Whether you drive it from end-to-end, or dip into it as the mood strikes, the Wild Atlantic Way is a sensational journey of stunning scenery, dramatic coasts, stately castles, and buzzing towns. It also boasts an incredible portfolio of culinary events and festivals, cozy pubs, spirited song and storytelling. So how do you decide where to go and what to see? Here are five ways to steer your journey for the upcoming fall season.
1.) Flavors of the West
From smoked salmon in County Clare and seaweed foraging walks in County Sligo, to Connemara mussels and farmhouse cheeses in West Cork, there’s lots to discover on a “palate-awakening road trip” on the Wild Atlantic Way. Try Burren Smokehouse smoked salmon, Achill Mountain and Clew Bay lamb, Clonakilty Blackpudding and Durrus Farmhouse cheeses, Irish whiskey, craft beers, fine dairy ice creams, and artisan chocolates. Along the route, you’ll discover a million ways to satisfy your appetite. The green pastures, deep valleys and abundant waters surrounding the island have helped create outstanding natural flavors that you won’t get everywhere else in the world.
Many of the food and drink experiences in the region have been packaged into inspired foodie touring routes and festivals. The Bay Coast Seafood Trail is a delicious seafood journey not to be missed and upcoming festivals worth marking your calendar for include, A Taste of West Cork (8–17 September), the world’s longest running Oyster Festival, the Galway International Oyster Festival (22–24 September), and the unique artisanal island festival Bia Bó Finne Food festival (30 September–2 October) on the idyllic Inishboffin.
2.) Cultural highlights
If culture’s your thing, the Wild Atlantic Way is alive with a host of events and festivals for every interest—from theater, jazz and the arts, it seems every community is on a celebratory agenda. Here are a few to mark on your calendar this season.
Clifden Arts Festival – September 14–24, 2017
Delve into the artistic world at Ireland’s longest-running community arts festival in the heart of Connemara, now in its 40th year. Featuring some of the best acts in Irish music, theatre, film and literary talks.
Culture Night – September 22, 2017
On Friday, September 22, Ireland celebrates Culture Night 2017. A night when arts and cultural organizations in bustling cities and rustic towns across the island of Ireland open their doors from 5 p.m.–11 p.m. with hundreds of free events, tours, talks, and performances for you, your family, and friends to enjoy. So get involved!
Galway Jazz Festival – October 5–8, 2017
Let the music fill your soul during three days packed with 30 performances, 12 venues, and almost 80 musicians.
Sligo Live – October 25–30, 2017
One of the most relaxed, friendly and enjoyable music festivals in Europe, this three-day event brims with great traditional, folk, Americana, R&B, blues and roots music in an incredibly beautiful and historic location.
Druid Theater, Galway
Galway’s award-winning Druid Theatre is one of the best-known Irish theatre companies in the English-speaking world—with a long-standing tradition of outstanding stage productions performed by a stellar ensemble cast and crew.
3.) Charming cities & towns
Ireland might be best known for its diverse landscapes and warm hospitality but its incredible cities will equally sweep you off your feet.
Europe’s most westerly city, Galway is a thriving, bohemian, cultural and infectious hotspot. Along with its serene bay and long winding promenade, it also has a buzzing cosmopolitan city center. The city is a joy to explore with its labyrinthine cobbled streets, colorful shop facades and busy café/bar culture. Galway is well-known for its many festivals throughout the year from arts and film to horse racing and oysters.
Traditional Ireland is well represented too with turf fires and traditional music featured in many pubs to complement your enjoyment of a well-earned pint of Guinness. Guided tours are an excellent way to see Galway and neighboring Connemara National Park and/or the Burren National Park, home to the dramatic Cliffs of Moher.
Lovely Limerick is the beating heart of the Mid West Region with the mighty River Shannon at its center. The fourth-largest city on the island of Ireland, it is steeped in history and has a thriving arts culture. One of its top attractions is King John’s Castle on ‘King’s Island’ with a stunning new exhibition bringing to life over 800 years of dramatic local history.
Arts enthusiasts will be spoiled for choice with Limerick’s many galleries. The city also boasts a flourishing restaurant scene and the Milk Market is a great showcase for the best of local artisan food. There’s also no shortage of lively nightlife with great pubs and live music venues.
In addition to bustling cities, Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way is dotted with a host of picturesque towns and villages that will steal your heart, make a point of visiting Westport, Doolin, and Dingle. These charming towns offer fascinating walking tours, excellent restaurants and some of Ireland’s liveliest pubs.
4.) Cozy pubs
Ireland’s celebrated pubs are famous for authentic, live Irish music, colorful stories, and spirited camaraderie are a standalone reason for visiting this time of year. Snuggle in beside a warm fire for a traditional music session with a hot whiskey, chat with the locals and sample a hearty dish of traditional stew or chowder served with the freshest local ingredients, perfect after a brisk evening walk.
Make it a priority to stop into the following throughout your journey.
Tigh Coili in the heart of Galway City is famous for its traditional Irish music sessions and a popular spot for tourists and locals alike who want to sample Irish music in a pleasant and relaxing atmosphere.
The Reel Inn in Donegal Town is an award-winning Irish pub where you can enjoy lively Irish music and dance seven nights a week.
The Laurels, in County Kerry, is a cozy Killarney pub with an old world feel. The food here is among the best you will find in Killarney.
The Bulman in Kinsale, County Cork, adds an authentic mariner’s touch that locals love. Whether you drop in for a drink, or a bite to eat from the award-winning kitchen of Toddies Restaurant, a welcoming log fire greets you.
5.) Castle stays
Whether you’d like to experience the royal lifestyle, or are simply interested in the history of these ancient structures, there are plenty of majestic castles dotted along the Wild Atlantic Way to enjoy. Steeped in history, they offer a glimpse into Ireland’s rich past, and add a layer of decadence to any visit. Coupled with grand estates, luxury interiors and delicious cuisine, a castle stay tops off the perfect Ireland vacation. Treat yourself at these stays.
Ashford Castle, County Mayo
If you are going to stay in a castle, it might as well be one of the very best. Repeatedly voted Best Hotel in the World, Ashford Castle brings luxury to a whole new level. Dating back to 1228 and once home to the famous Guinness family, this spectacular 350 acre estate offers sumptuous rooms and suites, splendid interiors brimming with antique furniture, fine fabrics and unique features at every turn.
Dromoland Castle, County Clare
This magnificent Renaissance structure, built in the 16th century, was once the royal seat of the O’Brien clan, direct descendants of Irish King Brian Boru. Dromoland offers guests the experience of living like a king, surrounded by luxury.
Ballynahinch Castle, County Galway
Located in Galway’s Connemara region, Ballynahinch Estate is home to more than 180 hectares of beautiful woodlands, gardens, lakes and rivers. The walled garden with its labyrinth, terraced gardens by the river, and lakeside paths make it a perfect peaceful retreat.
Solis Lough Eske, County Donegal
Fairytale turrets? Check. Magical woodlands? Check. Everything a castle hotel should be, Lough Eske delivers … and then some. This Donegal gem is in an ideal location for exploring the rugged beauty of Ireland’s incredibly scenic Northwest region, providing guests with an authentic experience away from the typical tourist hotspots. Your idyllic retreat awaits!
Ready to go? Start planning your trip to Ireland.
How would you like to spend the fall season in Ireland?