If you’re one of the few people who hasn’t seen Star Wars – The Force Awakens, you missed out on the beautiful Skellig Michael being filmed in all its cinematic glory. It was the perfect closing shot, leaving viewers with goosebumps. It also had the effect of shining a lightsabre onto one of Ireland’s biggest tourist attractions, The Wild Atlantic Way. Elvis Presley fans from around the world flock to Graceland annually to commemorate The Kings life, and when you consider the impact Star Wars has had on popular culture since its release in 1977, the residents of Kerry should brace themselves for an onslaught of Star Wars fans in the future. If you were blown away by the sight of Skellig Michael on film and fancy exploring Ireland, we’ve compiled a list of the best things on The Wild Atlantic Way to help make your trip truly unforgettable.
Donegal is known for its breathtaking landscapes, beautiful beaches, cosy little pubs, and delicious seafood. Visit tourist spots like Glenveagh Castle with its eye catching garden, the massive National Park, Malin Head, or climb the cliffs of Sliabh Liag. If you fancy sampling some of Ireland’s best craft beer, Kinnegar Brewing has a variety of beers and even offer brewery tours. Whiskey lovers are also catered for with the new opening of Sliabh Liag Distillery which offers single malt and pot still whiskeys.
When you’re finished sightseeing, Cove Restaurant is the perfect place to dine on seafood dishes of organic salmon with pearl barley risotto or fillet of hake with with peas and chorizo. Finish your meal with a glass of wine while you overlook Sheephaven Bay and discuss the next step on your travels.
Sligo is another visually stunning county with its glimmering beaches and picturesque green hills. Brush up on your poetry at the Yeats memorial building and art gallery, wander around Ballymote castle, get a boat trip out to the uninhabited Inishmurray island, or even practice your surfing. If you find yourself looking for food in Sligo’s Italian Quarter, Bistro Bianconi offers classic pizza, pasta and seafood dishes with an extensive wine list.
Fancy drinking a tasty Irish stout, White Hag brew beers like an oatmeal and chocolate milk stout, a 10% imperial oatmeal one, and even a barrel aged version. They are all delicious!
Mayo is renowned for tourist attractions like the holy mountain of Croagh Patrick, Ashford Castle, and Achill Island. These spots and their scenery are so stunning you will want to move permanently to Mayo! An Port Mor restaurant likes to use fresh seafood and meat from Clew Bay and Connemara. Their classic dishes include crab cakes rolled in a seaweed and polenta crust, rump of lamb, as well as a coffee, almond and black pepper bread.
Fancy a few post-dinner drinks then get some beers from Mescan Brewery. They brew Belgian style beers with a Westport influence. Prepare to be amazed with their take on a red tripel, wit beer, and even a quadruple. Want something stronger? Blackwater Distillery make single malt and pot still whiskies, as well as a gin modelled after the classic London Dry Gin.
Galway has long been the perfect place for tourists to visit. It offers a more authentic view of Ireland than Dublin, has an amazing food and drinks scene, and hosts exciting events like their annual oyster and seafood festival. You will be well familiar with the classic combination of oysters and stouts when you move onto your next destination. Have a romantic walk along Galway Bay with your other half, visit the famous Aran Islands, or check out the bustling Eyre Square and Spanish Arch.
With so many great food options, you can have a fancy tasting menu at Aniar or Loam, or an equally amazing 3 course meal at Kai Cafe and Restaurant. The latter is a must visit spot for Sunday brunch if you find yourself walking around the city centre feeling peckish! Galway Bay Brewery is one of Ireland’s best breweries, and has two of their own bars where they serve their own beers alongside many other famous international breweries.
Want to walk on some glacial-era limestone paths and cliffs, explore caves for fossils, or just nerd out on amazing archaeological sites, then you need to pay a visit to The Burren. Comic book film fans may even recognise The Burren from the closing scene in Hellboy 2: The Golden Army. While in Clare make sure to visit jaw dropping beauty that is The Cliffs of Moher too. It’s one of Ireland’s most visited tourist sites, attracting one million visitors per year. It’s not often that you can say you’ve experienced two world famous sites over a weekend.
If you need somewhere to stay while in Clare, the Wild Honey Inn from Lisdoonvarna is the perfect place to recharge your batteries. It’s a recent Bib Gourmand winner from Michelin, offering rugged West Coast of Ireland dishes like Liscannor crab claws, veloute of smoked haddock, black pudding and foie gras terrine, and beautiful lamb neck fillet with buttered greens. Great food and a good night’s sleep is exactly what you need to finish off the final stops on your journey.
Visiting Limerick’s famous Lough Gur Heritage Centre you will come across a wealth of archaeology and history that dates back to Stone Age times. You will be able to travel through time with their guided tours and interactive exhibitions. Other tourist hotspots include Limerick’s oldest building, St. Mary’s Cathedral, and King John’s Castle. The 13th century castle is located next to the River Shannon, and has undergone multi million euro investment, making it an essential visit.
The Milk Market in the city centre of Limerick sells a huge variety of foods and handcrafted items over the weekend. Pick up some treats from Wilde Irish Chocolates, eat at Rene Cusack’s Fish Bar, or get cheese from The Flying Cheese Brigade. Wade and Elaine Murphy of award winning 1826 Adare restaurant use wild and local produce, giving patrons a taste of modern Irish cooking in a quaint and cosy cottage.
Time to whip out that lightsabre and pose for a few epic looking photos once you make that boat trip out to the Skellig Islands in Kerry. Be the envy of your friends as you climb the trail to reach the summit of this awe inspiring 6th century monastic settlement. The Skellig Islands are so impressive they’ve been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site! If that isn’t enough for you, grab a bike and take in the scenery as you cycle around the Ring of Kerry. Two last spots worth a visit are The Dingle Peninsula and the Killarney National Park. The former described as the jewel in the crown of The Wild Atlantic Way.
It would be a shame not to visit the Skelligs Chocolate Factory while in Kerry. Their flavours include Brandy plums, apricot amarettos, fig and rum. Need some food after all that sightseeing then Giovannelli restaurant, a Bib Gourmand winner with their authentic Italian dishes, will ensure you get a hearty meal in you. If you fancy a nightcap, keep an eye out for West Kerry Brewery and Dingle Distillery. They have been making a splash on the Irish craft beer scene with their rich chocolate porter and English style bitter. It’s all happening in Kerry!
The Rebel County, otherwise known as Cork, is a worthy stop for the finale of your Wild Atlantic Way adventure. If you are worried that when you get home you won’t be able to do the trip justice to your friends, you need to make sure to plant a kiss on The Blarney Stone! It will then bestow on you the gift of eloquence, turning you into a Yeats or a Joyce. If you fancy having a 360 degree view of Cork City, taking in all its glory, climb the steps of the Shandon Bells Tower. While there, it would be amiss of you not to give the bell a good old ring!
Cork is also home to one of Ireland’s most famous and biggest markets, The English Market. Pick up some of that famous Irish seafood, handmade chocolates, or fresh bread. It would be a shame not to pick up the Irish delicacy of Clonakilty pudding for your friends, just don’t tell them how it’s made! For your final meal, have one final taste of Ireland by visiting Fishy Fishy. They take their seafood very seriously, serving only the best fresh fish from the south coast of Ireland. Get your fill of oysters, scallops, mussels, lobster and their tasty fish pie. If you need a nice drink to wash that down, Eight Degrees Brewing are constantly making new and exciting beers, while West Cork Distillers specialises in vodka, gin, poitin, and whiskey. Raise your drink of choice and say Slán to The Wild Atlantic Way!