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Five Minutes With Fiona Monaghan

This piece is from issue two of Go Wild Magazine. 

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Fiona Monaghan, Head of
Operations at Fáilte Ireland
West & Mid West tells
Go Wild about the most
enchanting aspects
of the Wild Atlantic Way.

What is it about the Wild Atlantic Way that is so appealing?

The appeal of the Wild Atlantic Way is in its’ simplicity. The landscape has been here since the beginning of time and what we in Fáilte Ireland have done is present the West Coast of Ireland as a unified tourism experience of scale and singularity to encourage more visitors to come and holiday in the West of Ireland. While the Atlantic Ocean is the key to bringing it all together, it is truly amazing to see how the landscape changes as you move along the Wild Atlantic Way from the sheltered harbours of West Cork to the vast headlands in North Mayo and Donegal. Not only does the landscape change, but so too do the customs, traditions and dialects as one travels from North to South or South to North.

Apart from the breathtaking scenery and a rich history, what does the Wild Atlantic Way have to offer that makes it unique?

The long-term success of the Wild Atlantic Way will undoubtedly be the people and the communities of the West Coast of Ireland. Ireland has long been recognised internationally for our “warm, friendly people” and nowhere is this more evident than in the towns, villages and communities dotted along the West Coast.

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Loop Head, Image by Failte Ireland

Any insider tips on not to be missed gems?

One Hidden Gem that is starting to get recognition in the last number of years is the Loop Head Peninsula in County Clare. Kilkee has long been a favourite seaside destination, but the real experience is to head out along the peninsula and explore the villages and hamlets before arriving at the lighthouse. Another must visit Hidden Gem is the Erris Peninsula in North Mayo. Recently voted the Best Place to Go Wild in Ireland by the Irish Times, it is well worth a visit. There is a wealth of heritage and culture to unearth dating back 5,000 years not to mention the opportunities to take to the water whether it is an afternoon coasteering or kayaking in the pristine waters of Broad Haven Bay, Blacksod Bay and Elly Bay. For those with good sea legs, a visit to the Inishkea Islands is a memorable day out that will stay with you for a long time. Heading further north, the Fanad Peninsula in Donegal and the recently restored Fanad Lighthouse is a great hidden gem with captivating stories to told from the sinking of HMS Laurentic during the First World War to the busy shipping lanes crossing the Atlantic in times gone by. The views from the top of the lighthouse are not to be missed.

What would be your top tip for gaining the most enjoyment out of a Wild Atlantic Way trip?

Have an open mind – don’t tie yourself down to scheduled itinerary, allow yourself the time to slow down, stop and explore and get lost ‘spiritually’ (not physically although that’s not too bad either) in a place. Invest in a good rain jacket and a wetsuit if you plan on really embracing the Wild Atlantic Way. As the famous Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen once said, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing”. Most importantly, stop and talk to people – don’t be afraid to ask them about their local area and you’ll be in for a treat of stories and anecdotes that will enrich your visit. Most importantly, don’t try to do it all in one visit, the Wild Atlantic Way offers reasons to keep coming back time and time again and as the seasons change.

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