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  • Writer's pictureGregory Besterman

The Wild Atlantic Way

There are a few things everyone envisions when they hear the name ‘Wild Atlantic Way’. Rugged cliffs, rocky shorelines, turquoise seas – the name suggests an almost fairytale-esque landscape, complete with wild oceanic views and fascinating hiking trails. It’s not often, however, that what you envision ends up paling in comparison to the real experience. 

Spanning 1,600 miles, the Wild Atlantic Way is a legendary accumulation of everything beautiful about Ireland. Every year, tourists come from far and wide to travel the route by car, foot, horse, or bike, some of them taking on the entire nine counties, while others simply handpick their most desirable locations.

When it comes to booking a luxury holiday rental Cork has many attributes that make it a prime Irish destination, but one of the most significant is its proximity to the Wild Atlantic Way. 

Being at the southernmost section, those who stay with us have the chance to experience this world-famous route for themselves, traversing through a sub-tropical landscape of sandy beaches, secluded islands, and mystical coves. 

West Cork’s Wild Atlantic Way

Let’s focus on the West Cork trail, then – specifically, the trail between Ballydehob and Kinsale. This section of the Wild Atlantic Way can kick off on the water itself, as you take a boat from Reen Pier to search for whales, seals, dolphins, porpoises, and sharks. 

For nature lovers, this whale-watching experience is the best way to witness some of the most spectacular animals up close, complete with a ferry ride to Heir Island and Cape Clear Island – which is famous for its storytelling festival that takes place every September. 

If you want to immerse yourself even deeper into nature, you can continue your Wild Atlantic Way exploration by visiting Lough Hyne. Recommended by many as one of the top swimming spots in Ireland, Lough Hyne is a unique sea-water lake that lies just 5km from Skibbereen. 

Come rain or shine, you’ll often find swimmers, divers, kayakers, and any kind of water-lover enjoying the crystal-clear waters, and although it may get a little cold, taking a dip is a great way to refresh yourself and get ready for the next location. 

History and Food

Drombeg Stone Circle: perhaps one of the most visited historic locations in all of County Cork. Having stood for 3,000 years, these free-standing stones have become known as a sacred landmark, shrouded in as much mystery as the famous Stonehenge. 

According to legend, this circle was often associated with the Irish banshee, who would herald the imminent death of the countless human sacrifices that were made there. In 2024, while the Stone Circle is still enveloped in ghost lore, it has since become a beautiful spot to visit and soak up the ghosts of history, complete with stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean that lies just under one mile southward. 

Immersing yourself in Irish history – and freezing waters! – is all very well and good, but it’s sure to build up an appetite after a few hours. Thankfully, there are plenty of restaurants along the Wild Atlantic Way, with some of the best located toward the Southern Peninsulas and the Haven Coast. 

Bastion is one of them. Set in the centre of Kinsale town, which is one of the oldest fishing ports in Ireland, Bastion is a Michelin-starred restaurant which is famed for its natural flavours and amazing, fresh seafood. 

Run by Paul and Helen McDonald, the menu has a genuine Irish base, with each dish prepared with care and delicacy to ensure that no ingredient is wasted. It might be expensive, but if you want a high-quality showing of Ireland’s best dishes, it’ll be hard to find anywhere better. 

Stunning Scenery

Near here, you can also walk the Old Head of Kinsale – a stunning two-mile strip of rocky cliffs that travel into the Atlantic Ocean. With an iconic, striped lighthouse sitting just at the tip of the Head, this is a place where you can simply stand and take in the majesty of your surroundings, with the salty sea breeze turning your cheeks red and – hopefully – the sun glistening on the horizon. 

Carry on along the Wild Atlantic Way and you can also find yourself in Baltimore village, which is known for its quintessentially Irish pubs and buzzing fishing market. The village might be small, but it’s full of interesting characters, all of whom are incredibly welcoming, warm, and happy to talk about the history of the community.

If you’d rather see that history for yourself, rather than hear about it, you can visit the 800-year-old Baltimore Castle which sits on the waterfront, as well as the Baltimore Beacon, which is a white-painted stone that sits high above the channel. 

Also known as ‘Lot’s Wife’, this monument is one of the most iconic Cork attractions, having appeared in plenty of paintings over the last few hundred years. For anyone wanting a 360 view akin to the one at the Old Head of Kinsale, this spot will give you similarly majestic views over Sherkin Island, which is just a ten-minute trip from Baltimore’s harbour. 

An Experience Like No Other

We mentioned before that taking the Wild Atlantic Way – in any direction – is a great way to explore numerous beaches and coves in Ireland, and indeed, it’s no different in West Cork.

Throughout your journey, you’ll come across plenty of tranquil beaches, including Coney Island, Tragumna Beach, Garretstown Beach and, beyond Baltimore, the incredible Barleycove Beach. Apart from all the activities, restaurants, history, and wildlife watching, simply walking along one of these beaches will epitomise everything great about the Wild Atlantic Way. 

While there are so many fantastic places to visit on this route, simply walking from beach to beach, over rolling hills and rocky terrain, with the sun in the sky or the rain pounding hard – it is this kind of experience that provides the real treat. 

And remember, what we’ve described above is just a fraction of what you can experience. With so much more to do and so many things to see, the Wild Atlantic Way should be the number one reason to come and experience Ireland for yourself. 

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