If you ever dreamed of embarking on a journey of discovery to hidden and remote places of exceptional natural beauty, the coastal driving experience of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way is for you. The route offers visitors an opportunity to truly discover the West Coast of Ireland.
The Wild Atlantic Way is Ireland’s first long-distance driving route stretching from the Inishowen Peninsula in Donegal to Kinsale in County Cork. From cliff top views to great hikes and from historic cities to picture perfect coastal villages and some of the best surfing in the world, the Wild Atlantic Way scenic drive caters for tourists of all ages and tastes. If your holiday itinerary allows for only a few days or up to several weeks look no further, as the Wild Atlantic Way route has it all.
The route is 2,500km long and includes 156 discovery points along the way but the route itself has hundreds of others for individuals to discover by themselves. There are also 15 designated ‘Signature Experience’ points along the way. 3 of the ‘Signature Experience’ points are located in Co. Galway as detailed below:
1. Trek across sands on a Connemara Pony
The sure-footed Connemara pony – the only horse breed native to Ireland – is the perfect form of transport across the region’s blanket bogs and dazzling beaches. At low tide, Connemara ponies (with their riders) wade or swim across the shallow channel to peaceful islands like Finish, Mweenish and Omey – part of the archipelago off the coast of Connemara. Legend has it that the ponies are descended from Arab stallions that swam ashore when the Spanish Armada sank off the Connemara coast in the 16th century.
2. Listen to the echoes of history in a sea-swept blanket bog
You can hire a bike in Connemara’s ‘capital’ Clifden, and strike out across the starkly strange blanket bog – a mosaic of tiny lakes and peat, crossed by a single narrow road – to uncover two remarkable events of 20th century history. Stick to the Bog Road, and soon you’ll pass the scattered remnants of the world’s first permanent trans-Atlantic radio station - built by Marconi more than a century ago, and burned to the ground during the Irish War of Independence. At its peak it employed several hundred people, transmitting world news across the ocean. Close-by is a white aeroplane wing-shaped memorial to Alcock and Brown, who crash-landed – uninjured – into Derrigimlagh Bog in 1919 at the end of the first non-stop flight across the Atlantic. In this lonely spot, two resonant examples of the western seaboard’s trans-Atlantic ties. “Next parish, Manhattan”, as they say in these parts
3. Explore Inis Oirr by pony and trap
It’s perfectly possible to explore the smallest and nearest of the Gaeltacht Aran Islands – Inis Oirr – in a day by bicycle ... or even better by pony and trap. Under huge open skies, you’ll trot along the narrowest of lanes, between stone walls, beside wide white sand beaches, passing clover-covered hills and tiny fields. The islands’ population is growing once again, as exiles return and new arrivals blow in. Aran welcomes visitors year-round, on regular daily ferries that take commuters to the mainland or between the islands. Catch your ferry back to the West Clare music-hub of Doolin for the night: if you time it right you’ll be passing beneath the spectacular Cliffs of Moher just as they’re lit by the rays of the setting sun – arguably the best-ever view of this famous landmark.