Following the footsteps of the Wild Atlantic Way

A feeling of being behind schedule

It’s already spring and I feel I’ve done nothing! Usually, my hibernation has been and gone by the end of January. However, as the milestones on the calendar pass, I’ve been stuck in a perpetual routine of ennui.

Perhaps the weather is to blame. We had a couple of false starts to escape the grips of winter. Just when the sun started to warm the air a fresh blast came in from the north. It froze any shoots that had dared to appear in the garden and caused the gritter trucks to re-appear.

Maybe I had been complacent with one eye on the Overland Spring into Action event. But that was a weekend at MotoCamp Wales, not the annual tour. With March almost at an end, the bike was still on trickle charge. I realised that I needed to at least have some semblance of a plan. But where to go?

Every good tour deserves a logo

Brexit casts a long shadow

We are still feeling the effects of Brexit and transportation options are limited. I rely on transport for further destinations. Work and family commitments mean I can only commit around 10 days of travel, two weeks at a push. Last year I opted for northern Spain with a ferry from Plymouth to Santander. It was means to an end. The initial ride to the ferry was a long one and the ferry crossing was a tedious 24-hour affair. I didn’t fancy repeating that quite yet. Additionally, due to transportation problems, my Morrocan plans had been shelved (for now).

I needed to find something that appealed to my sense of exploration. Something that was not only on the doorstep but also far enough away to feel like a proper trip. The answer came with Ireland and the Wild Atlantic Way.

Malin Head

The Wild Atlantic Way

I’ve travelled to and from Dublin a few times for work. Most recently on the bike. I had not explored any of Ireland other than a trip by air to Belfast. I then drove home via Dublin in a campervan. Best of all the ferry terminal is at Holyhead. That was only a stone’s throw from my usual day trip playground of Snowdonia.

After some initial research and the acquisition of a couple of GPX files, I had the basis of a plan. Being a predefined route you could almost get away without a GPS. Much like the Scottish NC500 you could follow the signs. The Wild Atlantic Way is a well-travelled route by other travellers so there was a lot of information readily available.

My first and only trip to Northern Ireland to date

I was planning to deviate from the normal route somewhat. It was clear that if we were to follow the full Wild Atlantic Way from start to finish, travel to the start and return from the end would be too much in the allotted time. Instead, I planned to traverse Ireland from Dublin and pick up the Wild Atlantic Way just south of Galway. From there I planned to follow the set route while picking off a number of scenic stop-offs. From the end of the route, I would carry on following the coast into Northern Ireland to Belfast before returning to Dublin.

The Planned Route

A dash of the silver screen

There is no shortage of sights to see but most notably filming locations from TV and the big screen. The more research I did the more I came across references to these locations and that are on the route. First, I would be staying on Achill Island where the film Banshees of Inisherin was shot. I’d have plenty of time to explore the locations such as Colm Doherty’s house at Keem Bay.

Keem Bay

I would also be visiting Malin Head, the most northerly point in Ireland. This is one of the filming locations for Star Wars – The Last Jedi. They built a full-size Millennium Falcon at the location. Although the scenery is stunning, a healthy dose of CGI was applied to the film.

Once in Northern Ireland, I planned to start picking up filming locations from Game of Thrones. This included Ballintoy where the harbour location was used for exterior Pyke shots and as the Iron Islands. Then onto the Dark Hedges which was used as the King’s Road and the place where Arya Stark escapes from King’s Landing. Next is Murlough Bay which is featured in a variety of Game of Thrones scenes such as when Tyrion and Jorah attempt to reach Meereen. Finally Cushenden Caves. The caves are where Sir Davos Seaworth and Lady Melisandre landed ashore and are also where Melisandre gave birth to a shadow baby. The caves feature again with the battle between Jaime Lannister and Euron Greyjoy.

The Dark Hedges

Now with all the ferry crossings and accommodation booked, I feel I’m catching up with the year at last.

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