Story from the Wild Atlantic Way
Out at the very edge of Europe, there is a road that shoots slowly north from Kinsale to the suburbs of Derry along Ireland’s west coast. Driving through, and experiencing it as an outsider, is a rural idyll far away from the disruptions of the modern world. In the straight line the towns are mere 400 kilometres apart as the bird flies, but its actual distance is over six times greater. A glance at the map revels that something fairly extraordinary is going on there.
The road twists, rises and falls, takes hairpin turns, follows the coast awhile and then climbs, runs between low mountains, and winds down to the shore, then up again, and over another range of hills, and plunges down, and again, and again.
Lovely glimpses of the Atlantic and its always invigorating smell. A joy of stopping for a snack and a cup of coffee at small settlements and towns nestled along the coast. A pleasure of looking over the huge expanse of the ocean and seeing its powerful force. Vertical cliffs, sculpted by wind rocks of bizarre shapes, lighthouses standing as sentries, rolling hillsides clothed in a glorious velvet green, thousands of sheep on the wild mountainous terrain, and beautiful beaches.
It’s called the Wild Atlantic Way.
The Mother Nature has a very good story to tell over there. It’s like a lover talking about his girlfriend, sharing his joys with whoever wants to listen. And, with its over 150 Discovery Points, out of which 15 are identified as ‘Signature Discovery Points’ – iconic and must-see sights, the route feels even a lot longer than it actually looks on the map. In fact, it could take months to fully experience all its world-class wonders. So, confronted with that many options, it requires hard choices about where and what to see.
We’ve covered the road in 16 unimaginable days, and in many different ways I feel we’ve arrived.
The departures were always poignant for us. In many places, we were torn between the desire to remain a little longer and the need to respect the time constraints of our itinerary. But, I was happy to have even that short time when we battled our way against a head wind while strolling at the Sheep’s Head, when we did the Ring of Kerry, when we drove in clouds through the Connor Pass on the Dingle Peninsula – once described by National Geographic as ‘the most beautiful place on earth’, when we took a boat tour to see the Cliffs of Moher – Ireland’s most visited natural wonder, when we cruised the Sky Road in Clifden, when we hiked in the amazing Connemara National Park, or when we climbed the Holy Mountain of Ireland – Croagh Patrick.
From the great world of wonders that were on the offer, I think that this is the Geokaun Mountain on the Valentia Island that will remain in my mind as the quintessence of what the Wild Atlantic Way has to offer. Staying on its top and gazing into the distance, I was prepared to swear that I’ve never seen anything more beautiful. But, places as wonderful as Silver Strand beach at Malin Beg are also dangerous to those with the ambition of driving the entire route, because they make you want to stay there for a long time. How can one bear to leave something so beautiful? We spent one afternoon on that beach and with gentle waves, sunshine, the golden sand and the surrounding greenery, the entire atmosphere seemed to have been smiling. Oh my gosh! This place was magnificent! For those taking the Wild Atlantic Way, it should be an obligatory stop to pay the tribute to the Mother Nature.
For us though, the promise of something new the next day, and the next, the physical aspect of travelling, a simple act of moving on from one place to another was stimulating beyond belief. These are the things that make memories, right? Our kids’ company and insight added just an extra dimension to what we saw. We rolled gently along the coast exploring this ancient land, and had a fantastic family-time. And even the wet or gloomy weather, that we experienced on two or three days, couldn’t keep us from being filled with joy. Cloudy skies or drizzling rain are just ingredients, even necessary ones.
Essentially, we all live two different lives simultaneously. One of them is made of our plans and expectations. The other consists of the reality. Often, it’s extremely hard to bring both together as almost nothing turns out exactly as we hope. The Wild Atlantic Way had tempted me for long time. It was full of promises, so there was a great air of expectancy when we started planning the trip. Then, we set off with the ambition of seeing the remarkable things there are to see and it didn’t disappoint us. It was generous from top to toe, just like it says in the brochures. And once we reached our final destination, we reluctantly said goodbye to the many delights of the road, home to some of the best sights I’ve ever seen.
And that’s it. We’ve done it. Those 16 days passed in a single breath. The travelling was intense, and our senses received so much stimulation. My eyes would have swallowed it whole if they could and I feel very satisfied because we had the road to speak to us and it has shown us many of its charms.
Although I’ve been living in Ireland for over a decade, I’m ashamed to say I knew not much about its natural treasures before we embarked on our voyage. I traveled around the world, together with Sylwia we did a road trip in Montana in the US, lived at a stone’s throw from New York, spent few months on an incredibly beautiful Block Island in New England in the US, took part in the safari in Kenya, visited Cuba and saw many other interesting places, we circumnavigated the entire Baltic Sea together with our daughters and crossed a good chunk of Canada by train with them. However, I would have spent only small amounts of time exploring around Ireland, mostly for short brakes. But now, I’m at peace and my heart is light as the Atlantic breeze, excited by the journey we’ve just made, and by the ones that lay ahead. The procession of sceneries will always remain in the sea of my memory. Already, I’m nostalgic for more.
My hope is that these words will inspire at least some who read it to consider taking time off from where you are in life to pick up a part of the Wild Atlantic Way or travel it entirely. You won’t be disappointed.