Last updated on November 24, 2023
The west coast of Ireland is one of the most impressive motorbike routes in Ireland, if not Europe.It is part of the Wild Atlantic Way, which also extends to the south coast and the north coast.
Most of our clients are drawn to the west coast – usually the south-west, but the north-west has its charms too! Customers? Yes, we We run a motorbike rental business south of Dublin: www.easycruiser.tours. We also offer accommodation in nice guest rooms (www.the-view-accommodation.ie).
I’d like to share some of my favourite routes and some of our clients’ highlights with you below:
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From Baltimore to Mizen Head Signal Station
I have already written about Baltimore in the episode on the South East and South of Ireland. Let’s take the pretty harbour town with its beautiful viewpoint Baltimore Beaon and drive further north.
All the other peninsulas are worth seeing and you should explore at least a few of them at your leisure! Peninsulas are the peninsulas that stretch like green fingers into the blue sea.
You can drive to the end of the next peninsula and come to Mizen Head Signal Station. It is located on a rock off the coast. You can reach it on foot in a few minutes from the car park. You will cross a small bridge.
The location is incredibly beautiful and the rocky cliffs, which are already quite high, give you a foretaste of the rest of the Wild Atlantic Way.
For many ships on their way to America, the radio station was the last contact with Europe – or vice versa, the first. You can also visit it. There is a small exhibition and a small café-restaurant.
North of Mizen Head is another small peninsula, Sheep’s Head, with a lighthouse at the end of the headland – this is also worth a detour.
The Beara Peninsula and Healy Pass
An absolute highlight for motorcyclists! You should circle Beara once and cross it at least once:
The Healy Pass leads over the mountain ridge once across the island and offers beautiful winding mountain scenery. It even makes sense to cross it in both directions and then continue the circumnavigation.
At the top of Beara you will find a curiosity; the Dursey Cable Car, the only cable car in Ireland. It leads to the offshore island of Dursey – with people and animals, as sheep are also brought to the island by it. Today, however, the cable car is primarily a tourist highlight.
The Priest’s Leap Pass Road
This is a small but very fine treat for motorcyclists: a small road winds from Ballylickey on Bantry Bay over the mountains to Roughty Bridge in Kenmare Bay. The top of the pass is called Priest`s Leap.
From Glengarriff via Kenmare to Killarney
Alternatively, you can simply follow the N71 from Glengarriff via Kenmare to Molls Gap and on to Killarney – this road also offers beautiful mountains and many bends.
Kenmare on the way is a nice place to stop for a break, or an overnight stay.
Killarney and Lough Leane – Ross Castle and Muckross House
Killarney is alive – very alive! It is said to have the second highest number of places to stay in Ireland – after Dublin. But it is also a beautiful small town and a perfect starting point for the Ring of Kerry or Killarney National Park.
Lough Leane lies directly in front of the town – and behind it the mountains of the National Park already tower up – truly dreamlike! On its shore you will find the old little Ross Castle and Muckross House. Both are worth a visit.
The Ring of Kerry and the Kerry Cliffs
You’ve probably heard of the Ring of Kerry, as it’s very heavily marketed. The coastal road around the Iveragh Peninsula is also nice to drive and especially leads you to the Kerry Cliffs of Portmagee, which are really beautiful to see. Otherwise, I personally find Beara or Dingle even more beautiful – but beauty is in the eye of the beholder…
Killarney National Park and the Ballaghbeama Gap
But what motorcyclists should definitely explore more closely from my point of view are the mountains of Killarney National Park. They are really very beautiful to ride, no matter in which direction. Just plan Ballaghbeama Gap and Ballaghisheen Pass into your route and you won’t be disappointed.
The Gap of Dunloe and the Black Valley
Another great drive takes you first to the village of Dunloe. Then follow the mountain road to the top of the Gap of Dunloe pass. The narrow valley is beautiful and the steep climb to the top is great fun. You will have to share the tiny road with many horse-drawn carriages, but this is one of the special experiences on this route.
You continue along the road and enter the Black Valley, which is also very beautiful. Another climb brings you back to the N71 at Molls Gap.
The Dingle Peninsula and Conor Pass
Besides Beara, Dingle is also one of the peninsulas that I gladly recommend with a clear conscience. First you come to Inch, where a beautiful long sandy beach awaits you, Inch Beach. There you will find a cool surfer café and surfers on the beach. You look out over the sea to the mountains behind the bay – a really special beach.
Following the coast, you soon reach the small, nice village of Dingle. Continue along the coast to Slea Head and follow Slea Head Drive. This stretch of coast is simply beautiful! Take your time and use the parking facilities on the way to enjoy the view.
On your way you will also find prehistoric excavations, a museum and medieval stone huts, the Beehive Huts, where monks once lived.
You can loop back to Dingle and then take the R560 over the Conor Pass towards Tralee. The Conor Pass is another highlight for motorcyclists. At the top of the pass you can see the sea in front of you – and behind you at the same time!
The Loop Head Peninsula and Loop Head Lighthouse
You can take the ferry from Tarbert to Killimer across the Shannon Estuary.
Continue via Kilrush, Querin and Carrigaholt to Loop Head, where the picturesque Loop Head Lighthouse awaits you at the very end of the peninsula. The cliffs tower high above the Atlantic, with the old lighthouse watching over the coast.
The village of Kilkee is another pretty seaside resort on your way north.
The Cliffs of Moher
You’ve probably heard of the Cliffs of Moher, as they are one of the most important sights in Ireland. Even if the car park seems quite full, I definitely recommend a visit! The area is vast, visitors get “lost” and the Cliffs are very impressive.
The Burren – barren coasts and barren mountains
Via the coastal town of Lahinch you come to the Burren. This barren “lunar landscape” is geologically unique.
The mountains of the Burren are criss-crossed by several cave systems. Ailwee Cave is particularly worth seeing. The guided tour takes about an hour and you can see stalagmites and stalactites as well as the skeleton of a cave bear,
Nearby you will find the Poulnabrone Dolmen. This dolmen (stone portal) is one of the best preserved and most beautiful prehistoric cult sites in Ireland.
But the coastal road is also wonderful to drive, especially the section from Fanore to Ballyvaughan. There you drive along the cliff face directly above the surf.
On the way to Galway you can visit the small but nice Dunguaire Castle.
Connemara to Clifden – and the Sky Loop
Galway is the gateway to Connemara and Clifden can be considered its main town.
Close to the N59, before Oughterard, is the small Augnanure Castle, somewhat hidden behind a wood. It’s pretty to see and, above all, not too crowded.
You can turn off to the coast, but I would follow the N59 to Maam Cross. From there you can loop around to the coast via Screebe and Kilkieran, or just keep going.
The next option is just past Pines Island Viewpoint – a very nice viewpoint with a lake, tree-lined island and mountains in the background.
After Pines View, you can take the R341 along the coast to Clifden, or just keep following the N59.
Beyond Clifden, a very small road leads to the coast again – the Sky Road. Ever heard of it? It’s an insider’s tip for motorcyclists, because it winds in small curves through the hills, always along the sea – a real experience.
The Connemara Highlands
North of Clifden, Connemara also has its attractions. One of the most famous is probably Kylemore Abbey. The pretty abbey is in the middle of nowhere on a lake, with a mountain at its back – the location is very pretty and the abbey garden can be visited.
A little further on are the lakes Lough Fee and Lough Muck – beautifully nestled in the mountains, they are well worth the little diversions!
By the way, the small pass roads inland are also a pleasure, for example the R344 along Lough Inagh, or the R336 from Maam Cross to Leenaun.
Killary Fjord and the Mayo Mountains
At Killary Fjord, or Killary Harbour, the counties part company: south of the fjord you are still in Connemara, but the north shore already belongs to Mayo. Incidentally, this is the only fjord in Ireland. Wild rhododendrons bloom on its shores in spring and the mountainous coasts on both sides of the narrow fjord are beautiful to see. Cross a small bridge to reach Aasleagh Falls, a cascade of waterfalls.
The following road via Delphi to Louisburgh takes you into the wild and romantic mountains of Mayo and past Doo Lough. At Louisburgh you reach the sea again and shortly afterwards see the stony sugar loaf of Croagh Patrick towering above you. The holy mountain of the Irish is a pilgrimage destination and is climbed by many believers every year.
Westport is a pretty town that prides itself on its good restaurants. It is a good place to stay overnight. If you stay two nights, you can do Achill Island the next day as a day tour (without luggage).
Another highlight on the Wild Atlantic Way: Achill Island is definitely one of my favourite places. You can get to the island via a small bridge.
I recommend driving along the beautiful south coast, past the White Cliffs of Ashleam, to Keel.
Keel Beach is a beautiful beach and Keel is probably the main town on the island – mainly a holiday resort.
The little road to Keem Beach is quite an experience! It leads very steeply up the mountain. From there you have an incredible view over the coast. The steep shores also drop off steeply under water. Whales, dolphins and large fish, such as basketsharks or whale sharks, pass through here again and again.
The road then descends again in narrow curves to Keem Beach. The small crescent-shaped beach is a dead end. It is framed by mountains on three sides and the fourth side is the bay. The good news is that you can take the steep and winding road again on the way back!
On the way back, you can take the R319 through the interior and over the hills. However, you may want to turn left after Keel and head towards Doogort. Halfway along the road on the left is Deserted Village, a working-class settlement that was completely abandoned during the 19th century famine.
Are you a fan of Heinrich Böll? The writer had a house or cottage on Achill Island. His book “Irish Diary” was written here. The Heinrich Boell Cottage just before Dooogort on the right.
From Achill Island to Sligo
North of Achill Island, the N59 leads to Bangor Erris. It runs through the protected moorland of the Ballycroy , or Wild Nephin National Park. This is one of the largest and most important moorlands in Europe. Many rare species of wildlife live here.
The N314 continues north to the coast. There you will reach the Céide Fields, one of the most important archaeological sites in Ireland. The Celts were the original inhabitants of Ireland? No, there were cultures before them: Prehistoric cattle herders lived here in village communities even before the Celts. Find out more at the Visitor Centre.
Ben Bulben and the Horseshoe Drive
Ben Bulben is a large and elongated table mountain with a very peculiar shape. It is the landmark of Sligo and lies to the north of it. On its southern flank lies Glencar Lough and there you can visit Glencar Waterfall – a small but nice side trip.
On the north side of Ben Bulben you can drive the Gleniff Horseshoe Drive. This takes you up the horseshoe-shaped backside of Benbulben on the smallest of roads – quite a fun drive.
The small seaside town of Mullaghmore has a lovely beach and harbour and is a great place to take a break. The N15 takes you further into Donegal – but you’ll find that in my other blog about the highlights of the north!
The southwest coast in particular has delighted every one of our motorbike rental customers so far.(www.easycruiser.tours). Personally, I also love the northwest from Connemara to Mayo and Donegal. Achill Island in particular is one of my favourites.
But wherever the wind blows you – have a good and safe trip!