Wild Atlantic Way

From Cork to Sligo

 
 
 
 
 
 
Craic Lifer
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Wild Atlantic Way

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Posted: 15.09.2015  ·  #1
The main bits are included, but I got bored typing.
Please read responsibly.

The South West Trip.
We started off in bright sunshine, leaving home on Tuesday afternoon. Our intention is to wild in Meath, Laoise, and Waterford, before meeting up with friends in Cobh, Cork on Friday night.
Called in to Buttercrane centre Newry, to get Euros at a good rate and our destination after stops was to be Kells. It rained on and off the whole way down, and we went straight to Kells, where we found it to be raining nonstop. When it eventually stopped raining we went for a walk, around the town. The Garda Station car park was to be our home for the night, so the town all lay on one side of it, making it easy to navigate. There are quite a few nice pubs and lots of eateries, but the weather ruined it for us, we had time to visit the abbey of Kells with its round tower, before we just went back to the van and stayed in.
Poured all night! The early morning rain spurred us on to get further south away from the horrible weather. Crossed the county border into Laoise, and the sun came out. Just outside our destination of Port Laoise though, the rain came back to haunt us. Our intention was to stay here, but after visiting tourist office, changed our mind. I’d seen Donaghmore Workhouse stories on the net, and was keen to visit. It’s around 22 miles SW of Port Laoise and well worth a visit. You’ll need around two hours to appreciate the guided tour which is included in the 5 euro entrance. I asked if we could overnight in the car park, but the older gentleman got his special cap on and said no. The lady suggested we call in to Durrow, a smallish village, prettier than Abbeyleix, apparently, the place we wanted to see. Durrow didn’t disappoint. We started our visit with a walk, signposted through pasture, woods and country roads which looped back to the village. Bobs Pub, greets you warmly as you enter the village, and what a pub. It is without doubt, the most interesting pub we’ve ever visited. There is hardly time to drink a pint of fine Guinness, because there’s just so much to see. We will be back if ever within around twenty miles. Needless to say, we dallied too long and by the time we got back to the van, realized we hadn’t eaten since breakfast. It was now nine pm.
We had parked up between the castle walls and the village green, marvellous, and no hassle.
Day 3.
Our original plan was hopefully, the same as the rest of the trip. No plan. We drove down to Dungarvan in good weather. I’d seen this town mentioned in other places and thought it could well be worth a wee look. It’s a sizeable town on the Waterford coast, and this was exciting because the previous three days were inland. We got parked up painlessly on the side of the river away from the town. Nothing to do so we dandered into the town for a nosey. There are the usual array of eateries and pubs, loads of shops. And loads of litter, a very untidy town with a strange vibe. We had spoken to a guy earlier in the day and he suggested Lismore, a town with a large castle, and very pretty. We parked up beside the 8th century cathedral, apparently older even, than Margaret’s mum. The town is almost genteel in appearance, friendly well-kept and easy to walk around. We spent the latter part of the evening in Eamons, a traditional pub that advertised Thursday night as trad music night. Around ten, five musicians appeared, dad and son and daughter both under twelve, and two ould boys. Three accordions of various sizes a fiddle and a guitar. They just got on with it, no tuning of any consequence, just showed their passion for the music which was played very well. By the time we left, well after midnight, there were thirteen performers, and the odd singer and dancer from the floor. A fab time was had by all.
The castle is currently owned by The Duke of Devonshire, who has assets of £750m we tried to visit, but only the gardens are open to the public. At around £7 I’d rather not look at a bunch of friggin tulips.
Cobh.
We met up with friends Lawrence and Patsy Reavy in Cobh. This is a great place to start the northward Wild Atlantic Way. Although the trail starts near Kinsale, it’s a good idea to rest for a day in the Aire de service at Cobh. Situated very nearly beside the Titanic exhibition, with a local train behind the site and the Cork harbour, with its shipping in front, and the charming old fashioned town ten minutes’ walk away. There are several fine pubs in the town and dozens of eateries, a beautiful cathedral, albeit up a steep hill. There are boat trips to various local attractions, and generally a fab place to stay.
Mizen Head.
When we arrived it was really foggy, apparently not uncommon, but when we woke up, wow. Our two female travelling companions showed us their magic tricks. Well, just the one really. How to make a bottle of gin disappear before your very eyes. There was nothing to do outside because of the fog. Mizen Head, the most southerly part of Ireland, is extremely well set up for tourists. Compare it with Malin Head, the most northerly point, and you might well say shame on Donegal county council. There are walks to the old foghorn station and viewpoints with varying degrees of difficulty to access. The day was sunny and warm, which enhanced the experience. There is loads of room to overnight, with a café and info centre on site.
Sheeps Head drive is another pleasant experience. Some parts of the road are quite narrow, but all give great views, there is a café at the end of the road, where you must turn and go back. The walk to the end of the trail is quite demanding, if you’re into fell walking, it’s a good walk, but if you’re getting close to retirement age its tiring.
Bantry Bay and Bantry. As you leave sheeps head there is yet another very pleasant drive. Bantry town doesn’t look much as you approach from the south west, but it’s definitely worth a walk about. It was here we learnt that in Ireland the law forbids the sale of alcohol before eleven am. In places we have since found it to be ten thirty. There is a good variety of small independent shops in Bantry, along with the tat aimed at the U S market especially, there are plenty of clothes shops, fishing tackle shops, a large well stocked Supervalu, and a small fishmongers where watched Graham Norton go in to purchase some goodies. Hope it wasn’t crabs. There is ample car parking and no height barriers!
Dursey Isle, or more accurately, Garnish Point was to be our next overnight stop. The route took us further west on The Ring of Kerry, through lovely wee towns like Ballylickey, Glengarriff, Cstletown and others. There really is no shortage of places to stop, and admire the scenery on this stretch. Garnish Bay has a very small fishing port, beside which we parked up for the night. There’s no entertainment, pub, café, nothing, except an unforgettable sunset, sat high above the murmuring tide.
Valentia Island. We headed along the Ring of Kerry again, up through small fishing villages, where very often we would come across a fair, or fete in full swing. These seemed to be well supported, because parking places for motorhomes was non-existent anywhere near the hives of activity. Kenmare was a fine town, lots to see, Sneem, Waterville, and Portmagee, all worth a visit. There are two ways of reaching Valentia Island, a long bridge at one end and a five minute ferry crossing on the other end. We drove on and got the ferry off. There are plenty of attractions on this island and the main roads are wide enough not to lose any paint off the side of the van. But there are places only suitable for smaller vehicles than a motorhome. Like the rest of this area, the island is delightfully old fashioned, with old fashioned standards. We stayed the night at the large carpark overlooking Dingle Bay. As you get off the ferry in Cahersiveen, there is a fabulous French boulangerie halfway down the main street on the right. Well worth a visit!!
Dingle. Parts of the trip were becoming tiresome, but since Dingle is well known for its scenery, Funguy the dolphin, and Slea Head drive, we got a bit of mood uplift. There’s no doubting the draw that the resident dolphin has for the area, and there is doubtless the unashamedly commercial way it has been developed. Having said that, we found a great wee pub, up beside the church, and it really is worth a visit especially if you’re a bon vivant of whisky. Can’t remember the name, but if you head towards the church, you won’t miss it! Slea Head drive, about fifty miles of narrow road, (in parts), hugging the rugged coastline, to me was a bit of an anti-climax. I’d seen a lot of articles about and how scary it was to drive, nonsense, it was very pretty, with lots of laybys, in one of which we stopped for lunch. It’s awful when something looks so promising on paper, turns out to be a load of bull. I enjoyed the drive, but we have almost as stunning on our own north coast!
Tralee. The journey to Tralee can be done on two different routes. The mega scenic one and the coastal one. The former takes you up over the Connor Pass. About two miles into the route there is a very large sign, waning of the dangers of trying to drive it in a large vehicle. We waved down a local for further info and she said away up near the top it gets very narrow, and you wouldn’t be able to reverse down if you got stuck! A quick u turn and we headed out the coast road. The road to Tralee was pretty, but uneventful. Castlegregory would be the biggest town and it little more than a village. Tralee was in full swing with a large festival going on. It was murder trying to get a place to park, so we headed on round the coast to Fennit. This is a lovely place, small with a small port, marina, hotel, Restaurant, large car park with toilets etc, kiddies play park. Clean beach and a lovely vibe. It was perfect, but after doing a bloody good recce, decided to go further up the road with the promise of more of the same. Alas it was not as good as the tourist book led us to believe, so we made do with Foynes. We settled on this place because there was a carpark in the middle of the village, with a pub on one side and a chippy on the other.
Carrigaholt. Another reason why we chose to stay in Foynes, was because it was not far from the ferry at Tarbert that would take us across the mouth of the Shannon into county Clare. This is the largest ferry we’ve been on in Ireland, and also the longest journey of around thirty minutes to Kilrush, a bit of a non-entity really, but there is a very nice small town the road, Carrigaholt. Some very nice Edwardian and Victorian architecture and the remains of a workhouse. Lots of pubs and eateries, and many small independent shops. The Supervalu is housed in the former gaol! Dread to think what they do with shoplifters!
Cliffs of Moher. After leaving the lovely Carrigaholt we headed on in a westerly direct to Loop Head. There is a lighthouse at the end of the drive with an admission fee, which as far as I could see, was a charge to use the toilets. After having spent six hundred plus miles on the Wild Atlantic Way, this lighthouse and staff members would pale into insignificance, after what we’d already seen. Ever onward, through Kilkee, Doonbeg, Quilty, to Lehinch for lunch. These are all lovely spots, and I’m getting loathe to name places because of all the towns and villages we’ve seen, not one stood out as not worth a revisit. I feel the importance of naming places far outweigh the use of omitting them. There is a commercial campsite at Doolin, which looks really good; it has apart from the usual facilities, laundry rooms, which can be very useful at this stage of a trip. We chose to overnight on the ferry carpark, after we’d done the boat trip under the Cliffs. This was good, a bit bumpy but the cliffs are so much more impressive from sea level. We ran into another couple of ‘vans that were hired. The people we meet who have rented out the ‘vans are very impressed with the way of life the open road lends itself too. Their kids are having a ball, and I think the phrase, “are we nearly there yet”, doesn’t exist. I sometimes wonder how much info the kids soak up. Anyway, the little town of Doolin, is full of charm, we didn’t get to see it much, but definitely worth a second look.
The Burren. This is more of a geographical feature than anything else. The Burren area is very unusual, in that the huge slabs of grey blue rock dominate the landscape. This too, is an area of very narrow, hedge lined roads, which wreak havoc on acrylic and privacy glass. The satnav, when asked to take us to Father Teds house, took us instead to an area not far from it, but down an unmettled road, with a very small turning point half way down. There could have been serious repercussions here, but after a manic touch of dissent, we all settled back into a nicely uncomfortable silence! Lesson learnt, I’d say.
An Spidael. Here was a suggestion, the first, to go to Spiddal. It was a lovely place, again, as you’d expect, by the sea. We found a small annex to the main pier and it fitted two ‘vans side by side perfectly. We ate in a small restaurant on the main street, and the night turned out ok. Earlier in the afternoon we’d found ourselves in the situation where we really needed to empty our toilet cassettes. We called into a petrol station / supermarket, and found they had customer toilets. It wouldn’t do to wheel a cassette full of waste through the shop, so plan B, the granny trolley was swung into action. I had earlier in the year relieved Andrea of a shopping trolley she had never used. You know the type that grannies sometimes pull along behind them. Well, I inserted the cassette into the trolley bag and wheeled my trolley through the shop to the back and did the deed. Our travelling companion followed suit and suit we were several pounds lighter in the ‘van!
Garrykennedy. This is nowhere near the WAW, but it was the last county to be crossed of the list of counties we’d wild camped in. We drove around a hundred miles to find it, and we weren’t disappointed. We stayed the night in a waterways Ireland car park, which featured two delightful pubs, shows, etc. Probably the best night of the trip, and definitely a spot to return to.
So, all thirty two counties now ticked off the list, back to the WAW to finish it. Ireland bucket list now almost complete, the last item on the list will be done over time and on our own.
Clifden. We drove from Tipperary up to Cilfden in one go. Like the song says, It’s a long way from Tipperary, tra la feckin la. This area we’d done previously but not in the ‘van. We lingered a while in Clifden, a larger town with all the seaside tat you could ever wish for. But, it was not for us. We drove on to Louisburg, apparently named after one of the French kings who sent military assistance to fight in some fekkin war or the other. This being Ireland, of course, there’s always something untoward happening somewhere! Anyway, Louisburg is a lovely wee town, lovely people, well laid out, and plenty of stuff to keep the interest except it only seemed to have one parking area which didn’t “feel” right, so we ventured on. I’m glad we moved because we found a lovely place, Old Head Pier. I got to talking to the locals again, and they’re hugely proud of their area, which indeed they should be. Nothing at all on the pier after dark, or rather dusk. So a quiet night in by the telly, after another lovely sunset. It’s places like this, we would stay on, if there were not similar places around the corner!
Downpatrick Head. Up through county Mayo, to one of WAW’s best spots. Downpatrick Head, a huge three hundred metre stack just a couple of hundred meters off the mainland. Outstanding scenery, and a large carpark with toilets and a resident chip van. The guy who owns the chip van lives about a mile from the car park and a genuine fountain of local knowledge. On leaving Old Head we went to Westport, another lovely town, busy and less blingy than a lot we’ve seen. On through Newport and the across country. Crossmolina, a small town near Lough Conn was a joy, we nearly stayed here but the call of Downpatrick Head was too loud. We could very easily have gone home today, because the route would have taken us via the last leg of WAW that we hadn’t done in the ‘van. We had called in to a wee village last year in November and thought it would be good to go back in the summer so we did this instead.
Mullaghmore. Up the road to Ballina from Downpatrick Head we went. Lunch in Ballina, and a good look around this quaint wee town, on to Sligo, which many years ago I thought was a fine town, but after this and our previous visit last November, would be in no hurry to return. There are many hundreds of nicer places to see. We found a good place to park up and went for a dander. Town centre’s, or rather, large town centre’s, just don’t do it for me. One shop looks the same as the next, and everyone is in a hurry. We didn’t stay long and headed for our final destination. Mullaghmore main street has a sign saying no overnight parking. We have discovered way earlier on our trip, often councils put these signs up to deter gypsies, seems it keeps the council right legally. So we parked up, not far from all the action and went for a good long walk. For dinner we decided to eat in the town’s main hotel, I’ll not name it, but the staff could all do with some training in every aspect of catering. As for the food, it was passable; I had a steak cooked on a stone in front of my very eyes. It was good, as was Margarets fish and chips. The place was buzzing and then there was a lull. Then the musicians appeared. Here we met two couples, Dubliners and Westmeathians. Great craic was had by all, and we went to bed on our last night suitably replete and pissed!!
LAST DAY. We awoke to the screaming of seagulls, and after a sturdy breakfast we said farewell to our newest friends and The Wild Atlantic Way. We learnt a lot from this trip, lessons that will never leave me. It was all the pundits said it was, but at the end of the day, The Antrim coast has just about everything the WAW has, and it’s not as far for us.

Liked by: mtrul

Craic Lifer
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Re: Wild Atlantic Way

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Posted: 15.09.2015  ·  #2
Very detailed Nick,I don't know would i have to guts to park where it says no over night parking,or walk through a country supermarket dragging a shopping trolley behind me,but its better then throwing it in the sea. :lol:


Craic Lifer
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Re: Wild Atlantic Way

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Posted: 16.09.2015  ·  #3
Quote by TAYLOR.

Very detailed Nick,I don't know would i have to guts to park where it says no over night parking,or walk through a country supermarket dragging a shopping trolley behind me,but its better then throwing it in the sea. :lol:

Ah yes Ken, tis all about improvisation, don't you know. The best part of thee shop trick is watching the staff wathing you. They're afraid you're going to fill the trolley and run, instead we run, and empty the trolley. :devil:


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Re: Wild Atlantic Way

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Posted: 01.12.2015  ·  #4
awesome trip and detail! thanks for this - will be referring back on it over the next few months as a number of spots are on my list :)


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Re: Wild Atlantic Way

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Posted: 02.12.2015  ·  #5
what a report,well done helgahobby


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Re: Wild Atlantic Way

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Posted: 02.12.2015  ·  #6
Great detail Nick, I want to do the WAW next year before it gets too touristy lol.


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Posted: 20.01.2016  ·  #7
made very interesting reading and as I intend to do part of that trip this year it was most informative, thanks


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