Road next to Doo Lough during an Ireland Wild Atlantic Way Road Trip

Tips and Tricks for your Wild Atlantic Way Road Trip

Some of the pictures that you can find throughout this site have been taken during my Wild Atlantic Way road trip in October 2019. Let me rephrase: Actually a whole bunch of pictures on this website come from this trip.

Three friends of mine and me travelled all the way to Ireland’s stunning West Coast on a tight budget to get some of the most amazing views. Find out below where we rented our car, what route we decided to take and where we stayed on each of the five nights.

1. The Rental Car

A rental car: The most crucial, but at the same time most expensive, part of any road trip abroad. Organising one can be overwhelming in the beginning as there are lots of things to consider. Some of the first things that usually come to mind are the following questions. Click on them to see my answers!

This, of course, depends on how many people are travelling. And for us it was also a question of budget. As mentioned before, we were a group of four girls and we were all happy to rent a smaller car, i. e. have less space, but therefore ensuring a lower price. Obviously, our student budget dictated that decision.

We went for the smallest category of rental cars, including e. g. VW Polos. However, on the day of the pick-up we couldn’t believe our luck when we were upgraded to a bigger car as all small ones were rented out. Now driving a Peugeot 2008, we had considerably more space at hand than a VW Polo would have provided. And the Peugeot turned out to be just big enough for all our luggage. I would therefore recommend: Pack extremely light (easier during the summer months) and take the smallest car, or pay a few extra euros and have a much more convenient trip.

First of all: If you have driving license, you can rent a car. Keep in mind, however, that most rental car companies charge considerably higher fees for drivers under the age of 25. We consequently decided that I would be renting and driving the car, as I celebrated my 25th birthday this year. We cut the costs of our road trip significantly with this decision.

You should also consider that the person renting the car, i. e. the holder of the credit card it is paid with, and the driver must be the same person. Additional drivers can then be added through paying an extra charge. Make sure to have enough funds on your credit card as the car rental company will block a deposit for the rental period.

Luckily enough, there is a great variety of websites online that help you compare prices and insurance packages. We used a German site called Check24 to find a great deal with Hertz. By booking via Check24, we also got a very reasonably prized comprehensive insurance for our car. And that was, of course, highly recommendable considering the many kilometres we were about to drive.

Make sure to take enough time to compare rental car companies and their offers and try to find an insurance online as they are usually better value than the ones of the car rental companies.

It is also important to make a decision as to where to pick the car up. If you can avoid picking it up at e. g. an airport: Do so! Rental cars are much cheaper if your pick up location is a bit further away from highly trafficked places. The few euros you need for a bus/taxi to get there are often worth the investment.

Yes, you will! Coming from Germany and driving on the right side of the road, this was one of my main concerns. However, I took it easy in the beginning and was very much surprised by how fast one adapts to driving on the left.

Here are some tips for driving on the other side of the road:

  • Take your time! – Don’t drive faster than you are comfortable with, but of course don’t harm traffic flow too much either.
  • Two heads are better than one! – Have your fellow passengers watch out for other road users as well.
  • Stay focussed! – Take breaks when needed as driving on the other side of the road is more tiring for your brain due to the higher focus required.
  • Also: Make sure to have awesome people with you, who keep you well entertained with great tunes and talks during your drive and you will have a great time!
Rental Car in front of the mountains of Dingle Peninsula
Four girls in their rental car during their Wild Atlantic Way Road Trip
Driving a rental car down the Wild Atlantic Way

2. The Route

Here are some tips and tricks on planning your Wild Atlantic Way road trip route. In order to map out where we wanted to go, we relied on social media and Google maps. In the weeks before our road trip, all of us had a look around Instagram to find places we wanted to see. We had also heard about many stunning places all over Ireland from our friends. Every time I found a place that I wanted to see, I saved it on Google Maps. You can create lists within the app and use them to organise your saved locations. But, of course, we had a rough plan on where we wanted to go and how much time we had to do so.

In our case the plan was:

Start the actual road trip just underneath Sligo and drive down the Wild Atlantic Way, making Dingle Peninsula our last stop. We had time from Friday afternoon to Wednesday evening. Our start and finish point was Waterford.

We then met and checked our previous research results for places along that route. And because Ireland’s West Coast is just stunning, there were heaps of amazing places we wanted to see. We prioritised some places over others and started creating a rough agenda for every day.

Have a look at what our final plan looked like in the tabs:
  • Pick up the car in Waterford
  • Drive to Dublin and pick up one of our friends from the airport
  • Accommodation location: Leitrim
  • Lough Key
  • Downpatrick Head
  • Achill Island incl. Keel Beach and Keem Bay
  • Accommodation location: Newport
  • Hike Croagh Patrick
  • Doo Lough
  • Kylemore Abbey
  • Accommodation location: Headford
  • Galway City
  • Dunguaire Castle
  • Cliffs of Moher
  • Accommodation location: Fenit
  • Inch Beach
  • Bulls Head
  • Dingle
  • Slea Head Drive
  • Dunquin Harbour
  • Connor Pass
  • Lough Gill
  • Accommodation location: Fenit
  • Drive all the way back to Waterford
  • Return the car
  • Sleep for 3 days in a row

Apart from the pick-up and return times, we didn’t set particular times for our stops. We got up at around 8.00am, had breakfast and started driving. If we liked a place we stayed longer. If there wasn’t much to do at a place, we took our obligatory tourist photo and headed on. Keeping the time management flexible created a relaxed atmosphere throughout the whole trip as none of us felt pressed for time.

What you expect from your Wild Atlantic Way road trip is of course entirely up to you. For more detailed information on the things I have seen and done on my Wild Atlantic Way Road Trip, see my other blog posts, such as 7 Things to See and Do on Dingle Peninsula.

3. The Accommodation

When planning our Wild Atlantic Way road trip, one thing was immediately clear: None of us wanted to pay for expensive hotel rooms. Once again, Google was our best friend and we found great accommodations for very reasonable prices.

It was a mix of simply googling for Inns and B&Bs in the areas we went to, and researching on websites like AirBnB. One of the many advantages of a rental car is the flexibility it gives you. If the B&Bs in a town were too expensive, we just looked for somewhere to stay in a nearby village, which was obviously much cheaper.

Here are some actual figures:

We calculated with a maximum of €30 per person per night, but never had to pay more than €20. Sometimes even as little as €10 per person was enough! Sufficient time and motivation for research are key to finding those great deals.

We also didn’t set our standards too high. The four of us were happy to share a basic room with little extra features and only one bathroom. That was all we needed anyway as we tried to spend as little time as possible in the accommodation and as much time as possible on the road.

Let’s talk food:

We cut our costs further by preparing our own breakfast where none was included in the stay and having sandwiches and snacks packed for out Wild Atlantic Way road trip during the day. In the evenings we cooked our own dinner whenever possible instead of going to expensive restaurants. The occasional pub visit excluded –  as having a pint while listening to live music is just an important part of embracing the Irish culture as well.

Some example views:

In Summary:

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Well, that was quite a lot of information. I’ll just stop right there even though I could go on forever. Nevertheless, if you have any questions or need more inspiration for your very own Wild Atlantic Way road trip, get in touch! I am more than happy to help you out with further tips and tricks on how to plan the perfect Irish road trip!