While there are many awe-inspiring places in the world, only a handful of spots draw you back time and time again. So what makes a place an old favourite rather than a 'tick-off your bucket list' destination? Is it the variety of experiences on offer? The people you meet? Is it a matter of finding comfort in the known?
It's all those things and more. Some places just leave you with a feeling, a longing to return, a soft tug on the heartstrings.
The Wild Atlantic Way calls to me every summer and this year is no different. Encompassing 2,500km of driving route through nine counties and three provinces, the Wild Atlantic Way has no shortage of beautiful landscapes, buzzing towns and interesting locals.
This June, I'll be packing my bags once again and taking The Ryan Tubridy Show on the road for yet another taste of the west. For those of you planning a similar getaway, here's a list of my all-time favourite spots on the Wild Atlantic Way.
Ballynahinch Castle, Connemara, Co Galway.
Nestled in the rugged heart of Connemara, Ballynahinch Castle Estate is a must-visit for anyone seeking peace and calm.
Comprising of 180 hectares of sprawling woodlands, gardens and lakes, the secluded estate is the perfect place to stop for a picnic by the sun dappled river or a nature walk. You can also explore the estate from the waterways and enjoy a spot of fishing.
Just a 20 minute drive away from the estate is Dog's Bay, possibly Ireland’s most beautiful beach, complete with white sands and turquoise waters. Heaven!
Garnish Island, Glengariff, West Cork
I visited Garnish Island for the first time last year and what an unexpected surprise it was. The history, the botany and the ice cream were all a revelation to me!
Garnish Island is located in a sheltered harbour off Glengarriff in Bantry Bay, in the most southerly reaches of the Wild Atlantic Way.
This tiny island is actually world renowned for its rare beauty. Due to its sheltered location and the warming oceanic influence of the Gulf Stream, the climate is somewhat subtropical. The plant-life on the island is bursting with bright hues from spring to August before the rich autumn hues takeover.
A short ferry ride from Glengarriff Pier will take you onto the island and includes a visit to seal island nearby where you'll meet a thriving but very tame seal colony.
Rosses Point, Co. Sligo
Whether you’re looking to hit the swells, climb the hillsides or just to relax and enjoy the salty air, Sligo is the place to be.
If you are feeling active, the summit of Knocknarea offers the most spectacular panoramic views. The ascent is around 1 hour.
If you are looking for something less strenuous, enjoy a lazy pint on the wall by the sea or a hearty dinner in Austies.
I’ll be back in Sligo town on Tuesday, June 4th so do come say hi!
The Burren, Co. Clare
While the Cliffs of Moher get their fair share of visitors, Co Clare's other natural beauty is a bit of a hidden gem. Almost lunar like in its appearance, the rocky, rugged landscape of The Burren is otherworldly. It is said that J.R.R Tolkien was inspired by this place when writing The Lord of the Rings.
I visited The Burren back in 2014 and was blown away by the dramatic landscape. While it may appear bare and barren from afar, look closer and you'll see The Burren is bursting with life. The region is actually home to 70% of Ireland's 900 native plant species. The spring and summer months in particular are spectcaular to witness with an array of wildflowers peeking out from between the rocks.
The Burren is also famous for its food trail with a number of award-winning local producers in the area so do stop in for lunch.
I'll be back in region in Ennistymon on Wednesday, June 5th.
Achill Island, Co. Mayo
The largest of Ireland's isles, Achill is situated off the Mayo coast and renowned for its jagged sea cliffs, pistine beaches and majestic mountains.
Explore Keel beach on horseback at sunset for soul-warming experience and pop into Bervie's for a bite to eat or a place to rest.
I'll be back on the road exploring the gems of The Wild Atlantic Way next month. From Donegal to Sligo, Clare and the Aran Islands, we’ll be weaving a piece of the Wild Atlantic Way magic into our listeners days and, as ever, I’m looking forward to meeting the locals and characters along the way. So tune in on RTÉ Radio 1 at 9am from June 3-6.
Ryan's Wild Atlantic Way Itinerary
Monday 3rd -- Donegal Town
Tuesday 4th -- Sligo Town
Wednesday 5th -- Clare - Ennistymon
Thursday 6th -- Inis Mór, Galway
For more information and to plan your Wild Atlantic Way Trip this year visit: wildatlanticway.com