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This wildest area of Ireland’s west, enveloped by the Atlantic Ocean, is home to dramatic coastline dotted with islands, islets and uninhabited rocks, as well as endless golden sands and impressive mountains. You’ll also find one of the country’s most vivacious little towns in its ‘capital’ Clifden, your base for the first three days of your holiday.
Your Accommodation in Clifden
In the ideal position from which to explore Connemara, this family-owned residence may well encapsulate the whole idea of the Irish welcome. Within moments of arriving, you’ll feel a sense of calm descend, helped along by friendly hosts, while the bustle of Clifden takes hold on the doorstep. Sink in to your relaxing en-suite room after a day of discovery or an evening of ceol and craic at one of the many classic local pubs within a stone’s throw.
Leave the car behind today and take to one of our favourite ways to get under the skin of this enchanting landscape. Never ridden an eBike? You’re in for a treat, and there’s nothing to fear as it’s exactly like riding a regular bicycle, with added gentle assistance when you need it. Take off from the centre of Clifden along rising and aptly named Sky Road for heart-stopping views of gorgeous Clifden Bay. Rest awhile with a seafood chowder at a pub on the coast, taking in the views of Olney Island, then indulge in a little rockhopping on Anchor Beach before returning to Clifden in the afternoon.
It’s up to you how you spend your time, and there’d be no judging from anyone should you decide simply to stroll the streets of Clifden, stopping from time to time for coffee in the morning or a glass of something stronger in the afternoon. On the other hand, there’s so much to see within easy drive; perhaps the Alcock and Brown memorial to the first transatlantic flight or stunning Kylemore Abbey and Gardens. We’ll provide all the information you need to make the most of your time.
Start the day as slowly as you wish, with a leisurely breakfast and even a morning constitutional, before taking to the road, heading north through Connemara National Park and crossing the border into Co Mayo. The direct route takes only an hour or so, so there’s plenty of time to detour off the beaten track, perhaps to endless Carrowinsky Beach or the enigmatic ruined abbey at Murrisk, and to linger around captivating Killary Fjord.
Arriving in Westport in the afternoon, check in to your accommodation before an evening out.
Your Accommodation in Westport
Close to the centre of this most vibrant town, your accommodation in Westport takes all the best ingredients of Irish hospitality and adds a touch of its own charm along the way, with local owners and staff always ready to help you get the best from your visit. There’s three nights to settle in here, time enough to properly unpack, unwind and make the most of your inviting en-suite room.
No need to hurry; take the finest locally sourced breakfast at leisure before setting off to meet your local guide for a private walk around Westport. A lifelong resident, your guide knows every brick and boulder, every corner and cranny of this planned Georgian jewel. Get to know the story of the town’s creation and its place in Irish culture and heritage, while picking up a host of tips on where to find the tastiest seafood and the best pint of Guinness – invaluable information!
There’s a wealth of discovery to be made within moments’ drive of Westport. Just 20 minutes southeast will bring you to 22,000-acre Lough Mask, a mecca for anglers eager to bag a brown trout or two. Or take yourself further west along the coast to Roonagh Point, departure spot for the tiny ferry to enthralling Clare Island, a short crossing and world away from life on the mainland. Alternatively, pack a lunch, don the walking boots and tackle Croagh Patrick, the iconic conical summit just 15 minutes from the centre of town.
There’s a little over an hour to travel to your next stop, so you have the luxury of time on your side as you set off this morning, your destination Ireland’s largest – and arguably most beautiful – offshore island. Along the way, perhaps loiter in historic Newport on the shores of Clew Bay, to marvel at 15th-century Burrishoole Friary and the ancient tower of Carraigahowley Castle.
There’s no ferry to Achill; visitors make the short crossing via Michael Davitt Bridge, gateway to this stunning island.
Your Accommodation on Achill Island
In what has to be one of the most breath-taking locations of any residence in Ireland, your accommodation on Achill Island is a quirky family-owned place full of character. Created from the bones of a beautifully restored former coastguard station, the south-facing house enjoys uninterrupted views across the vast golden strand to the Cathedral Cliffs at Minaun. Taking breakfast or dinner here amidst these amazing sights is an experience you’ll remember for ever. Your hosts are from generations of Achill residents, bringing decades of understanding just how to make guests feel special.
Is there any finer luxury than the empty diary, the absence of plans? Today there’s no pressure of time, with the whole day ahead to find your favourite corner of this fabulous location. Take a packed lunch and wander off to the west to tiny Purteen Harbour, onward to stunning Keem Strand and the soaring cliffs at Moyteoge Head. Sate a thirst for history at Slievemore Deserted Village, with some 1,000 years of traceable habitation, and even evidence from the megalithic period. In the evening, enjoy a bistro-style dinner at your accommodation or a pub meal at one of the island’s authentic watering holes.
It’s been an easy week on the road, but today delivers a little more meat to the road-trip bones with a longer journey ahead. Cross back to the mainland and take to the coastal route around northwest Mayo and the Gaeltacht of the Belmullet peninsula. Discover Céide Fields, the system of megalithic dwellings and tombs that make up the world’s most extensive Stone Age monument. Carry on through the town of Ballina and onwards to Sligo, forever linked with W.B. Yeats, whose society maintains the Yeats Building, a monument to the poet’s life and work. Skirt the shadow of incredible Benbulben as you continue north into Co Donegal and your next base in Donegal Town.
Your Accommodation in Donegal Town
A couple of minutes’ walk from its centre, your accommodation in Donegal Town is a bright and cheerful place with a classic heart and modern touch. Each of the 26 bedrooms is perfectly presented, with a rich and colourful palette to the decoration and furnishings, and all you need to make your stay as comfortable as possible. The award-winning in-house restaurant serves the best local produce at breakfast and lunch, while the town has a number of great spots for later dining.
As the locals would have it, in Donegal town the welcome is warm and the craic is mighty, and we’re not about to argue. There’s certainly a different feel here to that in Westport and Clifden, both to the people and in the air, and it’s not hard to see why Donegal was recently named Coolest Place on Earth by a famous worldwide travel publication. Home to a 15th-century castle and an enigmatic ruined friary, there’s much to see here. Step a few miles outside town to the renowned craft village and a little further to jaw-dropping St John’s Point with its famous lighthouse and eerie WW2 ‘Eire’ whitewashed stone sign.
A holiday highlight today, as you head along the south Donegal coast to Sliabh Liag, which the locals will tell you are Europe’s highest sea cliffs (just don’t get into an argument with the residents of Co Clare). Here, meet a friendly and experienced local skipper and board the purpose-built vessel for a 90-minute sail at the foot of these soaring wonders. You’ll hear stories of life amidst the cliffs, perhaps spotting swooping seabirds and more wildlife along the way.
Back on dry land, tour the quite wonderful west coast of Donegal, some of Ireland’s most amazing wilderness, on the way to your final base by the shores of Lough Swilly.
Your Accommodation in North Donegal
Have we saved the best ‘til last? Maybe so. Certainly, this could be one of favourites in this corner of Ireland, an endlessly charming family-owned hotel of classic refinement and relaxing atmosphere. On a sprawling private estate, you could choose to lose yourself in the grounds for a day, leaving the outside world to get on with business, while looking forward to a superb dinner in the in-house restaurant.
Ok, maybe we’re cheating slightly here, as Derry is not actually on the Wild Atlantic Way, but as it’s only 45 minutes’ drive from your hotel, it seems a shame not to take the chance to visit. Since its year as European City of Culture in 2013, the historic walled city of Derry has been transformed, shaking off the challenges of the preceding few decades and emerging as a fun and welcoming place to explore, helped along, of course, by the award-winning TV series Derry Girls. While here, you’ll meet a local guide for a private guided walking tour of the city walls, the guildhall and hidden nooks, then set off to take in more of the city on your own. Later, tour back to Donegal, perhaps heading as far north as it’s possible to go, to Malin Head, to feel the full force of the north Atlantic in your hair.
For the final day of your holiday, ease yourself into action with a leisurely breakfast, before heading out for a last few hours’ exploration. Skirt glorious Glenveagh National Park on the way to the delightful coastal fishing village of Dunfanaghy on the shores of Sheephaven Bay. Wander the vast sands of Killahoey Beach before a catch-of-the-day lunch at a local café. In the afternoon, feel like you’re right at the end of the road at incredible Horn Head Lookout Point, before an unhurried drive back to your hotel.
Enjoy a last day on the road with a cross-country jaunt to Dublin and the afternoon ferry back to the UK mainland. Should you prefer a different exit point, we’ll be happy to tailor-make a solution that fits with your plans.
This self-drive holiday covers the Wild Atlantic Way from Connemara in Co Galway, then via Westport and Achill Island in Co Mayo to one base in each of the South and North Co Donegal.
£1,625 per person for April & October, £1,695 per person for May to September.
Prices are based on two sharing ensuite twin or double rooms for 14 nights on a bed and breakfast basis. Also included is one day’s eBike rental in Clifden guided walking tours of Westport and Derry and a boat trip at Sliabh Liag in Donegal.
Travel to Ireland
We would recommend Dublin as your starting point, whether by air or ferry, although it is also easy to come via Belfast. With some adjustments, we could also arrange the trip using the port of Rosslare via the ferry from Fishguard in south Wales.
Before your departure, you will receive personalised holiday information including full directions and recommended routes from your specified starting point, and suggestions on places to visit depending on your interests and our local knowledge to help you get the most from your holiday.
All Ireland itineraries and room types are presented subject to availability at specific hotels.
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This holiday is available from April to October.
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All our holiday prices include a service charge of £9 per person per night towards the costs we incur in researching, planning and designing your holiday.
We guarantee to refund this service charge if you believe that arranging your holiday through McKinlay Kidd has not met your expectations for value. All we ask is that you write to us within 7 days of your return and explain your reason for claiming the refund. This will ensure that we can improve the experience for all our future guests.