Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland
Wild Atlantic Way
The North Atlantic Drift, the ocean current that extends the warm waters of the Gulf Stream northward and drops 118 inches of rain along Eire’s western coast, creates the hypnotizing fairytale landscape and mild climate of the Wild Atlantic Way—1600 miles of breathtaking, vivid, unspoiled coastline that traverses unexplored, rugged, and remote regions. Nobel Prize Laureate Seamus Heaney notes that the west coast of Ireland “will catch the heart off guard and blow it open.”
Unrestrained, untamable tides and storms have continuously molded the wild terrain of the west coast of Ireland into some of the most powerful and romantic imagery in cinematography—the Cliffs of Moher are known in The Princess Bride as the “Cliffs of Insanity” and also in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince as the backdrop for Dumbledore’s apparition lesson, and the strangely isolated islands of County Clare in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi showcase the diversity and unimaginably accessible landscape of the Wild Atlantic Way.
Always majestic, the staggering impressive natural beauty of the Cliffs of Moher make the senses tingle. Expect whistling whipping winds, sightings of seafaring Atlantic puffins seeking sanctuary on cliff ledges, waves crashing and spraying salty foam, and peregrine falcons gliding overhead. So surreal an experience, it is possible—if only for a fleeting moment—to believe in the Irish legends of a man falling in love with a mermaid and gods turned into ponies plummeting from the cliffs.
Completely dependent on the weather’s irrational moods, the formidable 702 feet of rock face cliffs can appear broody and saturnine one moment and radiant and luminous the next.
Iconic markers of the Irish landscape, peat bogs cover over a sixth of the island’s land and provide fuel, wildlife habitat, and water management. The rolling lush countryside and rocky hills are home to millions of sheep that produce the backbones of the Irish agricultural economy: meat and wool. The Wild Atlantic Way traverses all of this topographic diversity.
The Wild Atlantic Way is a lingering in time and place journey in which the senses are alert and the visual rewards diverse and soul gratifying.
Inland from the coast on bits of unpaved road dotted with cows in pastures and nestled along the shore of the lake at the base of Gougane Barra Forest Park lies one of the world’s most romantic churches. St Finnbar’s Oratory is a 19th century structure that sits on the grounds of the saint’s original 6th-Century monastery and a gorgeous place to picnic and exploit the power of solitude.
Drombeg Stone Circle
The druids of ancient Celtic culture and pagan society were, as archeologist Barry Cunliffe noted, “philosophers, teachers, judges, the repository of communal wisdoms about the natural world and the traditions of the people, and the mediators between humans and the gods.” Today, druid practices are commonly associated with sorcerers and Megalithic sites of chiseled stones and bloody sacrifices. Drombeg Stone Circle is Ireland’s most famous Druid’s Alter. Excavated in 1958, the cremated remains of an adolescent girl dating from 150 BC were unearthed, and this recumbent stone circle is believed to be one of two hundred sites in which moonlight played a central role.
Built in 1739, Bantry House is a country estate in southwestern Ireland. The perfect place to experience the Irish tea ritual, roam the gardens for hours (even in the rain they are beautiful), and find yourself lost in time in a magnificent world of noble grandeur and idyllic country life. High tea served in the library, surrounded by a grand piano, velvet, artwork, books, period furniture, and spectacular views of the gardens from leaded two story windows contributes to an authentic two-centuries-ago experience.
Villages such as Glengariff spring from the hug-the-left-and-hold-your-breath-when-cars-or trucks pass country roads. Quaint architecture, local pubs, and walking trails are signatures of these communities seemingly lost in time.
At the mouth of the River Bannon, Kinsale—a historic port and fishing town incorporated in 1333—has one of the best bakeries in Ireland. With the mantra “urban flavor in rural Ireland,” Shannon Keane’s Diva Boutique Bakery & Cafe bakes up breads and pastries and prepares Irish cheese plates and authentic Irish lunches. Mingle with the locals while nibbling on award-winning seeded sourdough boule or the slightly sweet traditional brown bread and this stop on the Wild Atlantic Way will forever be imprinted on your heart.
Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
The Country Girls by Edna O’Brien
Seamus Heaney Poetry
The Secret of Roan Inish
Into the West
P.S. I Love You