The best places to visit in Ireland? It’s not Dublin or Belfast. It’s the West Coast.

Any experienced traveller knows if you want to know where the best places are to visit, you need to ask the locals. Well don’t leave it until you arrive to find out for the words you are reading now are indeed written by a local!

The usual mistakes tourists make when visiting Ireland is they’ll visit Dublin & never leave it ( overpriced tourist trap ) or they might sign up for a tour bus ( better but still not there ).

There are thousands of great things to see and do in Ireland, the problem is the majority of them are on the other side of the island from Dublin! The good news is, however, that Ireland is a fairly small country and thus travelling from one side to another takes a mere few hours.

If your visa does not cover entering Northern Ireland and want to be on the safe side of things – a detour adds about an extra hour to the journey. Otherwise, if your visa DOES allow you to enter Northern Ireland – Derry / Londonderry is worth a visit.
Cork is the end of the Wild Atlantic Way

Read before planning

When is the best time to travel?

Oddly enough, Irelands “Summer” tends to be wet. From personal experience, April / Easter / May tends to be the best time to visit. July and August occasionally get heatwaves but the chance of rain is higher. September is also usually quite good as the “back to school curse” kicks in as the kids are stuck inside while the suns out.

How you are going to travel

Tour Bus

Never done one in Ireland personally but a visit to any of the major tourist attractions and you’ll see one.

Paddy Wagons is one of the most common buses around and offer day trips and multiple day trips. Be warned you’ll miss out on many other great experiences as these tend to just head to the major spots.

Motorbike rental / bring your own

Ireland can be a bikers paradise or curse, depending on the weather as Irelands geographical location means its very prone to wet weather, the grass is that green for a reason!

Weather charts can be very unreliable, especially in the northern parts from the likes of BBC, however I find Donegal Weather Channel to be quite accurate.

The roads for the most part are in great condition, the main dangers are other drivers, tractors, sheep, goats and other wildlife that may have found its way onto the road.

Car rental / bring your own

From personal experience, a roadtrip on the Wild Atlantic way is a blast and gives you a lot more freedom and flexibility over some of the other methods. You’ll also be a bit better protected from the rain and wind.

Campervan

Like a car but an even safer option but you’ll miss out on the Irish hospitality if you choose to stay in your van.

Cycle / Walk / Hike

If you’re brave and fit enough, this is a great way to experience the coastline, there is also options for e-Bike rentals. There are a ton of hostels & camping sites but if you’re going for the wild option, read up on the law first. It is generally tolerated in Ireland.

How long have you got?

If you’re doing the entire coast, I’d recommend at least 2 weeks, otherwise if you only have a week, maybe focus on a specific area like Donegal, Ring of Kerry etc.

Finding your way around

There isn’t an “official” way you have to go, but you’ll be guided on the right path if you follow the signs that look like the one above.

Get a Wild Atlantic Way Passport before you start

https://www.discoverireland.ie/wild-atlantic-way/wild-atlantic-way-passport

Fantastic memento and logbook for keeping track of where you’ve been / places left to visit, we never got one and it’s my only regret.

Top places & things to see on the Wild Atlantic Way

Under rated thing about Ireland is the amount of castles and medieval architecture worth visiting. There are various round-towers, castles you can go inside and explore, ruins and more.

Castles

Father Teds House

Father Teds House – A must see for any fan but might be lost on you if you haven’t seen the TV series. A cult classic in Ireland.

Beaches

Falcarragh Donegal Sunset

The beaches are sandy gold, soft and perfect in the sun ( doesn’t happen too often ). However the water is only for the brave! Be warned it’s cold! Swimsuits are a must for most!

Donegal also has some well known surf spots and you can find an excellent resource on the surfing season here

Cliffs of Moher

Avoid the edge, sudden wind can pull you off. Amazing experience but downside is weather is often poor and often over crowded with tourists as this is the most famous spot on the West Coast.

Fogher Cliffs

An Example of some of the other stunning coast line on the WaW

Kerry Cliffs

Portmagee

Malin Head

Photo Credit – Unsplash – Author – tempographics

Location used in “The Last Jedi” Amongst other locations scattered across Ireland. More Star Wars Ireland information here

Slieve League

Credit – Unsplash – Author – @johnygoerend

Probably the most underrated item on the list, less touristy than Cliffs of Moher and features a much better walk through the countryside alongside it. Great for a hike / day out.

Located in Co Donegal

Various National Parks / Countryside

Lakes / Rivers

If a road trip is out of the question or you’ve been there done that, another amazing way to explore Ireland is along the waterways.

Rental boats I’ve been on
CarrickCraft
Emerald Star

Having done the much more famous Canal Du Midi – I can tell you the waterways of Ireland are a much, much better experience. The water is a lot cleaner for one thing!

Great for fishing, exploring the countryside and small towns.

Sheep

If you’re not used to seeing sheep, well, Ireland will blow your mind. They’re everywhere.

Valentia Island

About cwavedave 50 Articles
Always learning & travelling. I help small to medium-sized businesses grow online with web design & connect with their customers with SEO Strategy at my business Creative Wavelength. I also play Cornerback for the Donegal Derry Vipers American Football team.

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