Stretching along Ireland’s western seaboard, the Wild Atlantic Way is where land and sea collide
Over 2,500km in length, the Wild Atlantic Way is the longest defined coastal touring route in the world. It stretches from the Inishowen Peninsula in Co.Donegal to Kinsale in west Cork, and winds its way along the coasts of nine of Ireland’s western counties, taking in breathtaking scenery as well as such as iconic places as the Burren the largest limestone karst landscape in the world, the UNESCO World Heritage site of Skellig Michael, and the traditional Irish towns dotted along the western seaboard. It is easily travelled following the distinctive blue and white logo, seen on all signposts.
The Beara Peninsula forms an integral part of the Wild Atlantic Way. From Kenmare the route follows the southern shore of Kenmare Bay to Dursey, returning along the northern shore of Bantry Bay through Castletownbere to Glengariff, all told, a distance of some 170 km. In addition, there are turn offs to be explored such as the overlook of Killmackillogue and Kilcatherine Point. And then, of course, there is the turn off to Dursey Sound and Dursey Island. The trip will take around 5 hours to drive but should not be rushed for as well as admiring the stupendous scenery, there is far more to see and do.
The timeless air of Beara allows nature to set the pace. The Atlantic Ocean here meets the Gulf Stream, and the micro-climate allows for lush vegetation. With harbours, coves and colourful towns, there’s plenty to do, as can been seen from the Destination Beara web-site. Like watercolours made real, the towns and villages of Beara seem to have sprung from a dream. Visit castle ruins, archaeological sites; and take in one of West Cork’s stunning sunsets.
The elegant riverside town of Kenmare was founded in 1670 by Sir William Petty and is today a designated heritage town. You can trace the history of the town at the Kenmare Heritage Centre which displays information on various themes including the Nun of Kenmare, Kenmare's history and historical sites and learn about its tradition of lace making at the Lace Museum, and the effects of the Great Famine on the town.
The most westerly of Co. Cork’s inhabited islands, Dursey is separated from the mainland by a narrow sound known for its strong tides. It is accessed by Ireland’s only cable car which runs across the sea a distance of 250 metres, and can carry six people, (or 1 cow in bygone days) at a time on the 15-minute journey.
With its full time residency of 2, Dursey has no any shops, pubs or restaurants and offers day-trippers an escape from the hustle and bustle of modern living. It is, however, home to three small villages and forms part of the Beara Way Walking Trail. Dursey is an excellent place for viewing wildlife, as a variety of birds can be seen here, including rare species from Siberia and America. Dolphins and whales can also frequently be spotted in the waters surrounding the island.
On the island’s most westerly hill sits the 200-year-old Signal Tower, which boasts commanding views north to the Skellig Islands and south to Mizen Head. There are also ruins of the ancient church of Kilmichael, which is thought to have been founded by monks from Skellig Michael.
Glengarriff is situated in an area of spectacular beauty, peace and tranquillity on the edge of Bantry Bay at the foot of the Caha Mountains and has been a tourist destination since the 18th century. The warming influence of the Gulf Stream ensures that an abundance of rare plants and flowers flourish in this scenic corner of West Cork. As a result, it is no surprise that Glengarriff is well-named Ireland’s Garden Haven with such attractions as the semi-tropical Gardens on Garinish Island, The Ewe Experience and The Bamboo Park.
Glengarriff provides one of the natural starting and end points for the Wild Atlantic Way around Beara as well as for the Beara Way Walking Route as well as for the Beara Way Cycling Route.
THE WILD ATLANTIC WAY PASSPORT
In 2016, Fáilte Ireland launched the Wild Atlantic Way Passport in a joint initiative with An Post. Costing €10, the passport, is intended to serve as a souvenir in which tourists can record their journey.
There are some 188 ‘discovery points’ along the Wild Atlantic Way and the idea is that visitors will call in to the local post office at each one and have the passport stamped with ‘a unique motif.'
For each 20 stamps in the passport, holders can drop into their nearest Tourist Information Office ‘to receive a Wild Atlantic Way gift.'
For more information on the Wild Atlantic Way visit www.wildatlanticway.com.