Main image: Blasket Islands from Dunmore Head, County Kerry (Tourism Ireland)
With its rich tapestry of seasonal colours, the Wild Atlantic Way is regularly cited alongside Route 66 as one of the world’s best road trips. Spanning Ireland’s entire west coast, from Counties Donegal to Cork, the Wild Atlantic Way is an unforgettable 2,500km-long celebration of the majesty of nature — replete with activities, superior accommodations and landscapes carved with vigour by the tempestuous ocean over millennia.
A brisk 21km-long drive from Cork Airport is the candy-coloured and historic town of Kinsale. Alongside its marina is a vibrant culinary scene where local producers and ingredients are central to every meal — the perfect showcase is an afternoon foraging with Kinsale Food Tours, where you will discover and sample wild seaweeds, shellfish and plants.
And there’s no need to resist the lure of the surrounding Atlantic Ocean. Kinsale Food Tours also offers picnics aboard private charter yachts, courtesy of Sovereign Sailing. Surrounded by bright blue skies, this guided, half-day gourmet experience defines decadence.
Exchange Kinsale's captivating waters for the verdant landscape of Castlemartyr Resort, a five-star estate steeped in Irish history and tradition. Here, allow the Michelin-starred and aptly named Terre to continue delighting your taste buds with its dynamic fine-dining menus that celebrate nature in all its resplendent glory.
After breakfast in Castlemartyr Resort, join Skibbereen-based Atlantic Sea Kayaking and return to the waters, immersing yourself in the region’s profusion of cliffs, bays, beaches and islands — which also can be explored by night under a canopy of stars.
During the popular Castlehaven Bay route, you’ll discover that the hypnotic environment belies a dramatic history, bursting with tales of piracy and battles. The marine wildlife will provide company as your guide unveils the secret pirate steps, thought to be 400 years old.
To contrast your morning at sea, stroll around Bantry House and Gardens, a family residence since 1739. The stately property, with its prestigious collection of art and furniture, offers seasonal accommodation, while the formal gardens provide a dreamy backdrop for a picnic from the tearooms.
Cork’s breathtaking offering continues in Gougane Barra Forest Park — a symphony of wild, ever-changing scenery. On arrival, you’ll be greeted by the much-photographed St Finbarr’s Oratory, dedicated to the county’s patron saint. Surrounded by the pine-carpeted Sheehy Mountains, the valley is a haven for hikers or those wanting to surrender to the melodious birdsong and recharge amongst the deer, foxes and rabbits.
Continue to the Kingdom of Kerry and enjoy deserved pampering in the five-star Park Hotel Kenmare. With its open fires, spa and private cinema, this 19th-century escape is a leading specialist in timeless luxury.
On its doorstep is the heritage town of Kenmare, a treasure chest of antique stores, galleries and traditional pubs — and eateries, like Mulcahy’s Restaurant & Bar, famed for its relaxed setting and local produce. Sample the scallops or scampi, and you’ll understand why the restaurant is featured in prestigious guidebooks, including the Michelin Guide.
Energised by your stay at the Park Hotel Kenmare, return to Cork and venture along the Ring of Beara, the 85-mile-long coastal drive where wild wonders await. This mountainous peninsula — named for a Spanish princess and often described as ‘true Ireland’ — unfolds onto the ocean while simultaneously elevating the hearts of its visitors. With wedge tombs and standing stones, the Ring of Beara is bejewelled with treasures from our Bronze Age past.
Back in Kenmare, enjoy lunch at No. 35, the family-run dining room whose dishes deftly utilise the produce from its farm and the surrounding area. The restaurant incorporates exposed timber beams, hand-cut limestone, stained-glass windows and an open fire, guaranteeing a warm, nurturing environment for intrepid explorers like you.
Shining bright on the periphery of the superlative Killarney is the five-star Europe Hotel & Resort, famed for its effortless opulence, comfort and heavenly location. Savour the still waters of Loch Léin, framed by the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks mountains, before spending a restorative afternoon in the onsite spa, ESPA.
This sanctuary of tranquillity has been designed to echo the surrounding environment and, guided by a holistic philosophy, offers a vast selection of lavish treatments, rituals and facilities to nourish the body — inside and out.
If you can relinquish your allegiance to the Europe Hotel, visit Killarney’s Lake Room Restaurant, where Irish favourites are served with modern European flourishes. An international wine list complements dishes like pan-seared halibut and guinea fowl, while a nightcap in the neighbouring Heights Lounge and Piano Bar is the perfect end to the perfect day.
Morning and Afternoon
While embarking on your unforgettable expedition along the Wild Atlantic Way, your camera will undoubtedly be put to good use — after heading west, allow George from Dingle Darkroom to put it to even better use. His workshops and tours brilliantly combine uncovering the Dingle Peninsula’s hidden gems with practical techniques about how best to capture them.
The Boatyard Restaurant exemplifies the charm and beauty of Dingle, one of Ireland’s most popular destinations. From pier to platter, its menus well-nigh offer the entire contents of the Atlantic Ocean, from lobster to crab claws, prawns to monkfish — ideal fuelling during your Irish exploits.
Appetite sated, try out your sea legs again with Dingle Dolphin Boat Tours, the provider of seafaring adventures since 1987. En route to the spectacular Great Blasket Island — uninhabited by its Irish-speaking population since 1954 but now classified as a Special Area of Conservation — you’ll glimpse marine wildlife such as dolphins, seals, puffins and, possibly, whales.
Dingle faces competition for Ireland’s most enchanting destination from Adare in County Limerick, a two-hour drive north. Among the hanging baskets and castle ruins is 1826 Adare — the rustic restaurant housed in one of the village’s famous thatched cottages and overseen by award-winning chef Wade Murphy, who has previously worked in top kitchens in London, Chicago and Egypt.
For your final night, check into Adare Manor, regularly voted as one of Ireland's top hotels. This gothic masterpiece, encircled by 840 acres of pristine parkland, will astonish you — although, thanks to the celebrated service, it offers prestige without pretence, magic without nonsense.
Spend the morning immersed in the splendour of Adare Manor. Try an onsite activity, like fishing, archery or playing padel, the racquet sport currently sweeping mainland Europe. Another popular option is the Gun Dog Experience, a charming tribute to the era when Adare Manor was a private country estate — then, gun dogs played an integral role during the shooting season. Learn about Labradors’ detailed training, cultivating an impenetrable bond with their humans.
Before departing for the airport, enjoy Irish cuisine in the estate’s award-winning Carriage House. Under the colonnade, rotunda, chandeliers and exquisite vaulted ceiling is an exceptional grill restaurant abounding with local artisan produce.
Travel the 35-minute drive to Shannon Airport, equipped with a heart bursting with inspiration, joy and memories to last a lifetime.
Ready to indulge in your own luxury road trip adventure across Ireland? Then start planning on the official Tourism Ireland website.