What is Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, Exactly?

18th March 2014
Pól Ó Conghaile

Thundering surf. Epic cliffs. Cosy pubs and cobweb-blasting coastal walks. We’ve all seen the ads and images for Ireland’s new Wild Atlantic Way. But what is it, exactly?

What is the Wild Atlantic Way?

It’s a coastal touring route stretching from Donegal’s Inishowen Peninsula to Kinsale, Co. Cork. Think of it as Ireland’s western seaboard, repackaged for the 21st century.

How long is it?

2,500km.

Why is it a big deal?

It’s the world’s newest and longest defined coastal touring route… right on our doorstep.

How do I ‘do’ it?

Whether you walk 2.5km or drive 2,500km doesn’t really matter – the Wild Atlantic Way isn’t designed to be ‘done’ or ‘finished’. Of course you could drive the western seaboard in its entirety, but most tourists and daytrippers will be happy to dip in and out, stopping whenever the mood strikes.

What is there to see?

Viewpoints, activities, restaurants, beaches, festivals, towns and cities… you name it. The Wild Atlantic Way has 159 Discovery Points, but it also has 580 festivals and events, 53 Blue Flag Beaches and 120 golf courses. It’s as much about the route itself as the stops along the way.

wild atlantic way

Erm, isn’t it just the Atlantic Coast?

Yes. Ireland’s Atlantic Coast always been there.

What the Wild Atlantic Way brings to the party, however, is a central concept with which to package together all of its elements. Combining coastal towns, landscape, heritage and festivals into one big marketing bundle could give Ireland a huge tourism boost… catapulting it into the thoughts and plans of millions of potential visitors.

Besides, the fact that it’s already there means we didn’t have to build it!

Why should I see it?

This really is as raw as Ireland gets. This is spray-in-your-face, mud-on-your-tyres, salt-on-your-windscreen stuff. If you haven’t been to the west coast in a while, here’s your excuse to go back.

How much did it cost?

A €10 million capital investment has already been accounted for.

Why is that spend justified?

From a marketing point of view, touring routes attract more people, get them to stay longer and encourage them to spend more money. Businesses along the way should benefit too – the Wild Atlantic Way is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to jump on-board a branding bandwagon with international reach – one that comes with its own ads, marketing and app (available end of June).

Puffin Birds; Skellig; Kerry

How does it rate internationally?

The Wild Atlantic Way is longer than California’s Pacific Coast Highway, Norway’s Atlantic Road or South Africa’s Garden Route, and every bit as spectacular. It also has fewer tourists (well, outside of the Cliffs of Moher and Ring of Kerry, anyway), and its halfway house is Galway City. That’s not a bad starting point.

Where can I learn more?

More info at #wildatlanticway or ireland.com/wildatlanticway.

I discussed the Wild Atlantic Way and other great touring routes on Radio One recently: