Driving the Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland is an incredible experience that allows you to witness the rugged beauty of Ireland’s west coast. However, the unpredictable Irish weather can sometimes mean that you’ll have to brave the elements. In this blog post, we’ll explore why driving the Wild Atlantic Way on a rainy day can still be an unforgettable adventure.
Don’t let the rain stop you – there’s plenty to do and stay dry at the same time.
I wake up slowly feeling rested and relaxed after a deep sleep. I turn and curl up in a fetal position soaking in all of the warmth under the covers as the light of day starts to illuminate the curtains of my hotel room. Then I hear it – pitter patter, pitter patter on the glass window. My brain slowly flickers on and makes sense of the sounds. Damn…it’s raining, now what I am going to do?
Rain in Ireland is a Given
Everyone said – don’t go in October – the weather is horrible. However I’m a big advocate of never letting the weather stop you, so I ignored all of this advice and went during October. It was indeed very volatile weather, but in those dark clouds and pouring rain I learned something really important – rain pants are a staple item in Ireland. Thank goodness the nice people of Ireland are always willing to loan you their extra pair!
There were some really bad weather days during my Wild Atlantic Way road trip; cold temps, pouring rain, wind, and lightening storms yet I loved it all. Instead I appreciated the fewer people on the roads and the feeling of accomplishment when I completed a day of rainy hiking. I just put on my rain gear and made the weather part of the adventure. Plus the rainy weather also brought out the rainbows, and who doesn’t love rainbows?
Ireland will throw all sorts of weather at you so it’s likely to rain, blow, and downpour at some point during your holiday – probably many times. So it’s great to have a few ideas in your itinerary for what to do on a rainy day driving the Wild Atlantic Way.
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Best Things To Do While Driving the Wild Atlantic Way On a Rainy Day
1. Tour Old Homes
While it rained sideways outside I went inside the Bantry House and Gardens in County Cork. I was greeted with a warm crackling fire.
The Bantry House, established around 1765, has a complex family tree attached to it. But through the centuries has been preserved as one of the few old family homes surviving the Civil War in Ireland (1922 – 23). In fact, the main reason it survived the battles was because it served as a hospital during the war and for years after.
While the weather was wild outside, my imagination ran wild inside. If you are a daydreamer like myself, the moment you step into the house you’ll be transported into another era. One of clinking fine china in dining halls, waltzing in ball gowns, and secret business being done in the library. The Bantry House artifacts were a result of extensive family travel in Europe and Russia in the 1820’s.
And when the rain lets up don’t miss the beautiful Bantry House Gardens surrounding the property!
See more pictures of Bantry House and Gardens
Bantry House Website
Hours: Closed in Winter Months – check hours on website
Cost: €14 includes House and Garden access
Stay: Treat yourself to an overnight at the Bantry House Bed & Breakfast
2. Visit an Art Studio
Wind was swirling outside, and the pottery wheel was swirling inside. Take a rainy day driving the Wild Atlantic Way and use it to visit artist studios.
I stopped at Dunbeacon Pottery on Sheepshead Peninsula in County Cork and was excited to find potter, Helen Ennis, hard at work in her studio. Drawing inspiration from the County Cork and the Wild Atlantic Way, Helen designs pieces that capture the essence of her surrounding landscape. In fact, her pottery takes on the color palette of the surrounding sea in subtle blues, greens, and cream making my day feel brighter the moment I walked in.
I talked to Helen about how she got her start as an apprentice and landed this beautiful studio right along the coastal route. She bought the studio and pottery business in 2000 from an old potter who wanted to see the legacy continue when he retired. She has built up her own line focusing on functional items for the home such as teapots, mugs, vases, pitchers and bowls.
Helen loves visitors and is happy to show you her work and studio.
Dunbeacon Pottery Website
Location: West Country Cork, 3 miles from the village of Durrus in the direction of Goleen. Visitors are welcome to come and browse the showroom and watch the making process.
Phone: 027 61036
3. Warm up in Pubs and Enjoy Some Music
This probably goes without saying – but one of the best places to weather the storm in Ireland is inside any pub along the Wild Atlantic Way.
Places like the Killarney Grand, County Kerry will offer you a warm fire, local craft beer, toe tapping music, and a seat at the bar where you can talk to locals all afternoon until the storm passes. I spent one of my favorite afternoons there listening to music and talking to locals!
I also recommend to order an Irish Coffee on a rainy day…it’ll warm you up inside and out! In fact, maybe you want to even ask the bartender how to make it and get a little mixology class included!
4. Tour Ireland’s Distilleries
Whiskey beckons on a cold, rainy day in Ireland. Well – whiskey in Ireland actually beckons any time I suppose, but a rainy day is a great day for touring a local distillery.
Sure – there are all of the big players in Irish Whiskey you’ve heard of – Jameson or Tullamore Dew – but why not go small and explore an artisian small batch distillery. One of the first in Ireland is located right on the Wild Atlantic Way in Gailtacht – Dingle Distillery.
Learn the story of how the 3 owners got ahead of the aritisan distillery curve and perservered to produce some of the finest spirits along the Wild Atlantic Way! Plus – take a tour of the distillery and hang out in the tasting room while it rains outside. Note – tours were halted during the pandemic – but they have started back up in 2023.
5. Explore Ruins
If it’s pouring rain, then head to the Muckross House in Killarney National Park and do an indoor tour of this stunning nineteenth century Victorian mansion. However, if the rain lets up a little and you have the proper rain gear (see the packing section below), then head on over to the Abandoned Muckross Abbey ruins and explore the spiritual side of Killarney National Park.
The abbey was founded in 1448 by Donal McCarthy Mor. The ruins of the church, cloister, and courtyard tell the story of the 15th century home to the Observatine Franciscan Monks and their century long struggle.
Wander around the cemetery outside the abbey (which is still in use today) and then go inside to see the various tombs and climb up to the upper levels to explore this beautiful old structure from above. The centerpiece of the ruins is the yew tree which stands in the center of the cloisters; weathered, twisted, and majestic.
The abbey is still well preserved, so there are areas that are covered if the rain starts to become troublesome.
You’ll find a number of ruins to explore along the Wild Atlantic Way – there are many castles, and old stone forts that will take you back in time!
Muckross Abbey Website
Location: Muckross Abbey is open to the public and is just a short walk from the car park on the N71
6. Rainy Days Are Perfect For Waterfall Chasing
The best time to see a waterfall is during or after a big rain! The rivers swell and the waterfalls are at their most impressive. Plus – if you go visit a popular waterfall like Torc Waterfall in Killarney National Park in the rain, you’ll escape the crowds too! If it’s raining and you aren’t near Killarney, here’s some other waterfalls to visit driving the Wild Atlantic Way
7. Explore Some Castles While Driving the Wild Atlantic Way
You’ll drive past many castles on the Wild Atlantic Way.
There are approximately 30,000 castles in Ireland – an incredible number for such a small country! Some are now luxury hotels, others are tourist attractions, while several others sit in ruins. And you can find many of them along the Wild Atlantic Way – perfect for a rainy day stop!
Ireland has been home to a variety of peoples and cultures over the centuries, and each left a legacy of architectural style behind with its own medieval story to tell. A couple of my favorite castles to tour on a rainy day on the Wild Atlantic Way are Bunratty Castle and Baleek Castle .
Bunratty Castle in County Clare is considered the most complete and authentic castle in Ireland. As you walk in, you’ll be transported back to medieval times. It felt very Game-Of-Thrones-like to me. It contains mainly 15th and 16th century furnishings, tapestries, and works of art which capture the mood of those times.
Beleek Castle in County Mayo is also a great stop for a rainy day. Warm up next to the giant fireplaces and take a tour that will walk you through the fascinating history of the castle, family, and how it survived. Discover the fascinating tale of Marshall Doran, an adventurer, sailor, and smuggler who restored Belleek Castle in the 1960s. You’ll also have a chance to see and hold his collection of medieval weapons and armor!
Check out this list of more castles you can visit while driving the Wild Atlantic Way.
Pack this Rain Gear for Driving the Wild Atlantic Way
Since rain in Ireland is inevitable, make sure that you pack some good rain gear and that way the rain won’t stop your plans! I suggest this key rain gear to pack for your driving holiday along the Wild Atlantic Way.
Don’t let the weather stop your photography! This innovative cover provides protection for your camera and lens from the elements like rain, snow, salt spray, dirt, sand and dust while allowing you easy access to the camera and lens controls.
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Want help with planning your Ireland Wild Atlantic Way Trip?
I used Ireland Walk Hike Bike, a local tour company based in County Kerry, to help me plan my Ireland trip. They are experts on the West Coast and offer a number of self guided hiking, biking, and driving itineraries. You can talk to them to customize any of them. I have planned numerous trips with them and have never been disappointed.
Plus – if you book one of their tours and use the promo code OttsWorld2023, you can get 5% off your tour with Ireland Walk Hike Bike!