The Wild Atlantic Way?
The Wild Atlantic Way is a long-distance, incredibly scenic route along the west coast of Ireland. At 2 500 km (1 600 miles) in length, it’s the world’s longest defined coastal route. Officially, it runs from Kinsale, in County Cork, up to Derry, on the Inishowen Peninsula. Obviously, the name is that because for almost the entire route, you are within sight of, or very close to the Atlantic ocean.
Cycling the Wild Atlantic Way
Clearly I’ve never cycled the Wild Atlantic Way. Well, at least not yet – I’m planning to do so in May 2023, over two weeks. Even then, due to time constraints, I will only cycle around half of the route, from Kinsale to Galway. If I sound like I know what I’m talking about here, allow me to correct you: I know embarrassingly little about Ireland! However, I am learning about the island, and it’s people. What I can say with absolute certainty is that one of the nicest people I’ve ever known is Irish, as is one of my favourite travel authors, John Devoy. Besides, we go travel places precisely because we don’t know them! That’s the very essence of exploring, isn’t it?
Hang on – you don’t know Ireland, but you want to tell us about it?
Well, no. And also yes. Let me explain: This is not intended to be a definitive account of cycling anywhere in Ireland. Instead, this post serves as the beginning of my adventure, and my preparation for it. As I said before, I know precious little about Ireland, but I’ve been told by many different people about how kind and friendly the Irish people are. I look forward to finding out for myself, first-hand.
Wild Atlantic Way, or Eurovelo 1?
My route is actually Eurovelo 1. What this means in practice is that at times I’ll be cycling on the signed Wild Atlantic Way (WAW) but at other times I won’t. You see, apparently, a bit like the North Coast 500 in Scotland, the Wild Atlantic Way is becoming a victim of it’s own success, with especially campervans in abundance in summer. On parts of it, such as the Ring Of Kerry, I’ve been advised to cycle counter-clockwise. This is because the many tourist couches are mandated to travel clockwise, and that way I should at least be able to avoid close overtakes by coaches. I’ll be honest here – I have some concerns about sharing the often narrow, windy roads with especially campervans. Precisely because of that, I’ll be following the Eurovelo route instead.
What do YOU know?
That’s not a dismissive question! Instead, I’d be extremely grateful for any advice you can offer. Already I learned that pub meals would work out pricey. Also, leaving especially rural pubs might be more difficult than I first imagined, due the friendliness of the people. Further, you can get decent coffee and hot meals at most Centra shops. The biggest surprise was that wild camping is strictly speaking against the law. However, it seems it’s tolerated, provided you do so respectfully, and as per usual, Leave No Trace. I’ve learned that the best chance of seeing sunlight is during May (but it’s not guaranteed). Additionally, I should apparently be prepared for what often can be fierce winds coming straight off the Atlantic. That would partly explain the “wild” in Wild Atlantic Way.
If you know of anywhere that’s a must-see, or a must-avoid, please tell me by leaving a comment?
The damned visa issue!
I’m a South African, but a permanent resident in the UK. As such I usually need to apply for a visa before visiting a great many countries. In fact, originally I was planning on cycling the Rhine in 2023, but the extreme hassle I had from the Netherlands embassy, just to get an appointment to apply for a Schengen visa was ridiculous! Because of that, I changed my plans, and will be spending my time and money in Ireland instead. And you know what? As a South African I don’t have to apply for a visa before visiting Ireland! Woohoo! That’s such a relief. It also means that there are likely to be more Irish adventures in my future.
My rough plan
Here’s my entire trip plan so far:
I’ll cycle to Plymouth train station, to take the train to Holyhead, Wales. From there, it’s a ferry to Rosslare, Ireland. From Rosslare, I’m hoping (the bus company have yet to confirm) to get my bike on a bus to Cork. From Cork I’ll cycle to Kinsdale, then follow Eurovelo 1 all the way to Galway. From Galway it’ll be a train to Dublin, then a Ferry to Wales, then a train to Plymouth, and finally I’ll cycle the last 15 miles home. Simple, right?
I have SO much detail to flesh out still. I’ve no idea roughly where I’ll be overnighting each day. I still have no clear idea of how much I should budget to spend each day. I do however know that some parts of the route are sparsely populated, and so have very few shops or pubs. That means I’ll have to carry extra food on the bike, and cook meals when I stop for the day. I’ll also need a water filtration system, so I can get more drinking water from streams. Somewhere in between, I need to alter my route, as I promised John Devoy to pop in and say hello, if ever I was in the area. John lives in County Cork.
I don’t particularly want to go 12 to 14 straight days without a shower, so at least some nights I’ll be staying in a formal camp site. Importantly, I also need to work out where natural exit points would be, should I need to pull out of the trip for whatever reason. As you may have noticed, I like to be prepared. Finally, I follow a fair few people who live in Ireland on Twitter, so whenever reasonably possible, it’d be great to meet up in real life, and that might dictate some further route deviations.
It will be an amazing adventure, and I cannot wait for it to start!
7 thoughts on “The Wild Atlantic Way calls”
Sorry to be picky but it is Kinsale. This can be quite busy but in May shouldn’t be too bad. The coast road heading west on the WAW route will be picturesque. Further out will you be cycling the Conor Pass? It is well worth it and on the road between Glengarriff and Kenmare. The ring of Kerry roads are narrow, yes there ks tourist traffic but generally I’ve found it slow moving and you have plenty of notice they are coming
Thanks for the correction – I’ve now fixed that 🙂
A few suggestions:
– Good tip about going in the opposite direction to coaches on the Ring of Kerry, I’ve done the same myself and it makes a difference
– Bus Eireann coaches only take full-sized bikes if they have space in the luggage compartment and are supposed to charge an additional €10 fee so try quieter journey times if possible
– Again if possible (not from Rosslare) get the train rather than the coach – there’s not a much of a price difference especially if you book your train tickets online and you can reserve a bike space (for free, of course) online at the same time
– Book your train tickets in advance if possible, especially if travelling to or from a touristy location on a weekend – they do sell out sometimes
– The Irish rail network is quite limited and disconnected (see https://www.irishrail.ie/en-ie/accordion/pdf-timetables/network-maps) especially on the west coast so, unlike in the UK, you may not be able to rely on getting a train if you have a serious mechanical issue
– Bike shops can be few and far between but some smaller village shops may sell bike spares but definitely worth having a deraileur, inner tubes etc with you
– Having said that, Irish people are pretty friendly and helpful (as are most people) so do ask around in person and maybe on Twitter if you have a problem and people should may be able to help out
– Bring midge spray! It’s not as bad as Scotland but can be seriously annoying
– There’s a friendly Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/theshowerapp/ and map at https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1alMXt0vF3roLPgHrCjPrbQHp98-Ejkg&hl=en_GB&fbclid=IwAR1yZY82OaE9XXLQRiza1h5bvf_iTZW45T-Mu-xHOs6TSmn85fGXRIDViFQ&ll=53.388858669876825%2C-7.993550150000001&z=6 of public showers in Ireland including cost (usually €2-5)
– Another useful and friendly Facebook group is Cycle Touring & Bikepacking Ireland at https://www.facebook.com/groups/2033152033623314
– Visit Dursey Island on Ireland’s only cable car – see https://www.discoverireland.ie/cork/dursey-island
– Have a great time!
Thank you very much for all of that!
Hello Will. I love cycling in Ireland and there are plenty of adventures. Take clothes for all weathers and expect great hospitality. I don’t think there is a ferry to Rosslare from Holyhead. I travel on the ferry from Pembroke. Consider buying a Rail/Ferry ticket from Irish Ferries
Allow enough time once you arrive in Galway to “drink” in the atmosphere and see the city before you jump on a train to Dublin.
I would always stay in Listowel in Co. Kerry when travelling the WAW. John B Keane’s pub is one of the best in Ireland and shouldn’t be missed!