The Wild Atlantic Way is one of the world’s most impressive coastal drives covering around 2500km of the Atlantic Road that hugs the coastline of this Emerald Isle. Along the way, it offers 160 discovery points, 26 islands and 150 other hidden gems just waiting to be uncovered.
The southern section of the Wild Atlantic Way stretches from Kerry to Cork covering around 463km (287 miles). The Radisson Blu Hotel, Cork is perfectly placed to offer comfortable accommodation if you are passing through or a convenient base if you are exploring the local area on a number of day trips. Here are the top highlights of the southern section as you make your way to the city of Cork.
Kerry is mythical county but no more so than at Dingle Peninsula. This part of Kerry covers more than 30 mile of coastline and offers rugged cliff, rocky and sandy coastline, and green rolling landscapes. It is also a mountainous area and home to Ireland’s second highest peak, Mount Brandon, which stands at 951 metres above sea level. If you fancy some hiking with stunning coastal views then this is the place to do it. As with many local communities across Ireland there is always plenty to do. The area offers culture, history, geology, stunning beaches, water sports including surfing, fishing and much more.
Blaskets View is the name given to the view out to sea of the Blasket Islands from Dingle Peninsula. They are uninhabited and shrouded in mystery. Start your journey at The Blasket Centre and learn the heritage, folklore and customs of the unique inhabitants who once lived on the islands until 1953. The best experience is to join a tour such as Blasket Island Eco Marine Boat Tour and sail around the archipelago of nine islands whilst discovering the wildlife that now call these islands home. Seabirds including the elusive puffins, sheep and even red deer still thrive here. Whilst on the boat keep an eye out for sea life such as whales, dolphins and basking sharks.
The most westerly inhabited island of Cork, Dursey Island takes its visitors a step back in time to a more tranquil way of life. The lifeline to the island is the cable car that runs from the mainland. In times gone past it has been known to transport livestock as well as people. Not many however, as the cable car only holds six people on its journey 250 metres over the water. There are no shops, restaurants or pubs here so all you have to do is relax, enjoy a walk and take in the incredible coastal views whilst contemplating life. Don’t forget to stop and speak to the locals who may have tales to tell you. For bird watchers, the island offers a rare glimpse of migrating birds. If you are lucky, you may be able to combine a visit with a local island dancing, walking or a storytelling festival.
Mizen Head was originally a Fog Signal Station built in the early 1900s to warn boats of the treacherous conditions and rocky outcrops along the most southerly point of the Irish coastline. It has undoubtedly saved countless lives but today is a massive tourist attraction. Explore the quaint and informative visitor centre and museum to find out the story behind the station and join a guided tour if you want to make the most of the experience. Once you are done inside, put on sturdy footwear and head out to stroll the cliff top walkways. The steep but well maintained paths will lead you to stunning Atlantic viewing platforms and to the famous suspension bridge that joins a ravine as the vivid blue ocean waves crash underneath you. It is perhaps not for the faint hearted but if you appreciate unbeatable views and incredible cliff formations, the trip is more than worth it.
From Mizen Head take a boat tour to Fastnet Rock and Lighthouse, known as the teardrop of Ireland, situated right out in the Atlantic Ocean, known as Ireland’s teardrop. Boat tours are available from several companies that offer photography or whale and dolphin watching trips as well as admiring the lighthouse, for example with Fastnet Rock Tours. The lighthouse itself plays an important role in history and is an incredible feat of engineering set in a rather remote location. It is easy to put yourself in the shoes of those who worked there and to understand the lifestyle and sacrifice this would involve.
The quaint village of Kinsale
Kinsale will be one of the last, or first, stops along the Wild Atlantic Way; and no more an authentic Irish village could you find. Today, it is beautifully kept although it has not always been so vibrant. It was the site of the Battle of Kinsale, one that changed the country’s history forever. For history-lovers, take a tour of Charles Fort, a late 17th century fort complex. It is thought to have played a significant role in shaping Ireland’s history.
Walking through the town, you will uncover stunning buildings along quaint streets, some of which used to make up the town’s waterways until they were filled in. Today, vibrant colours of vivid blues, greens, purples and reds make up the houses and shop fronts. There is plenty to see and do in Kinsdale with an array of pubs, and events showcasing local produce, especially sea food, as well as arts and crafts boutiques and galleries and a beautiful harbour area that illustrates the towns fishing heritage.
Golf at the Old Head Links
Take a trip to the head of Kinsale, a peninsula that protrudes two miles from the headland. It has to be one of the top 18 -hole golf courses in the world with an unbeatable landscapes. From all 18 holes you will be have stunning views combined with the most challenging of playing conditions. Nine of those holes are actually set along the cliff tops. Imagine how it would be to play here against the Atlantic backdrop during sunrise or sunset. This is a golfer’s paradise and will leave you with memories you will never forget. Make sure you don’t loose the golf balls though as you may not be able to recover them, but that is part of the charm of playing here.
Cork is the main city in the county and the perfect base for exploring the southern section of the Wild Atlantic Way. Incredibly, the city dates back to 609AD and is, therefore, steeped in history. It has tested the time of history and emerged to be the culturally vibrant city it is today. As with all of Ireland, the people are welcoming and willing to tell you a tale or two about local culture, legends and myths. Combined this with laughter, traditional music, local food and plenty of attractions, including Blarney Castle and Cork Gaol, this makes for the perfect city break.
Kerry and Cork are only part of this unforgettable journey and this is just a taste of what this region has to offer. If you are planning to do the whole trip and want to know more about the northern section of the journey, start at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Letterkenny and work your way south.
For some inspiration before booking your trip of a lifetime check out our Instagrammers Guide or watch this Wild Atlantic Way film: