Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way
One of the greatest and longest coastal road trips in the world at 2,600 kms, the Wild Atlantic Way is one of our country's real holiday gems. From jumping from sea cliffs, soaking in revitalising seaweed baths, sampling the many award winning restaurants and of course visiting the Jedi retreat of Luke Skywalker, the Wild Atlantic Way is a must see for everyone.
Whether your pre- teen is keen on jumping off sea cliffs and coasteering or like my partner you’re pregnant and in need of seaweed rejuvenation this ruggedly beautiful part of Ireland has it all.
We stuck by and large to the Connemara loop for our wild tour but the Wild Atlantic Way itself spans 9 counties but if you want the full monty it will take you about two full weeks to drive it. But what a two weeks that would be!
Here’s our family guide to getting the most out of your trip and hitting up as many possible cool spots on the Connemara loop in the average family week long holiday.
The Abbeyglen Castle was built in 1832 by John D’Arcy the Castle has seen many changing owners, from becoming an orphanage in 1955 to finally being taken over by the Hughes family in the 1960’s grandson Brian Hughes still runs the famous Connemara gem with gusto.
Tourists really lap it up here but you can’t beat the welcome talk Brian gives with champers and nibbles as he regails the historical prowess of the Castle.
If staying here isn’t an option for you, then sampling the pure hospitality and sing songs in the bar is well worth a visit, where you might well rub shoulders with Late Late Show host Ryan Tubridy as it is one of his favourite haunts in Ireland.
Entertaining pre- teens can be all consuming, so we were delighted to find Real Adventures who operate the most exhilarating adventure activities for kids and adults, utilising the natural rugged beauty of Connemara coastline.
My son James were blown away by coasteering which involves jumping off sea cliffs and swimming between the various cliff edges in Ballyconneely (Between Clifden and Roundstone) Rock climbing was awesome too and Paddle Boarding on Mannin Bay is a super way to take in the coast and it’s really therapeutic.
The Real Adventure guides were so knowledgeable when it came to the region and working with nature is at the core of what they do which as always really appealed to our ethos of nature and conservation.
The Connemara Cave Kayak tour takes in the best of the Wild Atlantic Way. The variety of coastline includes secret sandy beaches with crystal clear water, arches, inlets, coves and an amazing variety of stunning sea caves. This tour is also accessible to anyone with little or no experience, which is a win win.
For equestrian lovers there is a more sedate adventure but equally as spectacular the pony trek along Ballyconneely will take your breath away and it’s suitable for all levels.
Inish Bofin Island
Inish Bofin Island is only a short 30 minute journey from the picturesque fishing village of Cleggan, located northwest of Clifden.
Leaving our Atlantic Drift camper van at the pier we boarded the jam packed discovery ferry and we were Island bound.
Unlike the Aran Islands where they’d sell their granny to make a quick buck, Boffin has not been overly tainted by commercialism and it feels like a throwback to the 1980’s.
We hired bikes from Paddy Jo as we docked and embarked on an amazing exploration of a beautiful island on a beautiful sunny day.
We stayed in the iconic Doonmore Hotel with the famous Murray’s Bar attached where any Irish musician who’s worth their salt has played.
From horse riding to sailing, there are ample activities to enjoy on Bofin but we got the most fun out of cycling to the stunning beaches of Dumhach and Tra Gheall about 20 minutes from our hotel.
Although swimming in the Wild Atlantic is not for the faint hearted, I’d highly rate giving it a go, we felt amazing after a quick dip.
In fact if you’re a proper cyclist or hillwalker you’ll be in paradise, there are stunning looped walks and for the adventurous types you can opt for tougher terrain if you fancy.
There’s an entire seafood trail you can explore which every foodie would love. Just log onto wildatlanticway.com and check it out.
If you’re sticking to the Connemara loop, I’d highly recommend making Clifden your homebase to soak up the buzzy atmosphere and restaurants such as Guys, Off the Square and Mitchels are top of our recommended list.
We did venture further afield too and if the weather’s half decent you can’t beat a beach BBQ. There are many eco camping sites in Connemara or if you are adventurous and go off the beaten track to many of the wild beaches that one could only dream of such solitude the choice is yours with the Atlantic Drift.
An Atlantic Drift camper is the perfect campervan to explore the Wild Atlantic Way, wandering the bótharín (Irish for narrow roads) getting off the beaten track to the secluded beaches and mountain sides other campers just can't reach.
Delphi Lodge and Spa
Four star all the way, this stunning resort is located on a 300 acre site in the heart of the breathtakingly beautiful Delphi Valley near Leenane, Connemara, Co Galway.
What’s cool about the resort is it caters for everyone, we met a lady who had been to climb Croagh Patrick minus her hubby.
She wanted to have spa day but didn’t want the expense of a hotel room so she opted for Delphi as the budget hostel only set her back €18 a night!
Of course you can avail of a fancy suite option too, but the beauty of the resort is there’s something for everyone covering all price points.
The adventure centre is the most awesome element for any budding adventurer.
James signed up for the one day camp which saw him kayaking, abseiling and zip lining.
For some adult R&R my partner Siobhan and I lapped up the stunning five star spa treatments.
Not to be missed is a cruise on Killary Fjord, only five minutes from the resort the fjord is over 45 metres deep, forming a natural border between the counties Galway and Mayo.
The Connemara Sands Hotel is the most idyllic place to stay and this family run boutique hotel perfectly positioned in the heart of Connemara and The Wild Atlantic Way.
Secluded within the white, sandy shores of Mannin Bay there is no better place from which to relax.The Sands Seaweed Bath and Spa use Voya seaweed products and I booked my pregnant partner for the 'precious moments treatment.
Tailored specially to mum and her growing baby, the bump is enveloped in a specialised mask helping to support connective tissue and prevent stretch marks.
Your feet are wrapped in seaweed leaves to boost circulation, improve lymphatic drainage and reduce fluid retention.
The hydrating organic masks work their magic while mum enjoys a beautiful relaxing face, hand and arm massage.
Siobhan said that it was the best prenatal experience I’ve ever indulged in! Ill take her word for it.