The Wild Atlantic Way is a 1500 mile route along the West coast of Ireland connecting some of the most amazing scenery along the coast and its hinterland. It officially starts on the Inishowen Peninsula very close to Derry, and ends at Kinsale on the coast just South of Cork.
You can travel the Wild Atlantic Way on your own or in a group. There are organised trips that will take you along the Way by cycle or by car or coach. In 6 years it has become one of the most important tourism routes in the world.
Our idea for the Slow Atlantic Way is a bit of rebellion against the predominant “do it as fast as you can” culture. There are people pretending that you can “do” the Way in as little as 5 days. Binge tourism has never appealed to us and is singularly unsuited to Ireland in our humble opinions.
I was born in the rebel County with antecedents in Kerry and Clare. Sarah is descended on her father’s side from a true Cork family including an expert in the Irish language and culture, and a Great Uncle who edited the Southern Star and served as an MP for Mid-Cork. We have carpenters, Gardaì (Police), farmers, academics and many others in the Irish side of our ancestry.
We have travelled Ireland throughout our relationship. We have always been drawn primarily to Kinsale and West Cork, but other places, even Dublin, have drawn us in as well.
You learn very quickly about Ireland that nothing worth doing is worth doing at a sprint (except sprinting). Time, the light and the weather all seem to have their own natural rhythms in the West of Ireland and those rhythms chime in the culture and personality of the Irish in those parts.
Ireland has some of the best damp, wet and cold days in the world. These the Irish call ‘soft’ days. The rain is not drowning you and the wind is not taking your hair off, it is feeding the green and the crops. Once you’ve sat watching the sea, smelling nature on a cosy hillside on a day like that, you feel cuddled by the weather. It does, genuinely, feel soft.
The Wild Atlantic Way is a great thing. It is helping the revival of many communities that have known difficulty on difficulty over the years but have resourceful and creative populations. But like any great experience, to enjoy it fully you need to take your time and go deeply into the joy of it.
The idea for the Slow Atlantic Way was born of that philosophy of travel. We believe that to experience the Way fully, one needs to take not five days but actually many months to travel it.
So far we have been travelling it for two years on and off, with maybe 3 months on the Way. We are doing it the wrong way round, very Irish, and started in Kinsale. Our last stop to date was at Fenit, just west of Tralee. Whilst it has taken us 3 months to get there, a quick look at our SatNav tells us that we could drive back to Kinsale in just over two hours.
The best advice we have received on this journey was to turn left. Unless you are travelling South in which case turn right.
As you drive along the Wild Atlantic Way the wrong way, there are thousands of little roads to the left. Down these there may be a little quay, a view out over the Islands, a café, a pub, seabirds donkeys or horses, old buildings or a place to pitch for the night. You don’t know. But fail to turn left and you will never know.
So we have been exploring the Wild Atlantic Way slowly, and backwards. We haven’t seen everything or met everyone but one truth is always the same, the good stories are made by people and by time.
We had hoped to publish our first book on the Slow Atlantic Way for Christmas 2020, but sadly this has been virus delayed. However in 2021, recognising that we are working backwards, we plan to publish “The Slow Atlantic Way – Volume 5”, a book of stories in words and pictures. The other volumes will come over the years ahead that, God willing, we will have the time to experience and write.
Shortly we will be launching a dedicated website slowatlanticway.ie and we will promote that when it’s there to be promoted. But in the meantime little bits of the Slow Atlantic Way will appear in stories on this Place Images site and we hope you enjoy them.