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The Cliffs of Moher | © Alison Derham
The Cliffs of Moher | © Alison Derham
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15 Fantastic Stops Along Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way

Picture of Kate Phelan
Updated: 30 November 2016
Stretching for 2,500 kilometres along the western, southern and northern coastlines of Ireland, the Wild Atlantic Way tourist trail features 157 discovery points, 1,000 attractions and an activity for every kilometre. Here, we narrow that down to 15 must-see stops along the way.

Malin Head

Looking out over the North Atlantic from mainland Ireland’s most northerly point at Malin Head feels a bit like reaching the end of the world, with little separating you from the Arctic other than ocean – you can even see the Northern Lights from here if you time it right. This area is also home to the popular mobile coffee shop Caffe Banba, so you can enjoy a warm beverage while you take in the view.

Northern Lights at Malin Head
Northern Lights at Malin Head | © Greg Clarke/Flickr

Fanad Lighthouse

The crowing point of County Donegal’s Fanad Peninsula is a lighthouse dating back to 1818, when it was built in response to the sinking of a warship in Lough Swilly, in which the sole survivor was its parrot. Still in operation, Fanad Head Lighthouse is one of 12 that make up Great Lighthouses of Ireland – a new initiative allowing visitors the chance to visit or stay in an Irish lighthouse.

Fand Head Lighthouse
Fand Head Lighthouse | © Michal Osmenda/WikiCommons

Letterkenny

Donegal’s largest town Letterkenny is known as the Cathedral Town, for having Donegal’s only Roman Catholic cathedral. It is also home to the Donegal Museum, set in a former famine workhouse and officially recognised by the Irish government as the best of Ireland’s county museums.

Letterkenny Cathedral
Letterkenny Cathedral | © Miguel Mendez/Flickr

Slieve League

Slieve League’s cliffs aren’t as well known as the Cliffs of Moher, but they are nearly three times taller. Europe’s highest sea cliffs at 601 metres, seeing them is truly a once in a lifetime experience.

Slieve League panorama along the Wild Atlantic Way
Slieve League panorama along the Wild Atlantic Way | © Greg Clarke/Flickr

Inis Meáin, Aran Islands

The smallest of Galway Bay’s Aran Islands in terms of population, Inis Meáin is described as ‘one of the most important strongholds of traditional Irish culture’. An extension of The Burren’s karst landscape, this beautifully remote area is also home to the celebrated Inis Meáin Restaurant & Suites – a wonderful place to rest your head for the night.

Courtesy of Inis Meáin Restaurant & Suites
Courtesy of Inis Meáin Restaurant & Suites

Strandhill

Strandhill is the biggest coastal village in County Sligo and one of its most scenic, nestled at the base of Knocknarea hill and looking out across the Atlantic. A surfer’s paradise, the area also has a local market, seaweed baths, a golf club, plus plenty of restaurants and pubs.

Ballina

County Mayo’s Ballina town has some notable architecture, with many Georgian buildings, and is also the site of the Jackie Clarke Collection – a major private collection of more than 100,000 Irish historical artefacts, including letters from Irish revolutionaries, rare books, maps etc.

The Five Counties Scenic Lookout
The Five Counties Scenic Lookout | © Irish Fireside/Flickr

Kylemore Abbey

A Benedictine monastery based in a 19th century castle on a picturesque lakeshore, Kylemore Abbey in Connemara is well worth visiting. As well as exploring the abbey itself, visitors can tour the entire 1,000 acre estate, including six acres of Victorian walled gardens.

Spring at Kylemore Abbey
Spring at Kylemore Abbey | © Liam MoloneyFlickr

Galway City

Welcoming and colourful, the harbour city of Galway has everything you could possibly want from an Irish city, from fantastic places to eat to lively pubs and music venues to cultural attractions – it is even set to be European Capital of Culture in 2020.

Galway Bay Sunset
Galway Bay Sunset | © roninmd/Pixabay

Doolin Cave

Inside the Doolin Cave in County Clare you will find the longest free-hanging stalactite in the entire Northern Hemisphere. A staggering 7.3 metre (23 feet) structure hanging from the ceiling, it was formed from calcium deposits from a single drop of water, dripping over thousands of years.

The Cliffs Of Moher

As one of Ireland’s most visited sites, the majestic Cliffs of Moher on the Clare coast need no introduction. Providing views of the Aran Islands, the Maumturks and Twelve Pins mountain ranges, and Loop Head peninsula, these spectacular cliffs are a natural national treasure.

The Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher | © Alison Derham

Bunratty Castle

Clare’s 15th-century tower house known as Bunratty Castle has become another major tourist attraction, famous for its long history (the site was originally a Viking trading camp in 970) and its medieval-style banquets – a tradition that has survived since 1963.

Interior of Bunratty Castle
Interior of Bunratty Castle | © LWYang/Flickr

Slea Head Drive

Taking in some of Ireland’s most striking vistas, Dingle’s circular Slea Head driving route has so many fabulous stopping points that it’s impossible to pick just one. Travellers are advised to set aside at least a half-day to get the most out of this breathtaking journey.

The ‘Sleeping Giant’, Kerry
The ‘Sleeping Giant’, Kerry | © Barbara Walsh/Flickr

Skellig Micheal

The site of a former monastery and a location in the recent Star Wars films, the larger of County Kerry’s two Skellig islands is as arresting in person as it looks on film.

Skellig Michael
Skellig Michael | © psyberartistFlickr

Mizen Head Signal Station

The southerly equivalent of Malin Head, the cliffs at Mizen Head have their own visitor centre, where the brave can cross a startlingly high bridge and watch for seals, whales and dolphins in the waves below.

The Arched Bridge at Mizen Head
The Arched Bridge at Mizen Head | © Jennifer Boyer/Flickr