Finally, out again! After 4 months working from home due to Covid 19 and the lockdown, we are out again to explore the Wild Atlantic Way.
This year we had planned to go to Canada and the United States in May but due to the exceptional circumstances our flights and accommodation were cancelled, or shall I say, postponed until we have the green light and hopefully a vaccination is found to this invisible enemy, the coronavirus.
During summertime usually we travel back to Portugal to visit family and friends but that also was postponed.
We decided to keep visiting the famous Wild Atlantic Way that we so love and this time, after Donegal and Sligo, we went further south to explore a little bit of 3 Counties: Kerry, Clare and Mayo.
1 – Portmagee
We started the journey on the 1st of August and unfortunately the weather wasn’t great, but if there is something we learned since we moved to Northern Ireland is that no matter what, the best decision is to go and make the best of it.
Our first stretch took us 321 miles south and after more than 6 hours we arrived at Portmagee. Portmagee is a small village situated in the Iveragh Peninsula. I found out there was a connection between this village and Portugal in the past through Captain Magee who was a smuggler during the time of king James who used ships to do the rotas between Portugal, France and Ireland.
In Portmagee you can catch the Ferry to visit the famous Skellig Michael, UNESCO world heritage site since 1996. Unfortunately, we couldn’t visit the place as everything was fully booked for the days we intended to spend in the area. But it’s always good to leave something behind, it gives you a reason to go back!
2 – Bray Head
Bray Head is just 13 minutes driving from Portmagee. Take the direction to Valentia Island and follow the road to Bray Head. Beautiful scenery of cliffs, mountains, sea and the Skellig Michael in the horizon will accompany you during the ascending route. The views at the top are incredible. Take your time to admire it and to take fantastic photos that will make the moment unforgettable.
3 -Valentia Island Lighthouse
I never miss a chance to visit a lighthouse. I’ve already wrote in past articles about how fascinated I am about lighthouses, so when I read there was one close to the place where we were, I didn’t think twice. When I was a kid, I loved to read Enid Blyton and her books of the Famous Five. I think that has contributed for my passion for lighthouses. I used to imagine how life would be for someone living secluded in such a fascinating building particularly during stormy days with the waves violently crashing against its walls and the strong winds loudly blowing in all directions. Now that I think about that I think that would be scary and a lonely job though as a child that would fill in my imagination.
Valentia Lighthouse is part of the Great Lighthouses in Ireland and it’s located in a breath-taking location. It is said that in the area where the lighthouse is located there is a fossilised footprint of a dinosaur.
The first light was displayed in the 18th century and the lighthouse became automated since the middle of the 20th century. Unfortunately the lighthouse was closed to visits, this damn Covid is definitely spoiling some of our plans, but we were determined not to be affected by that and just enjoy our time and moment.
4 – Dingle
Our Final destination for the first day of our road trip was the beautiful and vibrant port town of Dingle. Probably one of the most beautiful towns I’ve visited in Ireland. Dingle is a lively small town with lots of pubs, shops, restaurants. Dingle is also known for its crystal, pottery and the famous ice creams. When we arrived we couldn’t find a restaurant to have dinner, the town was really busy with a lot of tourists and due to Covid the restaurants required pre booking so we ended up eating the famous street fish and chips followed by a delicious ice cream, probably the best I ever tasted!
Take your time to meander between the narrow and colourful streets and don’t forget to stroll along the marina path.
Dingle has a special inhabitant who has been living in the bay for 40 years, a dolphin called Fungie who apparently was left behind by his herd when he was small and since then he has been part of the town. We did the boat trip to find Fungie but I must say that for me that wasn’t the best experience as there were many boats on the water “chasing” the dolphin. Probably Fungie likes that and the interaction with the boats, otherwise why would he stay for so long in there?
We spent the night in Dingle at a lovely house that we booked through Airbnb just 5 minutes outside of the town centre.
5 – Slea Head Drive
Our second day started with an excellent breakfast and then we drove to Slea Head.
Slea Head Drive has been mentioned as one of the most scenic routes not only in Ireland but for some, in the world.
This circular route that starts and ends in Dingle is only 47 km long but the beauty and the constant change in the scenery will take you easily between 3-4 hours to complete it as wherever you look you will be astonished by the landscape and the change in it.
You should drive the loop in a clockwise direction.
We loved this area so much that we went around it twice, also because the weather changes quite often and this allowed us to see it with sun and clouds.
This was definitely one of the highlights of this trip.
For lunch I recommend the Quinn’s Bar, the food is really good and the view is amazing, overlooking the beach.
On our 3rd day we left county Kerry and moved to county Clare.
We crossed by ferry in Tarbert to Killimer (Shannon Ferries). The cross takes 20 minutes and it costs 20€ and it saves you roughly 140 km.
1 – Loop Head Lighthouse
Our first stop was at Loop Head Lighthouse also part of the Great Lighthouses of Ireland. This lighthouse from the 19th century is located at Loop Head Peninsula in an area of dramatic cliffs, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean’s waves crashing against it and eroding the rocks into different shapes. The views are incredible and if the weather conditions are good you can see as far as Dingle and Connemara. Despite the lighthouse being closed at the moment you can enjoy a walk on top of the cliffs and take some great photos that will look like postal cards.
2 – Three Bridges of Ross
The three bridges of Ross are only 10 minutes away from the Loop Head Lighthouse.
In the past there used to be 3 natural sea arches but 2 of them collapsed and only one remains. This was a famous place for people in the past to seat over the bridges and take photos. Today it is a good place for birds watching.
3 – Cliffs of Moher
For our 3rd day we stayed in a Bed and Breakfast overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, Doolin and the Aran Islands, just 2 km away from the famous Cliffs of Moher, Ireland’s top tourist attraction.
Cliffs of Moher stretch for 8 km and are 214 metres high. This was our second visit to the Cliffs but this time we took a different path and had the perspective of the cliffs from the other side. We walked up the road for 1 km and then we did 1 more km walking on top of the cliffs. The views are impressive.
4 – Doolin
Very close to the Cliffs of Moher is the small town of Doolin famous for its Irish traditional music. Is well worth a stop.
We intended to have dinner here but again the restaurants were fully booked so we went to Stone Cutters Kitchen on the road to Doolin. The food is delicious.
5 – Galway
On our 4th day we intended to visit Hazel Mountain Chocolate one of the smallest chocolate factories in the world but unfortunately the visits were only possible ahead of the date we were there, so instead we went to Galway to their shop for breakfast and to pay a visit to this beautiful and lively city.
1 – Newport
We spent the next 2 nights in a beautiful house overlooking Furnace Lough, very close to the small and picturesque town of Newport.
For dinner we went to The Grainne Uaile restaurant. I recommend the chowder and the scampi, even now my mouth is watering just of thinking of it.
This was our home for 2 nights overlooking Furnace Lough.
2 – Achill Island
This road trip had many highlights and definitely Achill was one of them, particularly because we had the chance to be there for 2 days and see the transformation in the landscape on a stormy day and then on a sunny day. Everyone has heard about how the weather changes in Ireland and that’s indeed true in the same island we experienced a stormy day with a lot of rain and wind, the sea very agitated with the waves crashing violently against the shore (I must confess it’s something I really like to admire). We went to Keen Bay and we barely could see as to get there you need to go up the mountain and there were so many clouds that we couldn’t see anything but when the road started to go downwards the weather cleared and in front of us was the beautiful Keen Bay with a beach with crystalline waters surrounded by green hills and sheep, absolutely awestruck!
Achill is the largest and most mountainous of the Irish islands. Slievemore is the highest mountain standing at 671 metres tall. Despite being an island you can access it via the Michael Davitt bridge, though the first bridge was from the 19th century. The island is characterized by its cliffs, mountains, lagoons, pristine beaches, the sea salt, smoked salmon and the famous lamb (apparently one of the best in Ireland as they feed on those salty bogs which gives the meat a special flavour).
Deserted Village at the bottom of Slievemore is a place where you find the remains of 80 stone houses. The village was abandoned on late 19th century as a result of the Great Famine and evictions which led their inhabitants to emigrate.
If you follow the path you will be able to climb the mountain and enjoy the surrounding view. The second day we stayed at Achill the weather was really good so we were lucky to have an unobstructed view.
Another famous spot is the 15th century tower at Kildavnet that was once the home of a pirate queen called Granuaile. This was one of her strongholders.
For lunch we went to Ted’s bar. The food is really good and believe it or not despite being August and a sunny and warm day the bar had the fireplaces lit on.
3 – Ballycroy National Park
Although the visit centre is closed you can still go for a walk and admire the solitude of the Nephin Beg mountain range. It’s only a 30 minute round trail but it’s worth it as you have panoramic views to the mountains and Achill Island.
4 – Carrowteige Loop Walk
On our 6th day we visited Carrowteige. Probably not one of the most divulged places to visit but without any doubt spectacular. We walked on the top of the cliffs and we were stunned with the views.
5 – Downpatrick Head
St Patrick founded a church here; the remains are still visible. It is said the Dún Briste sea stack was separated from the mainland because a pagan refused to convert to Christianity and St Patrick hit the floor with his hooked staff which caused a piece of land to fall into the sea separating the sea stack.
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