Welcome to Ireland’s west coast, where land meets sea in a remarkable union of natural beauty and mystery. It’s also home to the world’s longest coastal route, the Wild Atlantic Way. Motorhome travellers have been traversing the boundary of Ireland’s outermost peninsulas for as long as motorhomes have had wheels. This drive is up there with the world’s best coastal road trips - the Pacific Coast Highway, in the US and Australia’s Great Ocean Road, to name a few - and it’s perfect for motorhome drivers.
Taking a Motorhome to Ireland
Ireland is one of the best locations for a motorhome road trip. There are various bodies that certify registered campsites of high quality, such as Fáilte Ireland and the Camping and Caravanning Club. Though wild camping isn’t allowed, there are plenty of places that enable travellers to pitch up for free for a night, true to the welcoming Irish spirit. These places include Motorhome Parking (aires), free overnight parking spots, bars and restaurants that welcome motorhomes. We’d recommend downloading the Motorhome Parking Ireland app, which has over 1400 ‘Points of Interest’ (parking spots) for motorhome travellers in Ireland. Otherwise, on the itinerary below, we highlight our favourite motorhome-friendly spots for each leg of your journey.
The Wild Atlantic Way is a 2500km journey from Inishowen Peninsula in County Donegal in the north, to Cork in the south-west. It goes through the counties Leitrim, Sligo, Mayo, Galway, Clare, Limerick and Kerry, finishing in Kinsale, County Cork. Of course, you can do it the other way, too! The long route is divided into 14 stages for easier orientation. Below, we will give some more detail about the legs of this journey, the ‘signature points’ - the unmissable wonders of the Wild Atlantic Way your itinerary must include - to find on each stretch, and the best places to stay nearby in your motorhome. But first, some tips for planning your road trip!
Planning Your Road Trip
Most people would tell you to go during the summer months – which is good advice if you want to make the most of the beautiful beaches along the route. If you ask the Irish, they would likely tell you September is ideal. If you prefer quieter roads and don’t mind moodier (and more atmospheric) weather conditions, take their advice and drive during the shoulder months of spring and autumn. You might not meet much traffic in the quieter months (or at all!) but do be prepared to dodge tractors and sheep: the west coast of Ireland is a working rural landscape. Whenever you go, you’ll be mystified by the way the light changes hourly across Ireland’s expansive landscape. And the weather, too! So, pack prepared for all eventualities.
The ideal time to set aside for this road trip - if you want to do the whole thing and see every sight - would be 4 weeks so that you aren’t rushing and can really live the experience. However, most of us have busy lives and would struggle to find more than 1 or 2 spare weeks for a four-wheeled adventure. In this case, you might want to pick a few of the stretches of the Wild Atlantic Way Itinerary below to focus on, and motor more speedily between them.
Inishowen Habinsel (Derry to Letterkenny)
We’re beginning the Wild Atlantic Way road trip in the north of the Inishowen Peninsula. This is Ireland’s largest peninsula and already has its own popular looped drive, the “Inishowen 100.” To really get into this part of Ireland, have a look at the breakdown here. It’s flanked by Lough Foyle on the east, Lough Swilly on the west and the Atlantic on the northside. You’ll pass breathtaking views, awesome beaches, rugged mountains and picturesque fishing bays, reaching the most northerly point of mainland Ireland at Malin Head. If you want to This is where the coastline gets wild and craggy, thanks to the incessant force of the Atlantic ocean. At the Gap of Mamore the road winds steeply up to 240m, to a pass with an incredible, panoramic view over the whole northern coastline. A steep decline away from this point marks the exhilarating departure for the rest of your road trip! Be sure to see Malin Head, the Gap of Mamore, and Lenan Bay.
Where to Stay
Camp for free at the Buncrana Motorhome Aire de Service, or treat yourself to a longer stay at Knockalla Camping and Caravanning park, a 4**** Failte Ireland registered, motorhome-friendly park at the foot of the Knockalla Mountains and astride the renowned golden beaches of Ballymastocker Bay, Portsalon, in County Donegal (voted second most beautiful beach in the world!).
Fanad Head (Letterkenny to Bunbeg)
As you leave Letterkenny and head north along Lough Swilly’s banks, you’ll be treated to the remote and untamed Donegal countryside. The road ascends the edges of the Knockalla mountains as you head to Bunbeg and there are some sights you can’t afford to miss! Fanad Head is an awesome lighthouse that towers over the Atlantic’s fierce waves. Walk along the steep, bizarrely-shaped cliffs of Horn Head, with views over the Fanad Peninsula to Tory Island, 14km away, from the old signal tower.
Where to Stay
Pull into the Donaghey Motorhomes Ltd car park in Letterkenny. It’s a motorhome dealership but travellers receive a friendly welcome and free overnight stay.
Slieve League Coast (Bunbeg to Donegal Town)
The Wild Atlantic Way route makes a winding southerly descent from Bunbeg to Donegal Town, passing through the strange, wonderful region of The Rosses. It’s packed with bogs, lakes and out to sea, you’ll spot numerous little islands including Ireland’s second-largest, Arranmore. After Ardara, you’ll drive inland and cross the Glengesh Pass, continuing through the tranquil Glencolumbkille as the narrow coastal roads reveal more breathtaking views and ending atop the Silver Strand. The Rosses holds a rich maritime history and its monuments and festivals are worth exploring. You can take boats for a sail from the yacht club or go on exciting boat tours to see the coastline from the water and get to know its natural history. Be sure to have a look along the steep sloping cliffs of Slieve League, which are among the highest cliffs of Europe, towering up to 600m high.
Where to Stay
Your Wild Atlantic Way itinerary really should include the Killybegs Holiday Park, which has been called ‘the world’s best-kept secret’ by Lonely Planet. We’ll just leave that there. But not before mentioning that you’ll find it on the edge of the town of Killybegs, with hardstanding pitches perched just above the waters of Donegal Bay. The owners, Patsy & Rose McGuinness, take visitor’s comfort very seriously: there’s no shortage of electricity, freshwater, hot water or WiFi.
Donegal Bay and Sligo (Donegal Town to Ballina)
The coastline softens slightly as you travel south from Donegal to Sligo and Mayo.
If culture and food are your thing, you’ll love this leg. Sligo is becoming a foodie and cultural hub in the North West, and there are plenty of bars and restaurants to enjoy. The scenery is still beautiful, and there’s an iconic mountain climb to do up Benbulben, which was made famous in WB Yates’ poetry. Don’t miss a visit to the prehistoric Ceide Fields, which is an archaeological site containing the oldest known field systems in the world. As you push off, visit Downpatrick Head which is a nearby beauty spot that also has an illustrious history as a hideout during the 1798 Irish Rebellion and as a WWII lookout. If you’re a foodie, definitely add the ‘Gourmet Greenway’ food trail in County Mayo to your Wild Atlantic Way route, as it includes 18 artisan producers showcasing local delicacies.
Where to Stay
Be sure to make Sligo Caravan and Camping Park your rest stop for this leg, if you take one. It’s in the village of Strandhill, 8km west of Sligo City, right on the famous Strandhill beach, which is a mecca for surfers who travel from all over the world to ride there. The nearby flat sands of Culleenamore are more suitable for family fun, are just 2km away, there’s a golf club 500m from the site, and shops, pubs and restaurants within 100m. The toilet block has showers, chemical disposal unit and a laundry room. It has 78 hard standing pitches, all with electricity and the grass pitches are on a sandy base, so they don’t get muddy in the rain. Strandhill is great for walking, with miles of sandy beaches and dunes to explore. The cairn of Knocknarea mountain rises just behind the site. Horse riding is available at 5km, and the Megalithic tombs at Carrowmore are just 5km away, too.
Erris (Ballina to Belmullet)
The larger town of Ballina offers plenty of choices when it comes to accommodation and refreshment, so you can catch your breath here before heading on to the more rugged parts of your Wild Atlantic Way itinerary.
Where to Stay
Stay at Carrowkeel Camping and Caravan Park for a comfortable rest in the heart of County Mayo next to the Clydagh river. There are 32 hardstanding pitches for motorhomes, each with 16Amp electric hook up available. The other facilities include a reception with shop and tourist information, modern and wheelchair-accessible toilets, a clubhouse where you can enjoy a meal and drink in the evenings, a kitchen and laundry room for campers, and free WiFi.
Achill Island and Clew Bay (Belmullet to Westport)
Further along the coast, the island of Achill is only a few hundred feet from the mainland, connected by a bridge. Visit for an insight into island life, without having to take a boat! Take a walk to the deserted village where you’ll find the remains of almost 100 stone houses – a haunting reminder of times past. If you want to catch some traditional Irish music, go to Matt Molloy’s in Westport. The bar is famous for its nightly jam sessions. Also, explore the magical expanse of Clew Bay, where pirate queen, Grace O’Malley, once ruled the seas.
Where to Stay
Pull into Westport House Caravan and Camping Park upon arrival in Westport. It’s right in the heart of the town and one of Ireland’s premier caravan and camping destinations. It’s situated in the stunning gardens of a historical manor house, right by the Carrowbeg river, a lake, and is perfectly framed by Croagh Patrick and Clew Bay.
Killary Harbour (Westport to Clifden)
You’ll get closer to Croagh Partick after leaving Westport. This is Ireland’s sacred mountain, where a Celtic hill fort has been discovered circling the mountain’s summit. As you continue south, the Wild Atlantic Way meanders through valleys such as Doo Lough and Delphi. Then, you come to Killary harbour, which is Ireland’s only fjord, and extends 15km inland.
Clifden is the capital of Connemara and within it has the short but aptly named Sky Road, which offers stunning views over the Atlantic and the islands lying off the coast.
Connemara (Clifden to Galway)
Galway boasts some of the most remote coastal scenery in the country, a vibrant city, and island communities where Irish remains the first language. In 2020, it was a European Capital of Culture. There are so many celebrations of Irish culture in this part of Ireland throughout the year that you’ll be sure to catch one on your Wild Atlantic Way road trip, from the Galway International Arts Festival to the Comedy Festival, Races, Oyster and Food Festivals to Literary Festivals and Christmas Markets.
Connemara is home to the biggest National Park in Ireland. There are 2,000 hectares of mountains, bogs, grassland and forest. It’s unmissable if you love a hike and the natural world: you’ll see many tiny insects, songbirds like stonechats, chaffinches and robins or birds of prey like the merlin or peregrine falcon. And, of course, Connemara ponies roam free around the park.
Connemara National Park
Where to Stay
Pitch up on one of Connemara Camping’s hardstanding motorhome pitches and enjoy direct beach access to the beautiful golden sands of Lettergesh, which is right on the Wild Atlantic Way road map, as well as the Connemara Loop. Take some time for hill walking - the Twelve Bens/ Garrun Complex is just across the road and it’s a short drive to Connemara National Park. The site has good washroom facilities, WiFi access, a cafe and shop at reception, laundry and ironing facilities, chemical waste disposal, 13Amp electrical outlets and recycling.
The Burren and West Clare (Galway to Kilkee)
On the border of Counties Galway and Clare, stop at the picturesque village of Kinvarra for lunch and wander around the numerous craft shops at this beauty spot. Beyond the magnificent cliffs of Moher, which stretch for 14 miles and are one of Ireland’s most-visited natural attractions, take some time to explore the Burren National Park. The Burren is just under 4,000 acres of exposed limestone that still contains a huge selection of flora and fauna. There are seven marked walking trails to take through the National Park. Take note – it’s illegal to pick flowers or damage the Burren in any way.
It’s worth spending some time around Doolin on the beautiful Loop Head peninsula. Though probably less crowded than the more popular destinations, it’s no less scenic. Activities including dolphin watching and coasteering will keep everyone entertained no matter what your interests are.
Burren Way, County Clare
Where to Stay
Nagles Camping is definitely the best place to pitch up on Loop Head. It’s right between the Burren and the Cliffs of Moher, just 100m from Doolin pier where you can take a ferry to the Aran Islands or the Cliffs. Just above the Atlantic, it has spectacular views and is open from March to mid-October. The facilities are pretty flashy, too.
The Shannen Estuary (Kilkee to Tralee)
On this leg, you’ll drive into County Kerry on the way to Tralee. Kerry is called ‘The Kingdom’ by locals, and not without reason: it’s home to some of the most stunning coastal and pastoral scenery in Ireland. Near Tralee, the National Folk Theatre of Ireland, Siamsa Tíre, puts on Irish music and dance performances which are definitely worth watching.
Dingle Peninsula (Tralee to Castlemaine)
As you traverse the south-west coast of the Wild Atlantic Way, you’ll drive along the Dingle Peninsula (Corca Dhuibhne) as it stretches 30 miles into the Atlantic Ocean. The range of mountains that form its spine run from the Slieve Mish range to the Conor Pass and Mount Brandon, Ireland’s second-highest peak. The coastline consists of steep sea-cliffs like Slea Head and dramatic headlands broken by sandy beaches, with the award-winning beach at Inch in the south and the Maharees to the north.
On the most westerly tip of the Dingle peninsula, Dunquin is a Gaeltacht village where Irish is still spoken as a first language (although everyone speaks English too). It’s known for this surviving Gaelic culture, dramatic cliff scenery, and for its proximity to the Blasket Islands. If you have time, it is worth visiting the islands on a day trip to walk among the deserted villages, deserted in the 1950s, and to see the abundance of wildlife on the island.
Dingle is the beating heart of the peninsula and probably the most-visited town in Ireland. This is for good reason: it’s a sheltered haven on a natural harbour lined by brightly coloured buildings, award-winning bars and restaurants, and is a must on your trip. The local distillery make fantastic whiskey and gin, so you should stop in for a tour. The town is also famous for ‘Fungie,’ a bottlenose dolphin who has called the surrounding bay home 1983. Take a boat trip out into the bay and you may spot him!
Where to Stay
Pitch up at Europe’s most westerly campsite! Teach An Aragail is a 3* Caravan and Camping site just a 10-minute drive from Dingle town centre. It’s superbly located with awesome views, just beside the beach and near to local pubs. It has 42 pitches for tents and motorhomes, and is registered with the Irish Tourist Board, Irish Caravan Council, AA, RAC, Nedcamp and the Camping and Caravanning Club. It has new shower and washing facilities as well as wheelchair-accessible toilets. You’ll easily find the local information centre nearby with more advice about activities and things to do in the locality.
Ring of Kerry (Castlemaine to Kenmare)
The Island of Valentina, Ring of Kerry
Another scenic drive in its own right, the Ring of Kerry offers a wow-factor leg of the Wild Atlantic Way. This part of the drive could take you one or a few full days depending how much time you have, as the Ring of Kerry is 112 miles long and includes inland locations like Killarney National Park, that are worth a visit if you can veer slightly off the Wild Atlantic Way map. Other mentionable sights include the iron age Cahergall Stone Fort, the ferry crossing to Valentia (population 156 and also home to fossilised tetrapod footprints dating back 385 million years ago!), the Ring of Kerry lookout, the Ladies View and Torc Waterfall. If you want a full itinerary, read our previous blog on the Ring of Kerry road trip!
Where to Stay
The Fossa Caravan and Camping Park in Killarney is well-located for exploring the ‘Kingdom’ of Kerry. It has been run by the Brosnan family since 1992, who extend a very warm welcome to tourists visiting their corner of the world. It’s set amongst mature shrubs and trees and has a preserved woodland backdrop at the rear of the park. There are views of the famous MacGillycuddy Reeks and Carrantuohill - Ireland’s highest mountain - and you can easily walk to the shoreline of Lough Leane.
Beara and Sheep’s Head (Kenmare to Durrus)
For our last two stops we cross the county border into the largest county in Ireland, Cork. The Beara Peninsula is tranquil and unspoiled. Prepare for narrow, winding roads but take your time, it is worth the journey. Take Ireland’s only cable car out to Dursey Island, known for its wildlife, particularly bird watching. Be sure to stock up on food and drinks before you do, there are no restaurants or shops on the island! This is a wild corner of Ireland, but enjoy the remoteness - you’re nearing the end of your trip!
Where to Stay
Stay at Creveen Lodge Caravan and Camping Park, where the family team can offer you a civilised base from which to get the salty wind of the Atlantic in your hair and the Irish wilderness in your sights. The amenities include a communal kitchen (with hob, oven, fridge freezer and microwave), and you can cosy up there watching TV by the fire too if the weather demands it!
West Cork (Durrus to Kinsale)
Kinsale is close to the end of the Wild Atlantic Way route and the perfect place to end your trip on a high. It’s a foodie and craft heaven, so be sure to grab a meal in one of the many gourmet restaurants in the town, have a tour of Charles Fort, or challenge yourselves to a round of golf at The Old Head of Kinsale, one of the most scenic courses in the country.
After a night in Kinsale, head onwards to Cork to finish up your journey in Ireland’s second-largest city. Feast after your adventure at the Flea Markets, take a tour around the Old City Gaol or the stunning Blarney Castle and gardens, or simply slurp a Guinness with a delicious stew after receiving a warm welcome at Jim Cashman’s Pub in the heart of the city and... relax!
Cork City, with Fin Barre's Cathedral on the river Lee
Where to Stay
In Kinsale, you can pull up with your motorhome for free overnight at the New Road Car Park. Whilst ostensibly nothing special, this is a great place to spend the night because it’s quiet, the centre of Kinsale is a 5-minute walk, there are public toilets, and beautiful views of the city and harbour nearby. It might be a late night out, with many nice pubs and restaurants and live music everywhere, so be respectful to your fellow overnight campers!
Just 8km outside of the city, in the village of Blarney, is Blarney Caravan and Camping Park. It’s a four-star family-run park, secluded and peaceful enough to feel you’re in the middle of the country, with lots of open space and views of Blarney Castle and the surrounding countryside.
Before You Go
Ireland’s Tourism Organisation has painstakingly taken small, single-lane, and sometimes dangerous coastal roads, and marked them out for all the world to come and drive. This makes for an authentic, exciting driving adventure distinct from other popular coastal roads around the road, and we’re very grateful! But, drive carefully and be warned: some roads are steep, narrow, and make for a thrilling (but not impossible!) drive along the Wild Atlantic Way with a motorhome.
Whilst the route is signposted, it’s usually only signposted in north and south directions, although you’ll often be driving east, west, and all directions in between as the roads wind around. So, it would probably be a good idea to put the next stop on your trip into your GPS or Google Maps as you go.
Always plan ahead when embarking on hikes, surf trips or other outdoor adventures. Stick to signposted paths, well-known surf breaks, and always ask a local for advice if you need it. If you’re going up the mountains, use the helpful Irish Mountain Forecast website to check the weather conditions up on the peaks you’re thinking of walking and also to see detailed maps, read other walker’s reviews, so you don’t get caught off guard by anything when you’re out in the wilderness.
Find the perfect motorhome to hire on our website and be sure to bring your favourite camera and a notebook to jot down your memories of this trip - it’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences you won’t want to forget!