How to best travel the Wild Atlantic Way?
Which direction to travel?
Where you start your journey and which direction you go probably depends on which airport or ferry port you are arriving at.
Arriving in Cork by ferry would be perfect for going South to North for example. Whereas arriving in Belfast or Larne would be perfect for travelling North to South, and you could take in the Causeway Coastal Route in Northern Ireland on the way if you have enough time.
Arriving in Shannon airport you could logically go South or North depending on what you want to see, as Shannon is close to Limerick. This probably depends on how much time you have.
From Dublin airport it is a still a 2,5 hr drive to Galway, but that puts you almost halfway up the WAW, so you can decide for yourself where to travel.
For some parts, I have traveled South to North and other parts North to South. But for most parts, this does not really matter.
[Having said that, if you decide to travel the Ring of Kerry, or parts of it, you should drive clockwise to avoid the tour buses that are supposed to drive anti-clockwise around the ring. If you get stuck behind them it can be a long journey! Bear in mind that in Ireland we drive on the left and the stopping places are normally on the side of the views – though not always!!]
Which method of transport to use on the WAW?
There are of course several methods of travel you can use to travel the Wild Atlantic Way.
I have done most of the trip by motorcycle, camping along the way, and doing some stretches with friends.
But there are several options available, some better than others.
Car / Motorcycle
If you are visiting Ireland yourself, probably hiring a car or a motorcycle is the most practical way to go about it. A car is perhaps easier as you can more easily carry your gear around with you.
And in a car you are then less at the mercy of the Irish weather, which can be variable. Having said that, during the three weeks that I travelled this summer I was only rained on a couple of times, and not even enough to get wet. So you pays your money and you takes your chances 😃
My preferred method of travel is the motorcycle as you have a complete feeling of freedom on a bike. And also the Wild Atlantic Way has some fantastic roads for biking. I traveled on the WAW this summer in high season and even then there were hardly any cars on the road. Really exceptional.
You can actually hire a motorcycle in Ireland via these guys:
And if you are on a bike and need new tyres along the way, and you are close to county Clare, you cannot do better than visiting Nod’s Tyres and Accessories. Call him beforehand and he will give you a service second to none!
Be aware that recently (writing this in 2022) the car hire companies were jacking up their prices due to a lack of available hire cars (after lockdown) so it might be wise to check the car hire prices before you book your flights.
You can try these guys for an indication on car hire prices:
Or these guys perhaps?
Also, make sure you have taken out good insurance to cover your excess, check the state of the car properly when you pick it up and remember to drive on the left!!
Follow this link to get some handy tips on driving in Ireland.
Campervan / Caravan
A campervan is also a great way to get around. When we first came to Ireland we arrived in a campervan and a car and had a two week holiday travelling around county Kerry. An absolutely wonderful trip.
There are plenty of campsites along the way, although if you are travelling in the peak season you will probably need to book a place up front if you are in a campervan.
There are also quite a few places along the way where you can camp for a small fee overnight, or some that are free for campervans. Just remember to not leave anything behind if you are wild camping and leave the site as you found it.
Some roads along the WAW may be a little narrow for campers as some of them are single track roads, so make sure you follow the signposting along the road. Similarly some entries to car parks have a 2 meter height limit which you will need to watch out for.
Irish Rail has train services across Ireland, but its coverage is limited.
Also there is no train station at Dublin airport. (Dublin is, unfortunately, one of the only cities in Europe where there is no train station at its major airport.)
So if you fly into Dublin you have to get a transfer to one of the train stations to travel further by train.
If you cannot drive yourself or do not dare to, then you could also try using the Irish Bus service, Bus Eireann.
However some of the rural areas have a very limited schedule which may be limited to only one bus a day in some places, so you will need to plan.
We have found that Dublin Coach has a quite good cross country service, and has the advantage that it runs services directly from Dublin airport.
This could be quite a challenge but also enjoyable if you have the time to spend.
Day Tours in Ireland
Taking a day tour from Dublin or will only show you a few sites in one day, and it is 3 hours from Dublin to the West so you will spend much of the day in the bus.
But if you are looking for an easy way and not wanting to drive yourself this may be exactly the thing to do.
Get your guide can organise the perfect tour for you:
This is not something I would personally recommend as you only get to see a few places. But if you only have a short time available then this is probably a good way to go.
And maybe in ten years time I will be doing the same!
Cycling Wild Atlantic Way
Some crazy people love to cycle the Wild Atlantic Way for the challenge. Rather them than me. Having said that there is no reason you cannot cycle it.
In fact, you do see quite a few people travelling the WAW on a bicycle.
You can normally hire cycles locally as most towns have places to hire bikes. If you go to the Aran Islands it is pretty much the only way to travel around the island.
And of course these days you can also hire e-bikes. This makes the cycling a bit more enjoyable and doable for some. Especially on the hilly bits!
The roads in Ireland are not like the Netherlands, which has its own cycle paths. But drivers in Ireland are generally careful when they see cyclists on the road.
Just make sure you are wearing bright reflective clothing and do not cycle two abreast.
How to travel the Wild Atlantic Way?
So at the end of the day, how to travel the wild Atlantic Way the best? Well, I still think the best way is to drive yourself, either by car or bike. It gives you the freedom to go where you want to.
You can then spend as much time as you like at the places you want to see, and meet the real Irish people.
A camper may restrict where you can actually access in some places, when a lot of the car parks have height restrictions.
But if you want to take day trips, then do not let me stop you.
Everyone should decide for themselves what is best for them.
Just remember, when you are traveling, from one of our favourite family travel quotes:
“Don’t count the days. Make the days count”.
Last Updated on April 24, 2023 by Gav