Last Updated on November 18, 2023
Planning on visiting Ireland’s West Coast? Discover below the best places to see on the West Coast, a sample itinerary, and tour options if you don’t want to drive.
The West Coast of Ireland is filled with incredible sights and some of the country’s best attractions, making it a top destination for a road trip. Following along the Wild Atlantic Way, pass by jaw-dropping landscapes, ancient castles, and quaint towns.
Whether you just have a couple of days, a full week, or more, you’ll find plenty of things to do and places to visit along the coast. From the majestic Cliffs of Moher to the rugged beauty of the Beara Peninsula, Ireland’s West Coast is home to some of the best destinations in the country.
Keep on reading to discover all the best places to visit on Ireland’s West Coast and start planning your trip!
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Places to Visit on Ireland’s West Coast
The places listed below are from North to South and can more or less be visited in that order. It’s better if you have a car, especially for the loops, but you can also use public transportation to get to most places or book tours from Dublin.
Technically Western Ireland is made up of the counties of Galway, Mayo, and Roscommon, and some people might only consider these as part of the West Coast.
However, I’m including places from farther south and farther north that are located geographically on the West Coast and part of the Wild Atlantic Way.
One of the best places in the country for surfing, Sligo is home to beautiful beaches and offers plenty of opportunities when it comes to water-based activities.
The best time to surf is from September to May, but you can go year-round. Beginners can head to Enniscrone and Strandhill while intermediate to advanced surfers can surf in Easkey and Streedagh Strand. Mullaghmore More features some of the biggest, coldest, and heaviest waves on the planet, while most people can’t surf there, going to see the few who can is a show like no other.
The coast here is also good for sea kayaking and freediving. In Sligo, you can rent kayaks and go on your own, starting from Rosses Point or you can arrange for a kayaking excursion with a local guide.
Featuring rugged mountains and peat bogs, Achill Island is known for its tall sea cliffs and pretty beaches popular among water sports enthusiasts. There’s a bridge connecting it to the mainland, so access is pretty easy.
You can spend a day there, driving around, enjoying the scenery, and visiting the island’s attractions. In summer, you can plan to spend a couple of days there to enjoy the quiet beaches and laid-back vibes.
On the island, you’ll find Kildavnet Castle, a tower house from the 15th century where Grace O’Malley, the “Pirate Queen” lived for a while. You can also stop by the deserted village at Slievemore, Achill Heritage Centre, and Achill Henge.
Another beautiful island off of Ireland’s West Coast, Clare Island is a must-visit and a true hidden gem. To get there, take the Clare Island Ferry from Roonagh Quay (west of Louisburgh) to the island, the trip takes 15 to 20 minutes.
With only 150 inhabitants, the island is a haven of peace and a great place to disconnect and relax. There are plenty of hikes and scenic walks to go on to visit the island’s main sights and enjoy the landscape.
Don’t miss the Clare Island Abbey from the 12th century, Granuaile’s Castle, the Napoleonic Signal Tower, and the Archaeological Trail.
Roundstone is a charming colorful seaside town often considered as one of the most beautiful places in the Connemara. Spend some time enjoying the peaceful vibes, having a meal or drink at one of the local restaurants, before strolling around town.
South of town, you can stop by Roundstone Musical Instruments & Crafts to see how traditional bodhráns are made and visit the small museum there.
Nearby, you can head to Gurteen Bay and Dog’s Bay, two of the most beautiful beaches in the country.
Connemara National Park
One of my favorite places in Ireland, the Connemara National Park is only an hour’s drive away from Galway City but you might want to take your time and drive around the peninsula. If you’re driving straight to the park, half a day is enough, otherwise take 2 days to explore the area.
The highlight of the park is the stunning panoramic views you get from one of the highest points. On clear days, you can see the coast, Kylemore Abbey, and the surrounding mountains. There are basically 2 trails you can hike, the Lower and Upper Diamond Hill Loops, both joined, so you can start with the lower one and continue onto the upper one.
If you’re doing both, count around 3 hours with breaks. I definitely recommend doing the upper one for the best views, however, you need to be fit as it goes up quite a lot.
For something easier, you can hike the Sruffaunboy Trail (30 minutes) or the Ellis Wood Nature Trail (15 minutes).
Next to the Connemara National Park is the stunning Kylemore Abbey, one of the best places to visit in Ireland and probably one of the most iconic as well. This Gothic Benedictine nunnery was founded in 1920 on the grounds of Kylemore Castle and features restored Victorian rooms that can be visited plus a stunning garden.
The castle dates back to 1868 and was restored by the nuns who still live here and make some of the crafts and food you can buy at one of the shops. There are daily history talks in the Abbey and tours of the Walled Garden throughout the summer, but you can also easily visit on your own.
Galway is a vibrant city and a good base to explore the Connemara peninsula. Spend some time strolling around the downtown area before picking a pub for dinner and/or a pint. Galway is also a perfect place to listen to live Irish folk music, no matter what day of the week you visit, you’re sure to find a pub hosting a band.
Tig Chólí, Taafles Bar, and The Quays (one of the oldest pubs in the city) usually offer daily live music.
You can also visit the Galway City Museum, featuring exhibits ranging from Prehistoric and Medieval Galway to the 1916 revolution.
If you’re visiting during a weekend, shop for local crafts and produce at the Galway Market, located around St Nicholas’ Church.
Nature lovers can go for a peaceful walk at the nearby Barna Woods and Rusheen Bay Nature Reserve, both great places to spot birds and see wildflowers.
Made up of three main islands (Inis Mor, Inis Oirr, and Inis Meain), the Aran archipelago is one of the top destinations in Western Ireland. You can take a ferry from Rossaveel or Doolin to reach the islands, a seasonal ferry operates from Galway City to Inis Mor.
The biggest and most visited island is Inis Mor where you can rent a bicycle and head to the Seal Colony Viewpoint, before hitting the beach. Other must-sees include Dún Aonghasa, the largest of many stone forts in the group of islands, the Wormhole, a strange hole connected to the sea, and the Black Fort.
On Inis Oirr and Inis Meain, rent a bike as well and explore the small islands’ scenery and archaeological sites.
Cliffs of Moher
You can easily access the cliffs from the visitor center, Doolin, or Hag’s Head. If you don’t want to hike along the cliffs. then head directly to the visitor center, where you’ll find several viewpoints to see the cliffs. You can just sit on the grass if the weather is nice and enjoy the view.
If you’re planning on hiking along the cliffs, there’s a path from Doolin to Hag’s Head, with the visitor center in the middle. The trail is about 10 miles (15 kilometers). You can hike all or part of it, just make sure to pack enough snacks and water.
Burren National Park
The Burren is easily one of my favorite places in all of Ireland. The otherwordly landscape makes it a unique place you won’t see anywhere else. While the Burren is along the coast and offers coastal hikes like the Black Head Loop, it’s in the national park that you’ll find the most spectacular hikes.
All the hikes within the national park start at the same point, type “Gortlecka Crossroads” on Google Maps. There, you’ll find the parking lot and the starting point for the hikes. I recommend doing the 4.7-mile Blue Trail for the best views.
It is quite challenging as it goes up a lot – so if you have limited mobility or are traveling with children pick one of the easier trails.
Ireland’s West Coast is full of stunning peninsulas that are great destinations for a road trip along the coast. Part of the Wild Atlantic Way, the Dingle Peninsula is a treasure trove of quaint towns, prehistoric sites, and scenic landscapes.
There are plenty of things to do and places to explore around the peninsula. If you like hiking you can plan to spend a few days there – a popular multi-day hike is the one from Tralee to Dingle. You’ll also find plenty of shorter hikes between Cloghane and Brandon.
Among the must-visits, you’ll find the Lispole Railway Viaduct, the ruins of the Killelton village, Inch Strand, Brandon Point, Fermoyle Beach, the Gallarus Oratory, and Glanteenassig Forest Park. If driving, make sure to pass by the Connor Pass and hike to Pedlar’s Lake.
A road trip through the Slea Head Drive is also a must with stops at Clogher Beach, Dunmore Head, Dunquin, Cashel Murphy, and Kilmalkedar.
Ring of Kerry
The Ring of Kerry is one of the most popular driving loops in the country and not for nothing. Featuring dramatic beaches, rugged cliffs, medieval ruins, and stunning scenery, this area is filled with hidden gems and beautiful sites.
Start in Killorgin and drive straight to the Kerry Bog Village to visit a reconstitution of a 19th-century Irish village before heading to Cahersiveen to visit some ring forts. Next, head to Valentia Island where you can see the lighthouse and some historic sites.
At the tip of the peninsula, you’ll find majestic cliffs just a short drive from the main road with a nice viewpoint. Make sure to drive the Skellig Ring from Portmagee to Waterville to not miss the cliffs.
Keep driving along the coast, stopping in Caherdaniel to visit the house of Daniel O’Connell, and ending your trip in the charming town of Kenmare.
From mid-May to September, you can visit the beautiful Skellig Michael with a boat tour from Portmagee, Ballinskelligsn, or Derryname. Make sure you reserve your spot in advance as a limited number of people are allowed daily. You can either book a tour including some time on the island, or book an eco-tour where you just circle the island and stay on the boat.
The island is first famous for having been home to monks centuries ago. In the 6th century, they built the stairs you use today to reach the top where you’ll find the famous beehive huts.
It was also made famous by the Star Wars franchise when several scenes for the sequel trilogy were shot there. The island appears in The Last Jedi and The Force Awakens.
Killarney National Park
While technically not on the coast, Killarney National Park is worth the short detour if you’re traveling along the West Coast. The park is stunning, driving around is just a feast for the eyes with plenty of jaw-dropping viewpoints.
Apart from driving around, you can go hiking through the forest and around the lakes. You’ll find several types of trails of all lengths and difficulties. Make sure to visit the iconic Muckross House and Ross Castle as well.
You can also take a boat ride on the lake or go kayaking when the weather is nice.
One of the wildest parts of Ireland, the Beara Peninsula is known for its rugged landscape and secluded feel. It’s as interesting as the Dingle Peninsula and the Ring of Kerry, minus the crowds.
Enjoy driving around, taking in the scenery, stopping by viewpoints and quaint villages. Don’t miss driving the Healy Pass Road all the way to the tip of the peninsula. From there, you can take the only cable car in the country to Dursey Island.
In Adrigole, you can go sea kayaking to see a colony of seals.
If you’re visiting during summer, you can spend some time on the beautiful Ballydonegan beach.
Sheep’s Head Peninsula
Starting in Bantry, embark on the beautiful Sheep’s Head Drive through untouched landscapes, far away from the hordes of tourists. This unspoiled part of the Wild Atlantic Way is an opportunity to explore a stunning hidden gem off the beaten path.
It’s one of the smaller loops so you can easily visit it within half a day. Count some extra time if you want to go for a hike. An easy one is the trail to Seefin Viewpoint providing views over Bantry Bay. The easy trail to Sheep’s Head Lighthouse is also a must-hike. For something more challenging, check out the Poet’s Way Loop.
You can stop at some of the few villages along the way. Durrus, Ahakista, and Kilcrohane all offer shops, pubs, and restaurants with a scenic backdrop.
If you want to go birdwatching, you can take the ferry from Bantry to Whiddy Island known for its abundant wildlife.
Last but not least, Mizen Head marks the end of Ireland’s West Coast. It’s also one of the most popular sites in West Cork offering stunning scenery and opportunities to spot marine life.
Drive all the way to the station and once there, try to spot seals, if you’re lucky, you might even see dolphins and whales. You should also cross the bridge to Cloghane Island (be prepared if you suffer from vertigo as it’s suspended 150ft above the Atlantic).
At the visitor center, you can learn more about local history and enjoy a drink and a piece of cake at the Mizen Café.
In the area, you can stop by Dunlough Fort overlooking the bay, check out some of the beaches, and stroll around a village or two.
Ireland West Coast Itinerary
An Ireland West Coast itinerary is pretty straightforward as you can just follow the coast. Depending on how much time you have, you can only focus on a part of it, do the entire route skipping some places, or visit everything.
If you have 10 days to visit the West Coast, you can just start in Sligo and make you’re way down, or vice-versa. You could do it in 7 days but you’ll be rushed – 7 days is okay if you’re not planning on hiking and just want to be doing sightseeing.
Here’s a sample Ireland West Coast itinerary featuring the highlights of the area:
- Day 1 – Drive the Connemara loop, stopping at the abbey, the national park, and Galway
- Day 2 – See the Cliffs of Moher and hike in the Burren
- Optional Day – Drive around the Dingle Peninsula and the Slead Head Drive
- Day 3 – Ring of Kerry and Skellig Michael
- Day 4 – Killarney National Park
If you have extra time, you can continue with this Southern Ireland itinerary.
West Coast of Ireland Tours
If you don’t want to drive or don’t want to bother with public transportation, a good alternative is to book a tour. I recommend booking tours via TourRadar, they carefully select the tour operators they work with, offer a wide variety of tours, and you can easily filter results based on age range, duration, size of the group… and many other filters.
While I rented a car and explored Ireland’s West Coast independently, here are a few small-group tours I’ve selected that have good reviews and include the best sights along the coast (if you try one let me know!):
- 8-Day Castles & Coast Experience – 4.7/5 stars (34 reviews)
- The 6-Day Celtic Voyage – 4.6/5 stars (65 reviews)
- 7-Day Great Atlantic Adventure – 4.8/5 stars (151 reviews)
- 3-Day Dingle, Killarney & the Wild Atlantic Way – 4.8/5 stars (4 reviews)
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