The Wild Atlantic Way is a strange and wonderful thing. It stretches all along the western coast of Ireland for 2600 km of narrow windy roads. It’s said to be one of the longest coastal routes in the world, and after spending too many hours on that road, I have to agree.
The most striking section is arguably the aptly named Sky Road, going through the Colmarra national park area on a route from Clifden onto the desolate Kingston peninsula. The tallest peak of Sky Road is only about 120 meters above sea level, but it feels like you are way up in the sky.
The rugged beauty of Colmarra is visually striking. We passed strange artifacts such as the Killing Stone in the middle of nowhere. Out here I could really feel the desolation as it was depicted in the movie The Banshees of Inisherin, where many scenes were filmed on Achill Island, a bit to the north of Colmarra.
After a short stop for coffee in Clifden, the capital of Connemara, we headed straight to Kylemore Abbey. This is another gem in the Colmarra region, a Benedictine monastery from 1920 with an incredible location set between lake Pollacapall and a tall mountain.
After Kylemore Abbey, the road towards Leenaun follows the Killary Fjord until you reach Westport. This is another small but colorful town with several cute stone bridges across Carrowbeg River.
Other places of interest around Colmarra is the Quiet Man bridge (seen in the John Wayne movie Quiet Man from 1952) as well as Pines Island (a small island looking like something from a fairy tale or Arthur legend).
But no list of the Irish west coast is complete without the Cliffs of Moher. These sandstone cliffs tower above the Atlantic Ocean with a height of 120 meters, but still there are some sea spray of salt water making its way all the way up (as I sorely discovered). The cliffs reminded me of Kilt Rock on Isle of Skye in northern Scotland. The lonely O’Brien’s Tower really feels like you have reached the end of the world.
The cliffs can be seen in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, as well as The Princess Bride (where they are called the Cliffs of Insanity as the band of adventurers scale them by hand). Outside the cliffs are the Aran Islands, another location from The Banshees of Inisherin.
After long days on the road, Galway is the perfect place to settle in. It’s located exactly halfway on the Wild Atlantic Way and known as the cultural heart of Ireland. Just walk through the Latin Quarter on a normal evening and the streets are full of buskers, drunks and other fun people. It’s no wonder that the music video for Ed Sheeran’s song “Galway Girl” was shot in the streets and bars of Galway.
Have a look at the lively O’Connell’s Bar where Sheeran’s video was shot (until you get tinnitus), sit next to the statue of Galway Girl at The Quays, squeeze in at the eternally crammed Tig Chóilí for a dose of live music or take a romantic stroll through the Spanish Arch along The Long Walk.
Perhaps end the day with a plate of Coddle and a wee pint of the black stuff?