Hailed by National Geographic as one of the most beautiful places in the world, the Wild Atlantic Way is a spectacularly scenic drive that’s a must if you’re in Ireland.
It spans over 1,500 miles, encompassing the entire west coast of the Irish isle. Along this stretch are sea cliffs, sandy beaches, quaint villages, and historic monuments.
The Wild Atlantic Way got its name both for its wonderfully rugged landscapes and its often wild weather. The atmosphere is rather mystical, with enchanting roads that seem endless and deserted.
Yet this is exactly what attracts people to devote a few days to explore this part of the emerald isle.
Tackling the Wild Atlantic Way in just a few days seems like a daunting task. The entire stretch runs through at least six counties of Ireland, all of which have plenty of attractions one can’t simply resist.
The drive itself also takes time, albeit it’s not going to be boring. How does one take on this challenge then?
Here’s a suggested itinerary that’ll take seven days to complete. It’s a south to north route, meaning you’ll be driving on the side of the ocean.
It starts on the southwestern tip of Ireland, all the way to the north. It’s a mix of the popular and unmissable attractions, as well as some from off-the-beaten tracks.
Driving can be exhausting, so here’s our recommended stops, accommodations and places to eat on this Wild Atlantic Way itinerary for seven days.
Things you'll find in this article
- Wild Atlantic Way Itinerary For 7 Days
- Wild Atlantic Way Itinerary Day 1 — Dublin to County Cork
- Wild Atlantic Way Itinerary Day 2 – Cork to Kerry
- Wild Atlantic Way Itinerary Day 3 – Portmagee to Dingle
- Wild Atlantic Way Itinerary Day 4 – Cliffs of Moher, Co. Clare and Galway
- Wild Atlantic Way Itinerary Day 5 – Galway to Mayo and then Sligo
- Wild Atlantic Way Itinerary Day 6 – Sligo and Donegal
- Wild Atlantic Way Itinerary Day 7 – Donegal
Wild Atlantic Way Itinerary For 7 Days
Wild Atlantic Way Itinerary Day 1 — Dublin to County Cork
Without stops, travel time takes three to four hours but it doesn’t hurt to pause every now and then to appreciate Ireland’s naturally lush scenery.
You should be able to reach the city of Cork just in time for brunch or lunch, and you’ll soon find out that you’ve just arrived in one of the best places to enjoy a meal.
The city is also home to the iconic English market, where you will find some of the best take-outs or sit down eateries in the city as well as fresh produce and delicacies.
Buy some hearty and filling sandwiches to take on your Wild Atlantic Way road trip, as well as bread, pastries, and chocolates.
After you’ve enjoyed the food and see a bit of Cork’s city center, it’s time to hit the road again. County Cork is the ideal starting point for a south-to-north road trip along the Wild Atlantic Way.
From the city of Cork, it only takes thirty minutes of driving to reach Kinsale, a harbor town situated at the southernmost tip of Ireland.
A charming village with a picture-perfect waterfront, Kinsale is more than its spectacular ocean scenery.
Drive or park somewhere and walk around town to explore narrow streets with colorful houses. The Wild Atlantic Way is more than its natural scenery, but the heritage sites in each stop as well.
In Kinsale, visit the intriguing haunted ruins of Charles Fort and then continue driving to Kinsale’s Old Head to see the pretty lighthouse.
Your next stop after Kinsale should be Mizen Head, also known as Ireland’s most southwesterly point. It is located at the end of the Kilmore Peninsula in County Cork.
These dramatic cliffs are best for some wildlife spotting while taking in the rugged scenery.
Mizen Head is at the edge of Ireland and here, you’ll have one of the most breathtaking seaside walks.
A lovely place to catch the sunset, this should be your last stop on your first day of exploring the Wild Atlantic Way.
Where To Eat:
Farmgate Cafe or Market Lane in Cork City for a tasty lunch of Irish dishes. Salvi’s or Mother Hubbard’s cafe in Kinsale for dinner.
Where To Stay:
Wild Atlantic Way Itinerary Day 2 – Cork to Kerry
While still in County Cork, set out early and drive along the stunning Beara Peninsula.
It’s an interesting drive as you cruise through colorful houses in the streets of Eyeries before you reach the jumping-off point for Garnish Island. You can reach the island by a short ferry ride and the garden there is a must-see.
If you’re into Bronze Age monuments, check out the Derreenataggart Stone Circle instead.
For a relaxing break before continuing on your drive, stroll along the white sand beaches of Ballydonegan Bay.
After enjoying a bit of the sea and sun, it’s time to hit the road again, this time to County Kerry. The rest of the day will be essentially a tour of the spectacular Ring of Kerry, where you’ll experience the best of Ireland’s natural beauty.
The ideal first stop is the scenic town of Killarney for lunch.
Afterward, see a bit of the massive national park – spot some red deer, take in the lush scenery or visit Ross Castle.
Continue driving and stop every ten or thirty minutes to enjoy gems like Ladies’ View, Moll’s Gap, the picturesque Kenmare Town, the lush mountain views in Sneem, and finally, an hour-long drive to Portmagee.
On the approach to Portmagee town is an 18-kilometer route via Ballinskelligs.
Here, you’ll get to see dramatic, wild landscapes and the Skellig Michael on the horizon. For best views of this mystical island, the ideal stop-off point is definitely the Kerry Cliffs.
The cliffs are over 305 meters high and present breathtaking views of the Skellig Islands and Puffin Island. This has to be the perfect ending to a day of driving through scenic routes.
You won’t easily forget the thunderous crashing waves and the cool wind on your face as you watch the sunset over the islands.
Where To Eat:
Bricin Restaurant and Boxty House or Treyvaud’s in Killarney, both serve contemporary Irish cuisine. The Mooring’s Guesthouse and Restaurant in Portmagee for dinner and breakfast the next day.
Where To Stay:
The Mooring’s Guesthouse, located right at the heart of Portmagee.
Wild Atlantic Way Itinerary Day 3 – Portmagee to Dingle
The third day starts early as there are long drives involved. As with the past couple of days though, the scenery is more than worth it.
From Portmagee, it is literally just a few minutes’ drive to Valentia Island.
If you can’t get enough of the Skelligs and want a bit of a hike, then this is a great way to start your day.
Valentia is one of Ireland’s most westerly points and connected to Portmagee by the Maurice O’Neill Memorial Bridge.
Once you reach the island, you have the option to do the Loop Walk along with Bray Head, which is close to the car park.
Another option is to just admire the views towards the Skellig Islands, then drive up Geokaun Mountain and Cliffs. There’s a €5 entry fee here and the ascent is quite steep, so keep the car in first gear as you make your way up.
Once you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with some of the most magnificent views in the Wild Atlantic Way, and the rest of Ireland.
After taking in the scenery, drive back down to Valentia and into the long way to Dingle. There will be stops every hour, to stretch the legs and see more of the Atlantic coast.
From Valentia, it will take 50 minutes to reach Rossbeigh Beach to relax in the sand and taking in lots of fresh air.
After you’ve had enough of the sun and surf, another 50 minutes of driving should take you to Inch beach. This is where you stop for lunch, while you listen to waves softly crashing. Inch beach is also considered one of the best beaches in Ireland.
Rest a bit after lunch and find a nice spot where you can watch surfers tackle the Wild Atlantic.
After Inch Beach, another hour of driving takes you to one of the best routes in this road trip – the Slea Head Drive.
This is a circular route that starts and ends in Dingle, and something that you shouldn’t miss. The entire stretch is an hour and ten minutes without stops, but the entire afternoon should be more than enough to see some of the best sights here.
One of these must-visit places is Coumeenoole Beach, a gorgeous piece of paradise with rugged cliffs and stunning coastal scenery.
Just a short distance from Coumeenoole is the lookout point for the breathtaking Dunmore Head.
From this scenic stop, it’s another short drive to Dun Chaoin Pier, where the Blasket Island Ferry departs.
Take a stroll down the pier, or admire the view from the cliffs surrounding it.
From here, the rest of the Slea Head Drive will take you to Reask monastic site, Dunbeg fort, beehive huts, and Kilmalkedar Church. Stop to see them up close, and enjoy the surrounding scenery.
After hours of driving, treat yourself to some hearty pub grub for dinner and soak up Dingle’s famed pub culture. Enjoy a pint and traditional Irish music before calling it a night.
Where To Eat:
Sammy’s for a filling lunch in Inch Beach; John Benny’s Pub for tasty pub grub dinner and Murphy’s Ice Cream for dessert.
Where To Stay:
Wild Atlantic Way Itinerary Day 4 – Cliffs of Moher, Co. Clare and Galway
The fourth day in this Wild Atlantic Way adventure takes you to one of the most visited places in Ireland – the spectacularly scenic Cliffs of Moher.
Located in County Clare, this is a three-hour drive from Dingle so leave early. You should arrive just in time for brunch in the bustling tiny village of Doolin, which is the ideal starting point for hiking along the cliffs.
Have a filling meal first and rest a bit before taking on this scenic journey. Walking the entire stretch of these rugged cliffs takes about two or three hours depending on your pace.
The walk along the drop off is quite unforgettable and you’d want to snap photos in between taking in the scenery. There are also a variety of seabirds that call the cliffs their home so watch out for them, too.
Situated by the Galway Bay, the castle dates back to the early 1500s. It is regarded as one of the most beautiful fortresses in Ireland. Get out of the car and see it up close.
Check out the unmissable surrounding landscapes, and visit the museum. Since you’re already in County Galway, how about a little city break?
A wonderful mix of the old and the new, culture and history, great music and delicious food – Galway is the ideal non-coastal stop in the Wild Atlantic Way.
Walk along the medieval city center, see Lynch’s Castle on Shop Street, enjoy a tasty seafood dinner and listen to some traditional Irish music. Galway is your well-deserved city treat as you make it through halfway of this scenic road trip.
Where To Eat:
Kai for its innovative menu that’s also vegan-friendly; Ard Bia at Nimmos, Galway for their superb take on contemporary Irish cuisine.
You can also check out this list of best restaurants in Galway.
Where To Stay:
If you want to stay within Galway City, there’s the Harbour Hotel and Park House Hotel which has good ratings and popular with guests
You can also check out this list of best hotels in Galway City.
Wild Atlantic Way Itinerary Day 5 – Galway to Mayo and then Sligo
Your inland treat continues on day five, as you see more of Galway.
From the city, drive for an hour and twenty minutes to the grandiose Kylemore Abbey. This stunning mansion located in a vast estate is beautifully reflected un the still waters of Lough Pollacapull.
This property has 33-bedrooms, built by the Henry family in the 1860s. This idyllic home now houses Benedictine nuns, but open for visits.
Enjoy a relaxing morning stroll in the lush Victorian gardens, along with the verdant parklands and the lake.
After perhaps an hour or two, get back on the road and towards Achill Island, which is just an hour and forty minutes away.
Located in County Mayo, this island is connected to the mainland by a bridge. There’s quite a lot to see and do here, but first, enjoy a delicious lunch first.
After a filling meal, stroll along any of the five blue flag beaches. Check out the Neolithic ruins, the 15th century fortified tower of Carrick Kildavnet Castle, and the former home of Nobel laureate Heinrich Böll.
After exploring Achill, you should be back on the road for a longer drive – around two hours to another fascinating area in the Wild Atlantic Way, County Sligo.
Now we’re back to the true definition of ‘wild Atlantic’ but we’ll save the tours for the next day. Have dinner, a pint or two then rest early. Day six is going to be quite spectacular.
Where to Eat:
Gielty’s Bar in Achill Island, for hearty bar food; Hargadons in Sligo for their take on a traditional meal. Have a bowl chowder and any seafood dish.
Where to Stay:
Strandhill Home, which is conveniently located close to the beach and pubs.
Wild Atlantic Way Itinerary Day 6 – Sligo and Donegal
Day six starts with a thirty-five-minute drive from your accommodation in Strandhill to the charming village of Mullaghmore in Sligo.
Here, you’ll find a lovely sandy beach that offers amazing views of the Atlantic and the nearby Benbulben.
Walk around the scenic Mullaghmore Head, where you’ll spot seabirds such as Fulmars, Gannets, Oystercatchers, and Manx Shearwaters and see the magnificent Classibawn. This scenic morning walk takes an hour to complete.
From Mullaghmore, it’s just a short drive to Benbulben, a flat-topped rock formation that’s 526 meters high. It is a protected geographical site in Sligo and part of the Dartry Mountain range.
This is an area often referred to as Yeats Country because it inspired many great works of Nobel laureate and Irish poet W. B. Yeats.
Benbulben offers unparalleled views of the Sligo coastline that slopes towards the Atlantic. This is also your last stop in Sligo before lunch, and an hour and forty-five minutes drive to County Donegal.
Hailed by the National Geographic Traveller as the Coolest Place on Earth – Donegal’s wild landscapes make it an unforgettable last stop in this Wild Atlantic road trip. The first destination is the otherworldly Slieve League, which has the highest sea cliffs in Europe.
This place doesn’t get crowded so take your time and carefully walk along the edge. Savor the break from driving and take in the dramatic scenery, this is the Wild Atlantic Way at its finest.
You may even stay here until sunset before you drive towards your accommodation, which should be another treat. How about staying in a castle?
Where to Eat:
Lough Eske Castle has a superb on-site restaurant but you may also enjoy meals at Market House or Harvey’s which are both close by.
Where to Stay:
At the historic Lough Eske Castle, nestled in a sprawling estate. You may also want to stay at the romantic St. John’s Point Lighthouse.
You can also check our list of best castle hotels here.
Wild Atlantic Way Itinerary Day 7 – Donegal
The last day of this one-of-a-kind journey through Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way will take you through some of the most beautiful places in Donegal.
Start your morning with a laid back tour around County Donegal’s largest town, Letterkenny. It is home to the only Roman Catholic cathedral in the county, which is why it is also referred to as Cathedral Town.
Another must-see in Letterkenny is the fascinating Donegal Museum, located in an old stone building that was once a famine workhouse.
Regarded as the best county museum in Ireland, the Donegal Museum is home to an impressive collection of artifacts, displays, and exhibits about the history and heritage of Donegal.
After your museum visit, enjoy some local cuisine for lunch and relax a bit, before embarking on a forty-five-minute drive to the exquisite Fanad Head Lighthouse.
Situated in the Donegal Gaeltacht area, the Fanad Head Lighthouse is truly special. For one, it is hailed as one of the most beautiful lighthouses in the world.
It is also set on the dramatic and rugged north coast of Donegal. Drive-up close and get out of your car to see more of this stunning structure.
Said to be built in the 1400s, the lighthouse set against the crashing waters and bays of the Atlantic is just gorgeous. Spend time to just take in the beauty of it all, before going on a long drive to the northernmost part of Ireland.
The last stop in this road trip is Malin Head, essentially the endpoint of the Wild Atlantic Way that started in Mizen Head. This is where you complete the drive, in an area that’s rich in history and natural beauty.
Walk along the rocky coastline, or see the WWII tower that’s at the tip of the rocks that spell FIRE. Also called Banba’s Crown, these rocks were used during the war as a signal to passing.planes that they have reached neutral Ireland.
This part of Malin Head is quite symbolic as it now signals the end of your epic seven-day Wild Atlantic Way road trip.
Celebrate with a walk down the sea cave called Hell’s Hole, where the wild Atlantic crashes against the rocks. This is the perfect way to end and remember this scenic journey through Ireland’s spectacularly scenic west coast.
Where To Eat:
Lunch at Lemon Tree in Letterkenny, for a taste of contemporary Donegal cooking. For early dinner, head towards the Community Centre on the road to Malin Head, for Wild Strands delicious, home-cooked organic food.
Where To Stay:
You can drive back to Dublin or stay in one of the nearby hotels in Malin Head. One of our favorites is Inish House which is only 10 minutes away from Malin Head.
Hi, I’m Christine – a full-time traveler and career woman. Although I’m from the Philippines, my location independent career took me to over 40 countries for the past 8 years. I also lived in 3 continents – from the Caribbean, South East Asia to Africa. But despite living in several countries, my love for Ireland remains the same. A country that had been a part of my life since I was 14 because of my love for Irish music and bands. Ireland Travel Guides was born because of this passion and hopefully, in some little ways, this website will be able to help you on your next trip to Ireland.