Dursey Island – Wild Atlantic Way

V 4740 - 473 404 phot 472 404 eDursey Island, or Oileán Baoi in Galelic meaning Yellow Island, is an inhabited island off the south west coast of Ireland. It’s set west of County Cork and forms part of the Beara Way walking trail and the much larger Wild Atlantic Way.

Dursey Island is a real island separated from the mainland by a narrow stretch of water called the Dursey Sound. The island is only 6.5km long and 1.5km wide and is home to a few human residents and hundreds of thousands of birds and sea life aplenty.

To get to Dursey Island, you take Ireland’s only cable car. It stretches from the Beara Peninsula out over the sea to the island itself. This cable car is a big draw to tourists as it’s also one of the few in Europe to go over the sea. The car is a vital link to the mainland as the sea around the island has some very strong tides.

The island itself has been inhabited on and off since prehistoric times. Several prehistoric artefacts have been found on the island, including some carved stones, a dwelling and a stone enclosure.

Later, a castle, church and graveyard were built on the island, the ruins of which are still present. The owners of the castle, called Dunboy Castle were apparently killed during the Nine Year’s War in what became known as the Dursey Massacre.

Later still, a signal tower was built to warn of French ships during the Napoleonic Wars and a large sign spelling out “EIRE” was put close to the remains of the tower to warn World War 2 pilots that they were flying over neutral Ireland.

Standing on the hill by the ruin of the tower in good weather, it’s possible to see the Skellig Islands to the north and Mizen Head to the south. These are two other signature points along the Wild Atlantic Way.

Walking either the Beara Way or further along the Wild Atlantic Way will bring you directly onto Dursey Island. After an exciting cable car ride, you have the whole island to explore. While people do live on here all year round, there are no facilities. No shops, cafes, pubs or anything. Although there are holiday homes that can be rented during the summer.

Dursey Island is an excellent stop on your tour of western Ireland and along the Wild Atlantic Way. It’s yet another example of dramatic coastline, fantastic wildlife and the hardiness of local people. Dursey is a desolate place, yet Irish people still endure to call it home. When you see it first hand, you know why!

Mizen Head – Wild Atlantic Way

Mizen HeadMizen Head, Carn Uí Néid in Gaelic, in Country Cork is as dramatic a piece of coastline as you’re ever likely to see. Unless of course you’re travelling the Wild Atlantic Way where every signature point has a different aspect of rugged coastline for you to marvel at!

Mizen Head is Ireland’s most south westerly point and is the place where our green and pleasant land meets the ferocious Atlantic Ocean. The sea cliffs jut out over splashing waves to create a picture you would never bore of watching.

As a reminder to mankind’s never-ending attempt at dominance over nature, Mizen Head Signal Station sits on the edge of the cliffs as it has done for over a century. The station was built in the 19th century to warn the increasing amount of shipping of the rocks just offshore.

While still a busy shipping lane, Mizen Head Signal Station has fulfilled its purpose, so is now a heritage centre with a visitor’s attraction celebrating its rich and important history. Mizen Head Visitor Centre contains everything you need to know about the maritime history of the area, how the station worked and more. There is also a café to warm you up after braving the elements.

To get to the Mizen Head Signal Station, depart the visitor’s centre down the 99 steps and along a coastal path. That path is worth the journey alone as dramatic hardly does the vista justice. Then you cross the arched bridge over the sea to the station.

Once at the station you can explore the Station Keeper’s Quarters, engine room, Marconi Radio Room and the Map Room. You can learn about the lives of the Irish light keepers who worked here until 1993, the importance of communications, wireless, GPS, safety at sea and much more. There are guided tours of the station should you want to get the most out of your visit too.

Mizen Head is rich in wildlife. Look to the sea for dolphins, seals, whales and billions of fish. Look up for a huge range of seabirds as the migration path passes just offshore. Then look south and observe the Fastnet Lighthouse, one of the most famous landmarks in Ireland. It was the last part of home emigrating Irish families saw as they steamed to America.

Mizen Head definitely earns it’s place as a signature point on the Wild Atlantic Way but also as an attraction in its own right. It’s full of interest, history and glimpses of how Ireland grew to be what it is today. Well worth a visit!

Derrigimlagh – Wild Atlantic Way

DerrigimlaghDerrigimlagh in County Galway is an interesting stop on the Wild Atlantic Way. At first glance, the idea of visiting a bog probably doesn’t sound like a good way to spend a day. However, give it a chance and take a walk out to the desolate area and you get a real sense of Irish history.

Derrigimlagh is notable for three things. It was the site of an important transatlantic cable link with its own station built by Marconi in the 19th century. It’s where Alcock and Brown crash landed after the first nonstop flight across the Atlantic. It’s also hauntingly beautiful.

While not much is left of the Marconi station, there are concrete foundations still present at Derrigimlagh. The site used to transmit and receive messages across the Atlantic Ocean and be staffed by over a hundred people. It was unfortunately burnt to the ground during the Irish War of Independence.

The flight across the Atlantic is now immortalised with the Alcock and Brown memorial within the bog. The memorial is an off-white wing-like structure placed at the location where the pair crash landed in 1919. They had taken off from Newfoundland, flown almost 1900 miles through weather, technical problems and the dark only to crash in an Irish bog.

Given the soft nature of the bog, both pilots emerged unscathed from the wreckage. Alcock then allegedly announced “Yesterday I was in America and I am the first man in Europe to say that.”

As with many elements of the Wild Atlantic Way, you can drive to Derrigimlagh and stand on a viewing platform to see most of what’s on offer here. But, we would always suggest leaving the car and getting out on foot. Take a guided walk from local historians or explore on your own. We think it’s the only true way to experience what Ireland has to offer.

The geography is flat and desolate, but also green and full of life. It’s easy to explore on your own, or with a guide. Just make sure you have a good pair of walking boots and waterproofs as it gets wet and windy in such exposed places.

Derrigimlagh is an interesting stop in the Wild Atlantic Way with lots of history on offer. While not as spectacular as the Cliff of Moher or Slieve League, it is beautiful in its own right and definitely worth an afternoon of your time.

Slieve League (Sliabh Liag) – Wild Atlantic Way

Slieve LeagueSlieve League or Sliabh Liag in Gaelic are sea cliffs can be found in County Donegal and are a signature point of the Wild Atlantic Way. They are yet another fascinating part of the Irish landscape on an island full of them!

Slieve League are said to be the highest sea cliffs in Europe. They tower 2000 feet over the Atlantic Ocean and offer some stunning views of the coastline either side and the ocean that stretches for hundreds of miles. There is also a visitor’s centre for good measure.

Located on the west coast of Ireland not far from R263. It’s a short drive from the main road to the Slieve League Cliffs Centre and then a short walk to the cliffs themselves. The visitor’s centre is a family run affair with lots of local history and items of interest. The craft shop is also better than most with lots of local crafts for sensible prices.

The Tí Linn Café is the last cake stop before Slieve League so it’s worth paying a visit before setting out.

The Slieve League Cliffs Centre run guided walks to Slieve League, which are well worth booking if you want to know more about the cliffs, hear local stories and learn about folklore and interesting anecdotes. There are stories for just about everything in Ireland and they add real colour to the experience. We would also recommend a guided walk if you can get one.

From the centre, you can walk to the cliffs via designated viewing points that offer some spectacular vistas across the local landscape. If you’re an experienced walker, you can choose to venture nearer over One Man’s Pass. A path that really does live up to its name!

If that doesn’t sound like something you want to try, there is an easier trail that forms part of a longer walk from Bunglas to Malinbeg. There are also boat trips that can show you the scenery from a different perspective. Visit Teelin Harbour to find a local skipper or join an organised boat tour.

Once at the cliffs, take as much time as you need to take in the scene before you. Watch the seabirds, look for dolphins or just observe the land and seascape before you. From the cliff top you can see Sligo Mountains and Donegal Bay too, so watch out for those.

The Slieve League are simply awesome. They tower over the sea and literally take your breath away. They are well worth visiting on their own merit, but as a signature point of the Wild Atlantic Way, they are unmissable!

Blaskets View – Wild Atlantic Way

Blaskets ViewBlaskets View, or Radharc na mBlascaoidí, on the Wild Atlantic Way is another signature point that stands on its own merit as well as being part of the longest tourist trail in Ireland.

Officially known as the Blasket Islands, this signature point of the Wild Atlantic Way can be found at Dingle Peninsula, County Kerry. The islands are the most western part of Europe and the last stop until the North American continent to the west.

As the crow flies, the Blasket Islands are only 1km from land. However, the direct route is regarded as too dangerous to use, so a 5km loop is necessary to get there safely. It is believed that the islands were once part of the mainland and gradually separated over millions of years.

The largest of the islands, Great Blasket was inhabited until 1953. At its peak, there were 175 people living there. The earliest record, from 1593, has people living and working on the island and several records between then and now support fairly constant habitation.

The village was small and was home to very hardy folk who made their living from land and sea. There was no electricity, no running water and no modern comforts. As far as we can tell, the people only left the island once there were not enough strong men in the families to row the boats to the mainland.

The islanders were literary people, with over 40 books having been published by various residents. Some included the first written work of oral Gaelic histories and culture.

Modern visitors to the Blasket Islands can take in Blaskets View. Look west to the Americas like thousands before you and look all around to see dolphins, whales and seabirds by the hundred. It’s an eerie place that evokes contemplation but is well worth the visit.

Back on the mainland, you can then visit the Blasket Centre. The centre is dedicated to celebrating the life and history of the islands and the islanders and makes for a good stop on your tour.

The highlight has to be The Journey. A stained glass piece that uses 300 glass panels and weighs over 3 tons. There are also examples of the islanders literary accomplishments too that give an incredible insight to the life they led while still resident on Blaskets.

Blaskets View and the Blasket Islands are a poignant stop along the Wild Atlantic Way. Not only is the landscape and seascape dramatic, there is a real insight to a part of Irish life you wouldn’t normally be able to explore. For this alone, it’s a must-see while you’re here.

Mullaghmore Head – Wild Atlantic Way

Mullaghmore HeadMullaghmore Head in County Sligo is a very popular water sports and seaside destination as well as a stop on the Wild Atlantic Way.

Located in the north west of Ireland, between Grange and Bundoram along the N15, the promontory that makes up Mullaghmore is all about the sea. Set close to the borders of County Leitrim and Donegal, it’s an impressive setting with uninterrupted views of Benbulben Mountain, Donegal and Sligo Bay.

With 3km of lovely golden beaches, lots of rugged coastline, little bays, rocky outcroppings, coves and lovely clear water, it’s no wonder it’s a mecca for water sports enthusiasts.

The west coast of Ireland is an exceptionally popular destination for surfers and Bundoram is at the centre of that. The geography of Mullaghmore Head gives it the “prowler” a unique wave type that has been said to reach over 100ft up to several miles off the coast.

This brought Ireland it’s first Big Wave contest in 2011 which saw surfers from across the world compete here. Earlier this year, pro surfer Kirt Rist rode a 55ft prowler wave over a mile off the shore of Mullaghmore Head. If you love the surf, this is the place to be!

Mullaghmore also offers a range of other activities too, from fishing, scuba diving, snorkelling, boat trips and walks along the cliffs. Of course, being part of the Wild Atlantic Way means there are lots of paths and defined coastal walks for you to enjoy while you’re here.

The village of Mullaghmore itself was once owned by Lord Palmerston who was Master of the Rolls in Dublin. He was granted 12,000 acres of land in the area and built Classiebawn Castle on the peninsula. He also brought in immigrants from Liverpool to work the land and build a community. The village of Mullaghmore was created and a harbour built to service it.

Classiebawn Castle was passed down the generations until it was given to Lord Mountbatten before he was killed off the coast of Mullaghmore in 1979.

The village and harbour have prospered thanks to tourism and local industry. The harbour is still busy, local fare, arts and crafts are still sold locally and nationally too. It’s a typical Irish village that would be worth a visit even if it wasn’t part of the Wild Atlantic Way!

Loop Head – Wild Atlantic Way

Loop Head - Wild Atlantic WayLoop Head forms part of the Loop Head Peninsula in West Clare, Ireland. It also forms an integral part of the Wild Atlantic Way. Set on the west coast of County Clare along the Atlantic Coast, Loop Head offers some amazing scenery and stunning views.

Loop Head has been described as “a gnarled finger that juts into the Atlantic Ocean pointing westward.” It’s an accurate description. Set alongside the River Shannon and jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean, this little spit of land has more coastline than anywhere else in Ireland.

Loop Head is believed to be an evolution of “Leap Head” (Ceann Léime). Legend has it that a local, Cúchulainn jumped the gap between the headland and a sea stack to escape a local witch.

Another local legend says that two young lovers, Diarmuid and Gráinne leapt the stack to escape Fionn Mac Cumhaill. That’s why the stack is now called Diarmuid and Gráinne’s Rock. Whichever, if any, legend is true, it adds a bit of colour to the region!

Loop Head is also in the middle of the Wild Atlantic Way, meaning whichever way you travel it, Loop Head will always be the halfway point of your journey.

In 2010, Loop Head was awarded the title of European Destination of Excellence in aquatic tourism. This was a big boost to the area that reflected the true value of this mile-long piece of land.

It isn’t all about the scenery though. Loop Head is also working land. There are farms with lots of cattle around that have formed part of our local way of life. You will also find lots of homesteads, our local low buildings that provide warmth and comfort after a long day working on the land or at sea.

There’s a lot to see and do at Loop Head as there is along most parts of the Wild Atlantic Way. There is walking, cycling, fishing, the West Clare Railway, bird watching and of course, walking the Wild Atlantic Way itself.

One of the highlights of the area is Loop Head Lighthouse. It’s one of many successive lighthouses that have stood guard over the Shannon Estuary since 1670. The current lighthouse was built in 1854 and still lights the night sky for miles around. Tours are also conducted during summer.

It’s difficult to sum up the Loop Head part of the Wild Atlantic Way without repeating the superlatives we use to describe many of the other locations. The sheer beauty and drama of this coastal scenery simply defies description. That’s why you need to see it for yourself.

Visit holidaycottages.net for a range of high quality accommodation spread across Ireland and along the entire Wild Atlantic Way!

Cliffs of Moher – Wild Atlantic Way

Cliffs of Moher - Wild Atlantic WayThe Cliffs of Moher are one of the most visited natural phenomena in Ireland. Already part of a series of walks across Ireland, being added to the Wild Atlantic Way only adds to its appeal.

The Cliffs of Moher are located on the west coast of County Clare. They loom 214m over the Atlantic Ocean at their highest point and offer some truly amazing views out over the ocean and across the dramatic coastline of County Clare.

The trail that takes in the Cliffs of Moher is 8km in length. From the south of the trail and looking north, you can see Hag’s Head, a rocky promontory that resembles a seated woman.

Travel north and you’ll come across the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience, a modern visitors centre set into the hillside. The centre contains award-winning educational displays, interesting histories and everything you ever wanted to know about the region. Guides are also available for personal tours that are well worth booking in advance.

Along the Cliffs of Moher, slightly south of the visitor’s centre, you’ll come across O’Briens Tower, a 19th century construction originally designed for tourists. It was built in 1835 by a visionary who saw the potential of the area for visitors and those who would appreciate the spectacular scenery the cliffs provided. When the weather is agreeable, you can see all the way to the Galway Islands from it.

As part of the visitor centre, there are three platforms along the cliffs, the main, north and south platform. The main platform provides an exceptional view of the southern part of the Cliffs of Moher and Hag’s Head.

The north platform can be found at Knockardakin, the highest point of the cliffs. Standing 214m (700 feet) above sea level, next to O’Briens Tower it provides an amazing view the An Branán Mór Sea Stack and it’s collection of seabirds and Aill Na Searrach, the famous surfing wave when it’s here.

The south platform provides views to Goat Island where our local Puffin population live. You also get a different perspective of An Branán Mór Sea Stack and O’Briens Tower.

After taking in the wonders of the Cliffs of Moher, you can treat yourself to a well-earned coffee in the visitor’s centre while you compare notes and pictures. The Cliffs and indeed all of the Wild Atlantic Way offer more photographic opportunities than you could ever wish for. Ireland has to be one of the most photogenic countries in the world and for good reason!