If you love peace, solitude and less visited areas, this is the right place for you: The Northwest stands for the original Ireland.
Away from the tourist mainstream, motorcycle travellers will find peace and relaxation on the wild coasts and in the lonely moors of the Northwest.
In this episode of our Wild Atlantic Way series, you'll find out, why counties Sligo and Mayo are real "insider tips" for motorcycle travellers:
Many believe that the Celts are the original inhabitants of Ireland. It is not for nothing that Gaelic (=Celtic) is still actively spoken in many places in Ireland, especially on the west coast.
In fact, the Celts came to the island from the mainland only around 600 BC.
The oldest traces of settlement, however, date back to the Stone Age and are already 6000 years old! Who was this original population, where did they come from and how did they live?
Many answers remain hidden in the darkness of history, but to some we find answers today and we have to thank the schoolteacher Patrick Caulfield from the small village Belderrig (today Belderg)!
In the 1930s the houses were still heated with peat. While cutting peat on a hill near the cliffs, the teacher noticed that he kept coming across stone formations that seemed to lie in patterns and were all found at a certain digging depth.
His son, who became an archaeologist, was then able to solve the mystery a number of years later and so the oldest settlement in Ireland was discovered and uncovered: Houses, fields, cattle paddocks, gardens, graves, and spiritual sites were uncovered. On this hill on the edge of the cliffs, once lived a larger village community.
Today, the Cèide Fields Visitor Centre tells of these early historical settlers, you can take a guided walk to the excavation sites, and from the hilltop, enjoy the incredible views over the coast.
The small café-bistro offers refreshments and just outside the parking lot is a viewpoint overlooking the high, almost vertical, cliffs.
Ballycroy National Park:
Few motorcycle travelers would likely look for Ballycroy National Park or Wild Nephin National Park as a stop on a trip to Ireland.
For hikers and nature lovers, however, it is highly rated because it offers one of the most pristine and unique moorland landscapes in Ireland.
One of the largest rain bogs in Europe is located here. The fauna and flora are unique and the streams and river outlets are home to a particularly large number of salmon and brown trout.
You should at least drive through it on your tour. The N59 runs through the middle of it and there you will also find the Visitor Centre. There will be very little traffic in this area and you will have plenty of opportunity to enjoy the scenery on both sides of the road.
The overlooked gem! There are many incredible corners on the Wild Atlantic Way, but Achill Island is one of the most stunning in my opinion!
Many travellers want to drive around the entire island, but have limited time. Areas like Achill Island lay a bit out of the way and then are often not visited at all - what a shame! Especially the remote areas are very nice to drive, especially for motorcyclists.
The island is easily accessible via a small bridge. It is highly recommended to drive the whole south island road and then come back to the bridge via the north.
Near Kildavnet you will find a square tower, this is the old castle of Grace O`Malley, who as a clan leader, warrior and pirate is probably one of the most colourful women in Irish history.
One of the most beautiful viewpoints can be found at the White Cliffs of Ashleam in the very south of the island - this is definitely worth a photo stop!
Keel is a vacation resort and probably the only larger village on the island. Here you will find the long and beautiful sandy beach of Keel Beach with high mountains in the background.
A little further on you will reach Keem Beach via a very steep and curvy little road. Already the drive over the mountain and the view from the top of the small bay are an experience in itself. Basket Sharks (whale sharks) are often sighted in the clear bay from here.
On the way back over the North Loop, you can take a look at the Slievemore Deserted Village and then drive back over the Golden Strand to the bridge.
On the onward journey you find shortly before Newport a small sign to the Burrishoole Abbey. Find the brake and make a small stop there, because the old abbey from the 15th century is really nice to visit.
The location directly at the small and protected sea bay with fishing boats right next to the abbey is very nice to see.
Further south you can already see the holy mountain Croagh Patrick and the Nephin mountain massif.
Westport is a good place to spend the night. The nice place has numerous good B&Bs and restaurants.
Solitude and amazing landscapes - this probably describes the northwestern coast of Ireland best. If you enjoyed this episode, you may want to check out the next one, too: We will continue riding south along the Wild Atlantic Way into the rugged land of Connemara - rugged, but more visited than Mayo. Let me surprise you!
Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg, April 2022
Picture credits: easycruiser.tours
Sources: www.ceidefields.com, wikipedia.org, www.wildnephinnationalpark.ie