The West Coast of Ireland is the world’s longest defined coastal tourist route. It stretches for some 1,500 miles from the northern headlands, at Malin Head, to the Haven Coast

Picture by Brian Henry

in the south. It is a coastline of contrasts, from rugged cliffs to blue flag Beaches. It’s ideal terrain to explore from the base of a self-catering holiday cottage.

Rugged Landscapes and Towering Coastal Cliffs

In County Donegal  you can experience the drama of Malin Head and the Sliabh Liag Cliffs.

If you wanted a single place to capture the essence of rugged, outdoor beauty then Malin Head would be a leading contender. Lying on the Inishowen Peninsula, the area’s vivid coastal scenery and birdlife, along with its historical associations, make it an endlessly diverting destination.

The monolithic Banba’s Crown stands at the tip of the peninsula, built by the British Admiralty in 1805 as part of the coastal defences against the possibility of a French invasion.

The raised landscape of Ballyhillin Beach harks back to a time when the sea level was 100 feet higher, some 15,000 years ago. It’s also a repository for semi-precious stones.

If you’re lucky, you might also see dolphins off this coastline, and, on occasion, the Northern Lights.

Further down the coastline, the Sliabh Liag (Slieve League) mountain has some of Ireland’s highest sea cliffs. At the Cliffs Centre you’ll find information about the area and local culture, along with delicious homemade scones and cakes.

As well as exploring the cliffs and taking in the amazing scenery, you can also go on guided hillwalking and hiking tours, which take in the archaeology, heritage and folklore of the area.

The Poetic and Pounding Surf Coast

On the northern edge of County Sligo is Mullaghmore, with some of the most desired surfing waves off its white, sandy beach. Strandhill in Sligo is a favourite centre for surfing, and the local surf school offers surfing lessons for children and adults.

At Mullaghmore you can also take in the beauty of the monastic site of Inishmurray, dating from the 6th century, and Ben Bulben mountain, part of the dramatic landscape that inspired the poet W B Yeats.

The Picturesque Bay Coast

In Connemara and County Mayo , you’ll find a shoreline dotted with characterful dotted with coves, loughs and islands. The beautiful Clew Bay has numerous islands, including Clare Island, the biggest of them. Here are blue flag beaches, and historical and archaeological sites.

For those seeking more active diversions, Collanmore Island is home to many organised water sports, including kayaking, dinghy sailing and paddle boarding.

A must-visit is the Georgian Westport House, providing fascinating cultural insights with its elegant, historically preserved rooms and grounds. Also onsite, are the Pirate Adventure Park and Adventure Activity Centre, making it an ideal family destination.

The Calm South

The aptly named Haven Coast zig zags from Bantry Bay to Kinsale in Cork. This southernmost stretch of the Wild Atlantic Way basks in the more temperate climate of the Gulf Stream and is a focal point for both ancient cultural sites and contemporary food and festivals.

There’s an annual Gourmet Festival held every autumn in Kinsale, hosted by the fishing port’s Good Food Circle restaurants. Kinsale is also a centre for arts and crafts, as well as boasting fine beaches.

South west of Skibbereen, Lough Hyne is a unique saltwater lake, and, as Ireland’s first marine nature reserve, it’s home to a many rare species of animals and plants. Guided kayaking trips are available for exploring the lake.
You can also go whale watching in West Cork, with various species frequently seen in these waters, including Minke, Fin and Humpback whales, as well as dolphins. Day trips for dolphin and whale watching are available throughout the autumn months, departing from Baltimore Harbour.