An ultimate roadtrip along Ireland's untamed and rugged western coast.
With immense backdrops and dramatic scenery, it's easy to see why so many films are shot in Ireland. This is especially true of Ireland’s 2,500-kilometer Wild Atlantic Way. More than able to rival California's Pacific Coast Highway, it meanders through spine-tingling scenery, taking in Europe’s highest sea cliffs, massive swells, plenty of wildlife, and an ancient monastic settlement.
Malin Head, Ireland’s northernmost point, kicks everything off with history and wildlife in abundance. The watchtower at Banba’s Crown – named after the patron goddess of Ireland – was built in 1805 to keep watch against an invasion from Napoleon. Now, this spot is best used as a perch to see the rare seabirds nesting in the area, or the occasional whale, dolphin, or seal passing by in the waters below.
Heading southwest along the route brings travelers to the towering sea cliffs of Sliabh Liag, offering the finest panoramic views of the Irish coast and the wide expanse of the Atlantic Ocean beyond. Visitors can also gaze across Donegal Bay, where big wave surfers take on massive 50ft sets just off the coast of Mullaghmore Head.
A further 180 kilometers south, more surfing bravery can be witnessed, or attempted, at the powerful Aileen’s Wave at the base of the Cliffs of Moher.
At the southern Iveragh Peninsula, leave the mainland for a quick trip to the dramatic Skellig Islands. Rising steeply out of the churning Atlantic Ocean, this sacred 1,300-year-old pilgrimage site acquired international fame after appearing as an alien backdrop in Star Wars Episode VII—The Force Awakens.
Finally, there's Mizen Head in Cork, Ireland’s most southwesterly point and an appropriate end to a journey along the Wild Atlantic Way. Here, on a rock known as ‘Ireland’s Teardrop', sits the imposing Fastnet Lighthouse – the last glimpse of the homeland for many emigrants as they sailed away to America.
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Top image of Malin Head, courtesy of Chris Hill; Fastnet Lighthouse, courtesy of Finn Richards; Sliabh League, courtesy of Martin Fleming; Mullaghmore, courtesy of Alison Crummy; Cliffs of Moher, courtesy of Christopher Hill; the Skellig Islands, unknown photographer, all images © Tourism Ireland