From date is bigger than To date
The term was coined in 2011 by Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, but the route was always there. The Wild Atlantic Way (WAW) spans from Ireland’s most northerly point, Malin Head in Donegal to its most southerly, Mizen Head in Cork, taking in Leitrim, Sligo, Mayo, Galway, Clare, and Kerry along the way. 2,500 kilometres of stunning coastline, staggering cliffs, windswept lighthouses, Blue Flag beaches and national parks make this a special route.
Mayo’s offerings on the WAW include the wild northern coastline from Killala Bay to Belmullet, taking in Broadhaven and Blacksod Bays, the latter home to the historic Blacksod Lighthouse at the tip of the Mullet Peninsula, whose weather report in 1944 determined the date of the D-Day landings, a day which altered the outcome of World War II. The island of Inishskea South is off the coast here. For a time last century, Inishkea was home to a Norwegian whaling station. Boat excursions can be arranged from Erris.
Travelling south, Achill Island, with its memorable Atlantic Drive offers daunting cliffs, surf-soaked beaches, such as Keem Bay (one of the most beautiful beaches in Ireland) Keel, Dooagh and Dugort and evocative historic sites such as the Deserted Village of Slievemore. Continuing from Achill around Clew Bay, with its many drumlin islands and small finger-like inlets, the views from Mulranny to Newport on foot or bicycle are panoramic and spectacular. Ireland’s largest national park in Ballycroy, as well as abbeys, castles,, mountains and forests lure the traveller to explore. Between Newport and Westport is a rich watery shore, a haven for sailors who moor their boats in the bay’s relatively sheltered harbours.
From Westport to Leenane the route hugs the coast to Louisburgh, passing Croagh Patrick with the National Famine Memorial at the foot of the mountain, as well as the ruins of Murrisk Abbey and cemetery on the shore. This magnificent section of the drive offers unfettered views of the whole of Clew Bay, including Achill and Clare Island, home of the Pirate Queen Grace O'Malley. The ferry to Clare Island departs Roonagh Pier, just west of Louisburgh, daily. Carrowniskey Beach beyond Louisburgh has become a surfing centre, offering extensive golden strand as well as alluring waves. This beach is also the site of annual horse races. Continuing from Louisburgh to Leenane, you pass Connaught’s highest mountain Mweelrea. The magnificent vista of the Doo Lough Valley opens up through Doo Lough Pass, site of the poignant Famine tragedy, which starkly contrasts the stunning beauty of the glacial valley and glistening lake. Before reaching Leenane the welcome sight of Aasleigh Falls appears like a picture from a postcard. The waterfall whooshes in a beautiful setting populated with wild flowers and sheep-laden hills.
Last stop on Mayo’s portion of the Wild Atlantic Way is Killary Harbour, Ireland’s only fjord. Brendan Lehane, in his book Wild Ireland, sums up the Atlantic coast well:
“The west coast [is a] startling, varied sequence of sliced mountains, lone islands, long facades of spume-splashed cliff, bird-packed stacks, snaking promontories and stiletto inlets, golden strands, blue lagoons, deep, clear, rocky bays…”
You may have reached the end of the Mayo section of the Wild Atlantic Way, but with such an abundance of rich pickings to choose from along the way, with luck your Mayo adventures are only beginning.