in Irish art for over 70 years, the Kenny Gallery has also hosted works from major household names, such as Salvador Dalí and Andy Warhol. First established in 1940 as a bookshop by Des and Maureen Kenny, the duo soon tapped into the wealth of local arts and crafts, exhibiting works in their bookshop. In 1968, the Kenny’s decided to give their art its own space and converted their own living room into a gallery. One of the first exhibitions to be held at this new art venue was a selection of paintings by the renowned Irish artist Sean Keating. Nowadays, the gallery is a thriving centre of the arts, still run and owned by the family and is a must see on any art lover’s list.

Image courtesy of The Kenny Gallery

The Whitethorn Art Gallery

Nestled near the stunning twin spires of Clifden is the Whitethorn Art Gallery. Directed by award-winning painter Anne Merrins, the Whitethorn Art Gallery unveils an eclectic mix of tranquil watercolours, textured oil paintings and delicate bronze sculptures. The space attracts not only Irish artists but also other key European artists from countries such as France. Clifden itself is also a blossoming hub of artistic activity, with a growing art community aided by the annual and renowned Clifden Community Arts Festival. The Whitethorn Art Gallery places a key role in this active art centre.

The Whitethorn Gallery interior Courtesy The Whitethorn Gallery

The Linenhall Arts Centre

In the westerly coastal town of Castlebar is the Linenhall Arts Centre. The centre occupies the landmark old Linen Hall that was built in 1790 by Lord Lucan for the busy linen trade of Mayo. In 1986, the building was reincarnated as an arts centre when the already established Linenhall Arts Centre moved its location from the old Methodist Church in the Mall to the Linenhall. Since then the arts centre has grown, with support from the Arts Council of Ireland, and has now become one of the most prominent and important centres for the arts, not only in the West of Ireland but throughout the country. In addition to supporting local artists in their work by providing workshops, talks and exhibitions, the Linenhall is also a venue for national and international music, theatre, cinema and opera.

The Model, home of the Niland Collection

Found in the town of Sligo, The Model has become the centre for contemporary Irish art in the west of Ireland. Built in 1862 as Model School, the building has since been transformed into the progressive centre for the arts that it is today. More importantly, The Model houses the impressive Niland Collection of Art, which includes works from some of the most famous Irish artists such as Jack B. Yeats, Louis le Brocquy and Paul Henry, to name but a few. The Model has also made a name as an experimental and progressive art programmes that have been met with critical acclaim. The building boasts a restaurant and coffee dock, a bookshop, a wonderful gallery circuit, a purpose built performance space, and a suite of impressive artist studios on the top floor with enviable views of Sligo town and County. With the centres hosting a number of educational workshops and lecture series, The Model is accessible to any member of the public.

The Model, home of the Niland Collection © The Model

Ross Fine Art Gallery

Tucked away from the Lough Swilly inlet in the northerly town of Ramelton, the Ross Fine Art Gallery is the Donegal specialist in contemporary art from both Irish and international roots. Opening in 2007, works by the notable Jack B. Yeats and Norah McGuinness have graced its walls. The gallery also promotes the works of local Donegal artists, creating a diverse mix of artistic creations. The gallery is the brainchild of fine artist Janet Ross, whose own work is a regular fixture here; Janet has been featured in a BBC Radio Four documentary about landscape and art, for her serene reproductions of the sublime Atlantic.

Photo Courtesy Ross Fine Art Gallery