From Malin Head in Co. Donegal to Kinsale in Co. Cork, through regions like Connemara, Galway Bay and Kerry, it’s the longest defined coastal drive in the world.
Here, the ocean’s force has carved a coast of wild, raw beauty. Huge Atlantic rollers crash and churn, shaping jagged ocean crags, archipelagos and inlets, sea loughs, surfing strands, and the sheer granite walls of cliffs that are amongst some of the highest in Europe. Rare sea eagles circle over glacial mountains, dolphins leap the waves, seals bask on the shore, puffins nest on cliff faces and geese gather in great estuaries. And lighthouses safeguard sailors all the way up the coast – from Fastnet to Malin Head.
Right along this spectacular drive you’re aware of the elemental power of the Atlantic Ocean, turning from grey to green to azure blue as great weather fronts roll in and through. You’ll drive routes that ring great peninsulas,reaching out into the ocean. Tiny roads hug the shoreline then switch back high above the Atlantic swell. Cloud-shadows race across sea and land, followed by shafts of sunlight. You’ll probably see a lifetime’s rainbows in just one trip.
You’ll want to stop often at the many small settlements and towns along the route. Every few miles there are places to stretch your legs and have a bite to eat. Maybe you’ll hunker down and stay a night or two to get to know the places and people… to climb cliffs, surf waves and ride bikes. You could join in the craic at sessions and festivals, go island-hopping and visit ancient sites or sit by turf fires in traditional pubs, where you’ll eat the freshest seafood and hear the Irish language, songs and stories. Out here in the west coast’s remote Gaeltacht regions, Irish is the mother tongue for many folk -and they’ll tell you “failte romhat isteach – you’re most welcome here.”
You could drive the whole route in one go – but you don’t have to. Instead, you may want to slow down, and dive in deep… For it’s out on these western extremities – drawn in by the constant rhythm of the ocean’s roar and the consistent warmth of the people – that you’ll find the Ireland you’ve always imagined.