Nature lovers visiting Ireland have long known: they should head to the Wild Atlantic Way, a winding route along the coast of western Ireland. An unimaginable variety of landscapes, animals and cultures are waiting to be discovered here, as well as the main natural attractions in Ireland. From the isolated, Irish-speaking Aran Islands to the breathtaking scenery of the Beara Peninsula, and from the flat karst fields of the Burren to the imposing mountains on the far sides of the Black Valley – these are the main attractions in Ireland along the Wild Atlantic Way!
1. Cliffs of Moher
When one thinks of Ireland, this is often the image that emerges first – alongside the images of Guinness and pubs, of course. The iconic Cliffs of Moher are one of Ireland’s top natural attractions, and the poster child for the Wild Atlantic Way. Carved out by a combination of ocean water, wind and time, this impressive natural wonder serves as a habitat for countless bird and marine life. You can also choose to walk the entire length of the Cliffs of Moher along the Burren Way.
2. Beara Peninsula
This lesser-known destination in the southwest of Ireland is one of the country’s best-kept secrets. The Beara Peninsula is one of the many peninsulas in western Ireland, but many consider it the most beautiful. Beara consists of two mountain ranges, two remote islands, a valley with lakes and a winding coastline full of hidden beaches – what more could a hiker want? Check out the Beara Way which circumnavigates the entire peninsula.
3. Malin Head
The northern county of Donegal is known for its breathtaking coastal scenery, including the windy Malin Head. This is the most northerly point of Ireland, which means that sometimes even the northern lights can be seen in winter. Have a drink in Ireland’s northernmost pub and take in the views of the Atlantic Ocean – on clear days it’s even possible to see the Scottish Islands in the distance!
4. Aran Islands
The Aran Islands are three islands off the coast of western Ireland. The approximately 1,200 inhabitants of the Aran Islands are known for their traditional way of life. For example, they belong to the Gaeltacht, a part of Ireland where Irish is still mainly spoken. Furthermore, the islands are home to various archaeological treasures, such as the prehistoric fortress Dun Aengus, built on the edge of a cliff. You can visit, Inis Mor, the largest of the three islands on a hiking tour of Connemara and the West of Ireland.
5. The Burren
One of the most unique landscapes along the Wild Atlantic Way is the almost otherworldly plains of the Burren, a karst stone landscape on Ireland’s west coast. The gray rock formations, versatile flora and fauna, and prehistoric tombs make this landscape an unmissable destination. A visit can easily be combined with a trip along the nearby Cliffs of Moher and more northerly Connemara.
6. Black Valley
One of the absolute highlights of the Ring of Kerry, and thus one of the most important sights in Ireland, is the Black Valley. This valley has traditionally been one of the most remote places in Ireland. For example, it was the last place on the mainland where an electricity connection was constructed. The breathtaking landscapes of the valley are accessible via the Gap of Dunloe. This meandering road through mountain valleys and mirrored lakes can be considered Ireland’s answer to the Scottish Highlands! You can also visit the Black Valley on foot while hiking the Kerry Way.
7. Achill Island
Although Achill is Ireland’s largest island, it is hardly known as a destination. This undiscovered gem is located in North West Ireland in County Mayo. A bridge connects Achill to the mainland, making it easy to reach the island. Paradise beaches, rugged cliffs and sheep-filled hills characterize this quintessentially Irish fishing community.
The myriad of different landscapes that can be found in Western Ireland is what makes the Wild Atlantic Way so fascinating. There are the imposing Cliffs of Moher, the otherworldly-looking karst of the Burren and the enchanting valleys of Kerry. Very different is the peat bog of Connemara. This rugged, mountainous area north of Galway is one of the most unforgettable natural areas along the Wild Atlantic Way. In the museum of the national park, travelers can learn about the history of this special landscape and its inhabitants.