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Explore Ireland's Breathtaking Wild Atlantic Way

Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way is a world-renowned coastal route. Dramatically sharp cliffs hug the shoreline, and the deep green landscape is offset by blue waters that are deeper still.

But you don't just have the natural bounty to look forward to. If you've ever watched the 2010 romantic comedy Leap Year, you'll know that colorful characters abound on this charming island nation's western half too.

Ready yourself to take notes because we've got an itinerary to knock your St Paddy's Day socks off. There's 50 hours' worth of driving to do so, "may the road rise up to meet you."

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01Kick things off in Kinsale

The colorful walls of homes and shops line the narrow streets. The colorful scene is part of the rich character of Kinsale, a coastal fishing town in Southern Ireland, also known as the most colorful town in Ireland. bradleyhebdon / Getty Images

You can begin this epic road trip in the north up in County Donegal or south in Cork, the biggest county in Ireland. The seaside town of Kinsale is an excellent launchpad for your odyssey, with impressive food options and a quaint aesthetic.

From here, you can visit the gorgeous peninsulas of West Cork, made infamous by the 1996 murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier. Head to Mizen Head for a glimpse of historic Fastnet Lighthouse at the country's most southerly point.

 

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02Skip over to Skellig Michael

Skellig Michael or Great Skellig, home to the ruined remains of a Christian monastery. Inhabited by variety of seabirds, including gannets and puffins. UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ireland. MNStudio / Getty Images

Skellig Michael is an island in County Kerry that houses a Gaelic UNESCO World Heritage Site. It's also the ancient cliff-top monastery in the new Star Wars movies. These two facts alone draw visitors from far-flung places.

Expect many steep steps and possible sightings of the resident puffins and seals.

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03See stars on the Ring of Kerry

Highway in Kerry Dave G. Houser / Getty Images

The Ring of Kerry is a must-do with lots of sightseeing on the 111-mile circular route. After numerous stops looking down at the Iveragh Peninsula's great expanse of ocean, take some time to look up into the heavens at the Dark Sky Reserve.

Without urban light pollution, the cosmos reveals itself, and the effect is mesmerizing.

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04Cling on to the Cliffs of Moher

Amazing Cliffs of Moher Grant Faint / Getty Images

A mainstay in marketing material from Ireland's tourism board, the Cliffs of Moher, are the poster child of the Wild Atlantic Way. Ascending to just over 650 feet above the sea, these stark rock faces in County Clare are worth the hype.

The panoramic vistas inspire awe and poetry, and the best places to take them in are from trails at Hag's Head or O'Brien's tower.

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05Count your blessings in Connemara

Connemara, Connaught, Republic of Ireland, Europe John Elk / Getty Images

At this point, you're about halfway along the Wild Atlantic Way. In this nook of County Galway, you'll find Outlander-style standing stones, glacial lakes, wetlands aplenty, and Kylemore Abbey, a 19th-century castle with beautiful Victorian gardens.

Clifden is a particular delight. Ride ponies on the beaches here or visit the nearly 10 mile Sky Road circuit where you can cycle and take in the astonishing scenery.

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06Leap for joy in Inishmore

overview of Kileany and the beautiful landscape of Inis Mór Island, Ireland matthibcn / Getty Images

Inishmore is one of the Aran Islands and home to the preppy Aran sweater and will make you feel like you've jumped on a time machine.

Inishmore served as a memorable filming location in the movie Leap Year where you can on over if you're interested in re-enacting one of the movie's proposal scenes, and take some time to soak up the culture and views.

The Aran Islands in Galway are a district in the Gaeltacht, meaning most of the area's citizens can speak Irish.

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07Amble across Achill Island

 Keem Bay, Achill Island SBphotos / Getty Images

County Mayo is home to the Emerald Isle's largest island, Achill. The island is rich in forts and ruins and, you guessed it, yet more first-rate drives.

Put some traditional local music on and make your way to one of the many Blue Flag beaches that are popular with the region's surfers.

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08Stroll through Slieve League

Sea cliffs of Slieve League Peter Unger / Getty Images

The cliffs at Slieve League in County Donegal are almost thrice as tall as those at the Cliffs of Moher. As the highest sea cliffs on the continent of Europe, Slieve League presents a visual treat.

With smaller crowds at this site, it's a better option for those who want to take extra precautions during a pandemic.

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09Spoil yourself with tweed in Ardara

Ireland such little place to be greatly loved M_a_y_a / Getty Images

Ardara in Donegal has been dubbed the best village in Ireland. It's a cozy little town with a population of less than a thousand people.

Visit Eddie Doherty's establishment. The man is an expert at weaving and often works crafting tweed fabric for caps, capes, and scarves. Don your new item of clothing and trek to the local waterfall in style.

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10Round off your trip at Malin Head

Malin Head Shawn Williams / Getty Images

You've been to Mizen Head in the south. Now it's time to see Ireland's most northerly point. Malin Head overlooks icy Arctic waters, and the Martello tower on Banba's Crown harks back to the French Revolutionary Wars.

If you're lucky, you may get a chance to see aurora borealis, which is undoubtedly a pleasant surprise for those who come to this landmark at the right time.

Take the path to Hell's Hole to check out the cove before grabbing some yummy bakes from Caffe Banba and looking back on your remarkable journey.

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