Best of the Wild Atlantic Way 12 Night

Shannon to Dingle

From Shannon, you will be heading to the quaint town of Dingle in County Kerry via Limerick City, the pretty village of Adare and the dramatic Conor Pass on route to what is perhaps the most dramatic and scenic peninsula in the country. The small village of Annascaul is the birth place of Tom Crean, a local hero who accompanied Scott and Shackleton on three Antarctic expeditions, including Scott’s doomed attempt to reach the South Pole. On his return to Annascaul Crean opened the "South Pole Inn", which is still in business today. Dingle retains the charm of a fishing village despite being a popular tourist destination. From Dingle head to the harbour village of Ventry, in which the ancient tale of the Battle of Ventry Strand is based. The tale as told in a 15th century manuscript describes how Daire Donn, King of the World, landed at Ventry in an attempt to invade Ireland and was defeated on the beachhead by Fionn Mac Cumhaill. You will also see Dunbeg Fort and the Blasket Islands just off the coast. Further along the coast road will bring you to the remains of Ferriter Castle and Dun An Oir. Here in 1580, after three days siege, over 600 Irish and Spanish soldiers surrendered to Lord Grey only to be massacred by his troops. Nearby is the Gallarus Oratory, one of the best preserved early Christian church buildings in Ireland.

Day trip to Killarney from Dingle

The journey from Dingle to Killarney can take as little as 90 minutes without stops. However, we suggest the following route and stops. If you decide to get an early start and forego stops at some of the initial locations, then you will be able to commence the Ring of Kerry section of the tour instead of heading straight to Killarney. First stop is the village of Annascaul. This small village is the birth place of Jerome Connor, the famous sculptor, and Tom Crean, a local hero who accompanied Scott and Shackleton on three Antarctic expeditions, including Scott’s doomed attempt to reach the South Pole. On his return to Annascaul, Crean opened the "South Pole Inn", which is still in business today. Close by is Inch Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in Ireland. The Ring of Kerry is a journey through some of the country’s most outstanding scenery around the Iveragh Peninsula. Stunning mountain and coastal scenery combined with colourful towns and villages will make this one of the highlights of your tour. For those who wish to take a break from driving we can arrange a bus tour through this route. Following the peninsula drive, you then arrive at Muckross House. Muckross House is a magnificent Victorian mansion completed in 1843 for Henry Arthur Herbert. The location of the House is spectacular, close to the eastern shore of Muckross Lake and set beneath the impressive backdrop of Torc and Mangerton Mountains. As an alternative to the Ring of Kerry tour you may prefer to take a wonderful tour by pony and trap that takes you through the Black Valley in the Gap of Dunloe. After a snack at Lord Brandon’s Cottage, you will return to Killarney by boat via the beautiful lakes of Killarney.

Dingle to Clare

After an early breakfast depart Dingle in the direction of Brandon to drive over the renowned Conor Pass, Ireland’s highest mountain pass. At the summit Brandon and Tralee Bays can be seen to the north, with the sandy Castlegregory peninsula separating them and to the south lies Dingle Bay. Continue to Tralee and Tarbert where you will take a ferry crossing on the Shannon Estuary to County Clare. Continue north to the Cliffs of Moher. The majestic Cliffs of Moher are without doubt one of Ireland’s most spectacular sights and overlook the Atlantic Ocean on the coast of West Clare. You then arrive at the village of Doolin. Doolin is world-famous for its wealth of Irish folk music and in recent years has been attracting crowds to spontaneous sessions in any one of its excellent pubs. Just north of the Cliffs you then have the lunar like Burren region and the ancient Poulnabrone Dolmen Tombs as well as the Aillwee Caves.

Day Trip from Clare to Galway City

Today you travel to the university city of Galway via the lunar like Burren Region and the ancient Poulnabrone Dolmen Tombs. Also on route, you will have a chance to visit Dunguaire Castle on Galway Bay which was built in 1520 by the O'Hynes clan on the picturesque shores of Galway Bay. Galway, the ‘City of the Tribes’ is also known as Ireland’s Cultural and festival capital. With its street entertainers and traditional pubs with great music, Galway and in particular, the Quays area of the city centre will enthrall you particularly in the evening time. Other sites in Galway include Ireland’s largest medieval parish church, the Collegiate Church of St Nicholas of Myra dating back to 1320. Christopher Columbus reputedly worshipped in this church in 1477. Also nearby are Galway Cathedral, the Spanish Arch and Eyre Square.

Doolin to Connemara

From there travel west of Galway to the hauntingly beautiful Connemara Region. Situated on the most western seaboard of Europe, this unspoilt region boasts breathtaking scenery. The characteristic features of Connemara include its rugged, unpolluted coastline, dramatic mountains, numerous lakes and rivers and woodlands and the renowned Connemara National Park. Visit Kylemore Abbey and the Lough Inagh Valley as well as the spectacular Sky Road near the town of Clifden. You can also visit the fishing village of Roundstone and see how a ‘Bodhran’ (traditional Irish Drum) is made. Alternatively, you may prefer to take the ferry to the Aran Islands. Aran will take you back to an Ireland of Celts and Early Christians. Take a pony and trap, or a guided tour from the pier up the island to the stone fort of Dun Aengus. Dún Aengus fort is located on top of a 300ft high sea cliff and is one of the finest prehistoric monuments in Western Europe.

Connemara to Westport

Touring north from Connemara, you will also be able to walk along the fjord at Killary harbour or indeed take the catamaran cruise through Ireland's only fjord. From there travel just south of Westport to see Croagh Patrick, otherwise known as Ireland's 'Holy Mountain' upon which St. Patrick (according to Irish folklore) spent 40 days fasting. The area around Croagh Patrick is rich in archaeological remains which provide an interesting insight into life in times past. Findings date back to 200 B.C.  Just north of the town of Westport in the county of Mayo is Ireland’s least populated region where you can walk the open countryside for miles with no company other than the local sheep. The amazing geology, archaeology, botany and wildlife of this region of North Mayo is interpreted for us at The Céide Fields Visitors' Centre with the aid of an audio-visual presentation and exhibitions. You may also wish to visit Westport House - Designed by the famous architects Richard Cassels and James Wyatt in the 18th century, Westport House is located west of the Shannon and is one of Irelands’ most historic homes open to the public.

Westport to Ballina, Mayo

Travel to Ballina via the north west corner of County Mayo, the least densely populated area of Ireland.
From Westport travel to the Ceide Fields, an area rich in archaeological treasures dating from the Neolithic period. The ruin of St. Patrick’s Church and a spectacular Dun Briste can be seen at Downpatrick Head, just to the north. The north coast road is reputably the most scenic coastal road in Ireland and it is here that the first settlers began to farm the slopes of the Behy/Glenurla hillside over 5000 years ago.
On to Ballina which is renowned as an angling centre, with excellent river, sea and lake waters within easy reach. Also in this region are Achill Island and the fishing village of Belmullet. Achill, the largest island off the coast of Ireland and connected to the Mayo mainland by a bridge, is a place of sheer beauty, with mountains, lakes, valleys, magnificent sea-cliffs, wild moors and spectacular scenery.

Ballina, Mayo to Donegal

On route to Donegal you will travel by Ireland’s most visited pilgrimage location, the Shrine at Knock. Shortly after this, you can take a slight detour to the Coleman Irish Music Centre is a celebration of Irish Music, Culture and Heritage as expressed in the South Sligo style of music played by Michael Coleman and other musicians of his time. Southwest of Sligo Town you will find the Ancient Tombs of Carrowmore. Over 60 tombs have been located by archaeologists to date. Dating back to nearly 5,000 B.C. and centuries older than the Pyramids of Egypt, Carrowmore is Ireland’s largest megalithic cemetery and is considered to be one of the most important in Europe. Shortly after leaving Sligo on route to County Donegal you will arrive at Drumcliff Churchyard, perhaps the most visited graveyard in Ireland. William Butler Yeats is buried here under the epitaph that he penned, “Cast a Cold Eye on Life, on Death. Horsemen, pass by!”. The Churchyard stands in the shadow of the magnificent Benbulben. Continue north until you reach Belleek home to Belleek Pottery, where there is an excellent visitor centre that is open from April to October. Set up in 1857, the factory is famous worldwide for its ornate fine Parian China. Other major touring attractions in Donegal include the Railway Heritage Centre,Donegal castle and Donegal Craft Village in Donegal town. Heading west from Donegal Town, on the edge of the Atlantic is Ireland’s premier fishing port of Killybegs. Nearby are the magnificent Slieve League Cliffs which at over 1,000 ft (300 metres) the cliffs are the highest marine cliffs in Europe. Next stop along this route is the Gaelic speaking village of Glencolumbcille where you can take the opportunity to relive local rural life as experienced in 18th, 19th and 20th century Ireland.

Donegal to Galway City

For this journey you may want to take the direct route inland to Galway city. A stop of note on this route is the village of Knock. It is a major Roman Catholic pilgrimage site and it is claimed there was an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1879.Galway City, the ‘City of the Tribes’ also known as Ireland’s Cultural and festival capital. Galway and in particular, the Quays area of the city centre will enthrall you particularly in the evening time. Other sites in Galway include Ireland’s largest medieval parish church, the Collegiate Church of St Nicholas of Myra dating back to 1320. Christopher Columbus reputedly worshipped in this church in 1477. Also nearby are Galway Cathedral, the Spanish Arch and Eyre Square. If using Galway as a base will enable you to spend time in the Connemara Region as well as the Aran Islands.