The famous long-distance route of the Wild Atlantic Way, passes through eight counties on its way down Ireland’s dramatic and rugged west coast. Many make the great mistake of overlooking Country Leitrim, the gentle and unassuming county which has only two and a half miles of coastline. If you are considering a trip of the Wild Atlantic Way it would be a great pity to slip straight from Donegal to Sligo without taking a little time to explore at least some of the many delightful attractions that County Leitrim has to offer. In fact, basing yourself in one of Leitrim’s fine and charming towns, like Carrick on Shannon, you would be well placed to explore not just the short yet picturesque coastline of Leitrim itself but also the coastal wonders of Donegal, Sligo, Mayo and beyond, as well as inland attractions.
If you are travelling the length of the Wild Atlantic Way, then you will pass through Tullaghan, a small village, where you will find a 9th-10th Century stone cross that was found washed up on the beach and erected here by a local landlord in 1778. It is believed to be part of a monastery, now long gone. The evocative site is shrouded in local folklore and legend. Aside from this landmark you will be through County Leitrim before you know it. This is a great shame as there are so many wonderful things to see and do within easy distance throughout the county.
Visit Lough Key Forest Park, or the extremely picturesque Glencar Waterfall for a taste of some of the scenic beauty here. Eco-conscious visitors should head for the Organic Centre in Rossinver. Tour historic abbeys, castles, and settlements and for more insight into the history of the area, visit Glenview Museum with its collection of pre-famine items and Fenagh Heritage Centre, with its information on some local archaeological sites. Each of these attractions is a good reason to deviate from the coast for a time to see what County Leitrim has to offer.
Perhaps the best reason to leave the coast behind, however, is the gentle and relaxing Upper Shannon River with all its attendant canals, rivers and lochs. Leave the dramatic Atlantic Ocean behind you for a time and take to the waters of Ireland’s longest navigable waterway. Carrick on Shannon is a charming town and has a modern marina. This is the cruising capital of the Upper Shannon. Here you can take cruises or river tours, or you can hire vessels of all descriptions for your own use. The contrast between the wild excitement of the west coast and the rural tranquillity of the Shannon is striking, making each seem all the more blessed and magical by means of the comparison.
When visiting County Leitrim you are within easy distance of some of the most interesting and wildest sections of the Wild Atlantic Way. From the towering cliff-tops of Donegal, to the surf and literary history of Mullaghmore Head, in Sligo, ‘Yeats Country’, Ireland’s coast gives outstanding views and a sense of standing on the edge of the world. But don’t forget to look inland too, from time to time.