We recently visited Ireland with my parents who were visiting from Australia. After landing in Dublin we headed straight over to the untamed West Coast & began exploring this invigorating, naturally stunning part of the world! We wanted to share with you the highlights of our road trip & a few tips for anyone venturing over to the land of Guinness & Leprechauns.
We arrived in Dublin Airport & picked up our (BRAND NEW!) shiny red Toyota from Sixt at the Airport. We’d decided early on that we wanted to explore more of the countryside than city & so headed straight out of the city & across to Galway on the West Coast.
My parents couldn’t believe that you could drive from one side of the country to the other in a matter of only hours! Within a few hours, we were in Galway & set off exploring. I’d heard lovely things about the medieval harbour city of Galway and it lived up to expectations! We wandered along the harbour and river, did some shopping and exploring before settling into one of the many traditional pubs that were playing live Irish folk music!
After a big day of travel and a few pints of Guinness (for all the non-drivers), we were feeling pretty tired & so decided to head to our cottage we had booked in the countryside to recharge the batteries in front of the wood fire before a big day of exploring the next day! Our cottage dreamily felt like it was in the middle of nowhere, it was serene and peaceful with only the noise of the birds chirping in the trees around us.
We woke up refreshed in our gorgeous cottage in the countryside ready to see more of what this beautiful country had to show us.
We drove for about twenty minutes before we joined up with the Wild Atlantic Way. The Wild Atlantic way is one of the world’s longest coastal touring routes being 2,500km long! We set off with the intention of wanting to see as much as we could but with no set plans except the Cliffs of Moher.
We found the roads fantastic and in great condition (albeit narrow in some places, although that is coming from an Australian who is used to big open spaces) & we found that all the roads and main sites were well marked. Especially well marked was the Wild Atlantic Way (there is really no way to miss it or get lost)!
The first place we came across was beautiful Dunguaire Castle which sits on the shore of Galway Bay. This 16th Century tower is well preserved and despite its small size and simple architecture, we found it absolutely beautiful. The people who lived in there initially really chose a beautiful place to build their castle.
After exploring Dunguaire Castle we continued on and within a few minutes drove into the bright and colourful seaside village of Kinvarra. I immediately fell in love with its colourful shops, fishing boats and location on the Galway Bay shores.
After lunch in one of Kinvarra’s cafes, we then made the last minute decision to head down a small road to Black Head, a lovely beach where the sun even came out for us! It was lovely to explore the beach in the sunshine whilst looking out over the peaceful Atlantic Ocean.
The region we were exploring is known as The Burren and in The Burren there are over 70 stone tombs! We stopped at the most famous and well preserved portal tomb known as Poulnabrone. Again, it was well marked with signs and there was a lot of interesting information there. I couldn’t believe that it was over 5000 years old dating back to the Neolithic period (even older than the Egyptian Pyramids)!
We spent another hour or so just driving and taking in all the incredible scenery around us! Mountains, rivers, farmland, ocean, lakes… it really is very spectacular part of the world.
Eventually we arrived at the Cliffs of Moher. I have wanted to visit the Cliffs of Moher for as long as I can remember (I am assuming since the first time I saw a photo of them).
They are absolutely majestic, bucket list-worthy and completely exceeded my expectations (which were quite high)! Picture 8km’s of sheer cliffs (with over 200m drop) that look out over the Atlantic Ocean and Aran Islands. Rugged, picturesque and untouched. Exploring this natural wonder is something I’ll never forget and something I would recommend to anyone visiting the ‘Emerald Isle’.
We spent another night on the West Coast before heading to Dublin to experience all it had to offer which we will be posting about in the next few days, including our trip to the Guinness Factory!
Whilst we didn’t stop exploring the whole time we were in Ireland, we really didn’t even scratch the surface of the incredible West Coast and The Wild Atlantic Way. It truly is some of the most breathtaking scenery we’ve seen in all our travels and I know without a doubt we’ll be back soon for a extended trip and this time plan to see it all!
A few tips for exploring Ireland
- If you or your travelling companions have a Drivers Licence hire a car! I can’t recommend this more! We all loved the fact that we could work on our own schedule and stop wherever we wanted and stay for as long as we wanted! There are so many gorgeous stops along the Wild Atlantic Way that a lot of tour buses wouldn’t go to due to time constraints but with the freedom of our own car we could stop whenever and wherever we wanted.
- We hired our car from Sixt at Dublin Airport and they were incredible. They were super friendly, helpful and the whole process was simple & efficient. We flew direct from Gatwick Airport and were literally driving out of Dublin Airport in our (Brand New!) car an hour after landing!
- Prepare for ANY weather conditions. Ireland is known for it’s wet & windy conditions but that is probably what makes it so green & naturally beautiful! It was predicted to be heavy rain the entire time we were there but we were incredibly lucky – it seemed to only rain when we were in the car (so bring your umbrellas/raincoats).
- Keep your camera charged. There is unlimited places to stop at offering some of the most breathtaking scenery we’ve ever seen.
- Last but not least! Plan your route, but be flexible enough to stop if you see something that takes your fancy! We found the roads fantastic, they were narrow at times but all in good condition & the road signs were excellent. The map we were given from Sixt came in handy even more so than our GPS!