No visit to Ireland is complete without a stay in Dublin, the beautiful, cosmopolitan capital city of the Republic of Ireland, with its famous sites such as Trinity College, the Samuel Beckett Theatre, the Temple Bar, the Guinness brewery, and the James Joyce Cultural Centre, which hosts the annual Bloomsday festival. But we shall talk about western Ireland and of Dublin another time.
Wilder part of Ireland
If you are headed to the Emerald Isle, we suggest you take a trip on its western, wilder side.
There you will find the authentic Ireland, with its everlasting green views, the picturesque towns, and the cliffs dipping into the waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
One of the best ways to explore this part of Ireland is to go on a trek, but keep in mind that this region might be rainy and windy at times. If you are keen on that kind of experience, a high wind tent might be your best friend!
A few years ago, the Irish Ministry of Tourism decided to connect the entire western coast along a 1,600-mile route, “The Wild Atlantic Way,” which its way down from the Inishowen Peninsula in the north down to the town of Kinsale, County Cork, in the south
Taking its inspiration from the world’s most famous coast routes such as the Great Ocean Road in Australia, and California’s Pacific Coast Highway, the road now claims the title of the “world’s longest defined coastal driving route.” We recommend a weeklong tour of the Atlantic tip of Ireland, which doesn’t cover everything, but will definitely put you in the mood, and leave you with a taste for more.
The best way to travel in Western Ireland
The best way to travel in Western Ireland is by car, which makes it possible to get to all the interesting sites. Driving in Ireland is on the left side, so everything we are used to in a car, the steering wheel, the gear, and even the radio, are all on the opposite side.
But do not fear, you’ll be surprised how quickly, our brain adapts to the change. Drive carefully, keep to the left, check the mirrors, and everything will be fine. The roads of the Wild Atlantic Way are especially narrow, so take into account that travel between destinations that look close on the map might take longer than usual.
Along the narrow roads, you may run into adventurous sheep and the margins are narrow to nonexistent, so drive carefully and don’t forget to veer left when a car comes across from you.
A tour of Western Ireland
A tour of Western Ireland should begin in Killarney, the capital of County Kerry and the gateway to the Ring of Kerry, a circular route around the Iveragh Peninsula, concentrating all the beauty that Ireland has to offer: Bays, lakes, green hills, sheep, picturesque towns, and lots and lots of seascapes. The dramatic Cliffs of Kerry are located on the western end of the ring, with scenic footpaths overlooking the ocean waves, crashing forcefully into the rocks.
Killarney is located at the entrance to the beautiful Killarney National Park, 25,000 acres of rugged countryside that is home to the Lakes of Killarney and the MacGuillicuddy Reeks, Ireland’s highest mountain range, and offers fantastic walking and cycling opportunities. However, Killarney is also a focal point due to its many pubs, and the live music played there every evening. While some of it may be specially for tourists, hey, we’re tourists too, so we’re allowed to enjoy it.
After a day or two in Killarney, it’s time for the real thing, soaking up the authentic atmosphere of western Ireland, with less tourists and a lot more green and virginal vistas of the Dingle Peninsula, located north of the Ring of Kerry. You can view the calm waters of the bay from the village of Dingle and walk between the shops in the colorful fishing town.
Western Ireland – Village of Dingle
The small town boasts no less than twenty traditional Irish pubs, where, during the peak season, live folk music is played every night. Even if you come off-season, you can still find a few pubs that play authentic traditional Irish music in the winter, around a burning fireplace. In Dingle you will also come across speakers of Gaelic, Ireland’s second official language. Welcome to Dingle, the coolest place in Ireland.
A 15-minute drive from there, you will reach Slea Head, the westernmost point in Ireland and all of Europe.
Rain is not a rare event in Ireland, and Dingle also offers solutions for the rainy days, for example a visit to the biggest aquarium in the area, or a visit to the local whiskey distillery,
where you will be told how whiskey, vodka and gin are produced. Dingle distillery is a great place to visit If you experience some rain on the peninsula. It’s always warm and welcoming and you’ll get a dram of good Irish whiskey to warm you up. From Dingle, you can set out on boat tours of the area, and there are bicycling and hiking routes in the area.
After two days in Dingle, drive north to what it perhaps Ireland’s most famous destination, the Cliffs of Moher. The drive from Dingle to the Cliffs takes just over three hours, but the views along the way are gorgeous and a visit there is without a doubt an experience that is indescribable.
Western Ireland – Cliffs of Moher
You just have to stand there and feel the great height at which land breaks and turns into the great waters of the Atlantic. We recommend walking along the cliffs and finding quiet corners where you can just stand and admire the force of nature.
An important note about the Cliffs of Moher – one that is relevant for anywhere you might visit in Ireland – is to take into account that the weather may not take your precisely timed schedule into consideration, and may not be very welcoming. So be flexible and be prepared for anything, since it may be that precisely when you get there, thick fog will ruin the experience. But the next morning everything will be so clear that you’ll be sorry you didn’t give it a chance.
Try to take your time, like the Irish, who have all the time in the world, and give nature the time it needs.
The most pleasant town in Ireland, Westport
From the Cliffs of Moher, we continue north to our final destination. This time around, the Connemara region, a wild area filled with lakes, adventurous sheep, and Gaelic speakers. The gateway to the Connemara region is the city of Galway, Ireland’s second-largest city.
However, we recommend continuing north for a short while and staying in the most pleasant town in Ireland, Westport. Westport was voted a number of years ago as the best place to stay in Ireland and it is definitely a fantastic town to visit. Hire a bicycle and take the Great Western Greenway, Ireland’s longest off-road cycling and walking trail or visit stunning Clew Bay.
In addition to everything Westport has to offer, we recommend also visiting Kylemore Abbey, which is located half an hour’s drive from the town, where you can soak in the atmosphere of the rich and famous of the 19th century.
Ireland has a magical atmosphere and welcoming people. It will undoubtedly make you fall in love with it and want to return again and again.
And before you leave there’s nothing like Matt Malloy’s pub in Westport to sign off your tour of Western Ireland and drink to your next visit to the Emerald Isle.