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Last updated on June 16th, 2024 at 10:05 pm

One of my favorite things about traveling the Wild Atlantic Way is how easy it was to travel sustainably with a mindful approach. With Ireland’s strong support for local small businesses, natural green spaces, farm-to-table dining, recycling initiatives, local hidden gems, and a strong commitment to preserving heritage and culture, you can leave Ireland even greener than you arrived. So, pack your bamboo toothbrush and get ready to hit the Wild Atlantic Way with these sustainable tips. I traveled with local insider guides and added some of their local hidden gems into the mix so you can get off the beaten path and travel responsibly on the Wild Atlantic Way.

Sustainable Itinerary Wild Atlantic Way Ireland

I received a media rate to join Traverse Journeys on their responsible tour of the Wild Atlantic Way with local guides – so we saw loads of hidden gems. All views are my own. 

Sustainable Travel Tips for the Wild Atlantic Way

Travel Shoulder or Offseason

The Wild Atlantic Way is a popular route in Ireland, with some areas experiencing heavy over-tourism. An example is how recent Star Wars film location tourism has negatively impacted some remote islands, with thousands of people flocking to them and destroying the ecosystems. It is important not to contribute to the over-tourism of Ireland. If you travel on the shoulder or off-season, you will have many spots to yourself and support the Irish economy during a lull. Traveling with Traverse Journeys, we visited at the very end of September into October. The weather was still pleasant; there were hardly any crowds, and the roads weren’t too congested. The locals were out enjoying the beautiful weather, so we had a very authentic experience. We could also give businesses an extra economic boost without overwhelming them. We did notice a few businesses starting to close toward the middle of October, so keep in mind options may be more limited in the winter outside of the larger towns.

Park in Ireland

Travel in a Small Group

Traveling with a small group and avoiding mass tours such as a mega tour bus is the ideal way to explore. It is more fuel-efficient and doesn’t crowd the roads. Traverse Journeys travels in small vans with a group size no larger than 12. So, I suggest you plan a solo or couples trip in an eco-friendly car or book a small tour group.

small group travel Ireland

Packing and Planning Tips

Always remember to pack with sustainability in mind. That means bring your shopping tote, water bottle, and reusable straw. Most heritage B&Bs we stayed in did not have toiletry items, so pack your dry shampoo bars from the likes of Lush or bring your refillable containers of soaps so you can ditch little plastic bottles. Pack your favorite organic cotton clothing, water boots, and rainjacket – you don’t have to buy extra items on the road. Most cafes want you to use your takeaway coffee cups, so it never hurts to pack a small thermos.

Plan and do your research; what restaurants are doing their part to reduce food waste and source their food locally? What hotels are making efforts to be more green? What are some local design stores and shops you can support? Do certain wildlife activities hurt or harm animals? When you haven’t planned, that is the easiest way to negatively contribute to tourism. So, read those about me pages, do independent research, and reach out to ask questions.

Sustainable Travel Wild Atlantic Way Ireland-25

Looking for inspiration to travel the Wild Atlantic Way? Then check out these 35 Dreamy photos of the Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland.

Responsible Wild Atlantic Way Road Trip Itinerary and Local Hidden Gems

I will cover a handful of stops along the Wild Atlantic Way. At each stop, I’ll highlight heritage or eco B&Bs, farm-to-table dining, outdoor spaces, conservation efforts, culture, cultural sites, and local hidden gems to help you travel more ethically along the Wild Atlantic Way.

Stop 1: Cork City

Cork is one of the largest cities along the Wild Atlantic Way, but even then, it is still full of local businesses to support. Cork is a city for artists, so one of the best ways to travel mindfully is to support the local art community. 

Heritage and Culture

Cork’s heritage pubs are a group of pubs owned by Cork local, Name here. All the pubs are historical, and as soon as you step in the doors, you’re welcomed with Irish hospitality in an authentic setting. Supporting any of the ten pubs ensures every pint you down goes right back into the local economy. Now, isn’t that worth drinking for?

If you visit the University of Cork, you’ll find Ogham slates. These slates are ancient Gaelic writing. They are lined up in a hall just off the central courtyard and are free to see. Just beyond that, you can even learn about the tortured lives of Irish people under the thumb of British rule.

Make sure to take some time to visit Blarney Gardens, Castle, and Stone. As touristy as it may sound, the gardens and castles are rich with Irish history. Be sure to visit in the morning on your way to Cork to avoid the crowds. 

Local Businesses

If you’ve booked with Traverse Journeys, you’ll get a walking tour of Cork with a local Irish guide. Damian, our guide and local Cork resident, gave us a tour of all his favorite sports in Cork and some history of the area. You’ll support locals like him by booking with Traverse Journeys. 

If you’re making the journey on your own, then make sure to support Damian by booking a theatrical ghost tour with his highly-rated company, Cork Ghost Tours. 

Heritage B&B

Heritage Shandon Bells B&B is located on the River Lee, which runs through Cork. Nestled just outside the city center, within walking distance, this lovely Heritage B&B is cozy and inviting. Breakfast is included and held in the breakfast nook with river views. The hosts were very accommodating, and the rooms were charming.  

Farm to Table, Local Restaurants & Pubs

I kid you not when I say the vegan food I had at the farm-to-table restaurant Market Lane was top-notch. I know, vegan food in Ireland, crazy, right? It must have been the fresh local ingredients. Don’t worry; there is more than just vegan cuisine, as you can order farm-fresh chicken, local seafood, and more. The service was fantastic, and the atmosphere was inviting. Right next door to Market Lane is Elbow Lane Brew and Smoke House, which is a local brew up with craft beer and local eats.

vegan food Ireland

Green Outdoor Spaces, Conservation, or Wildlife

Fitzgerald Park, just down the road from Shannon Bells B&B, is a lovely escape from the city with walking trails, fountains, and a museum. Pack a picnic snack and enjoy some downtime in one of Cork’s best green spaces.

Just north of Cork City in Ireland is the Clogheenmilcon Sanctuary. The sanctuary has a lovely walk following along marshy lands. The area is the perfect home for hundreds of bird species, so bring your binoculars and camera.

Local Hidden Gems

Cork is a city for artists. The art and street scene are lively and always changing. Head to Tobin Street, where artist Peter Martin depicts Cork’s transition from day to night in an alley full of hipster eats and lively bars. 

As you walk through the city, keep an eye out for electrical boxes that have been decorated by artists from Mad About Cork. If you tour the city with a walking tour, you’ll be sure to spot many of the murals and art displays. 

Stop 2: Kinsale, Ireland

Kinsale Ireland is foodie heaven with dozens of top-rated sea-to-table restaurants. The colorful streets are teaming with adorable boutiques selling local handmade goods and art. All this makes Kinsale an excellent destination for sustainable travel.

Plastic Free Kinsale: Kinsale has a plastic free intivative led by two local women. They aim to reduce plastic and promote recycling. You’ll see their signs in participating businesses and cafes. So, do your part, support these plastic free businesses and keep your plastic off their streets and out of the water.

Heritage and Culture

While you can find trad music in many places along the Wild Atlantic Way, our local guide recommended we go for a trad music session at Dalton’s Pub for an authentic experience. As soon as we stepped into the intimate space of the pub, we knew we were in for a treat. The entire pub was full of music, and the crowd of locals listened with an intense appreciation for their traditional music. 

Ft. Charles is an iconic historical spot in Kinsale, maintained by Heritage Ireland. This massive star-shaped fort was built in the 1600s and overlooks the ocean. It came under siege during the Williamite War of Ireland.

Trad Music Ireland

Local Businesses

As I mentioned before, there are dozens of boutique stores selling local handmade goods and art. If you just walk along with Guard well, Market, and Main Street letting your intuition guide you, you’ll find plenty of great gifts to take home. I recommend checking out Mamukko Shop for upcycled goods made from oil boat sails, Rain Kinsale for organic handmade bath and spa items, and Gils Norman Photography for a local photographer. 

Heritage B&B

We stayed at the heritage Rockview B&B tucked down a colorful and somewhat sleepy street. The rooms were cozy, but what made our stay were the hosts and breakfast. The hosts cooked us a nice home-cooked meal to order and made sure we were comfortable during our stay.

Farm to Table, Local Restaurants & Pubs

Irish Seafood Kinsale food

When in Kinsale, the foodie town, you must try the local seafood. Worry not, fishing in Ireland is covered by the Common Fisheries EU Law, ensuring sustainable fishing practices and preventing overfishing in the region. Most of the fish support local fishers and are fresh from the area. To treat yourself, try Max’s seafood and for more casual eating, head to Dino’s Fish and Chips or Here Fishy Fishy.

If you are vegetarian, then head to Lemon Leaf Cafe, where things are sourced locally with plenty of veggie options to satisfy your needs. 

Green Outdoor Spaces, Conservation, or Wildlife

On the way to Ft. Charles is the lovely Scilly Walk. The walk is mostly along with water, and I saw numerous seabirds fishing and sunning themselves. It is a great way to enjoy some fresh air and look for wildlife. 

If you prefer more intense outdoor activities, then check out Kinsale Outdoor Spaces for kayaking and outdoor education programs. 

Local Hidden Gems

One of the best things I did in Kinsale was get away from the hustle and bustle of the small downtown area and simply wandered off. I discovered bright, colorful houses and cute window sills. Just take some time to get lost and explore the residential side of Kinsale. 

Kinsale Ireland

Stop 3: Baltimore, Ireland

This slice of paradise is so charming and off the beaten path. We had locals who lived in the area who had never been to Baltimore. It is an excellent addition to your sustainable Wild Atlantic Way itinerary. 

Heritage and Culture

Drombeg Stone Circle On your way from Kinsale to Baltimore, make sure you pull off the road to check out the Drombeg Stone Circle, which is hidden down a dirt road. Once you park, you’ll need to walk down a path to reach the circle. Standing among rolling farmlands looking out to the sea is an ancient stone circle and cooking area. It’s a great little stop to get out and stretch your legs and learn about history. 

Stone Circle Ireland

Mainistir Inis Arcáin – Right after you take the Baltimore ferry to Sherkin Island, there is a ruined Abbey right at the dock. It’s mostly closed off, and there’s not a lot of information about it, but it’s a beautiful spot for photos and a bit of exploring.

Local B&B

My favorite accommodation during our Wild Atlantic Way road trip was the Slipway B&B. With a modern build and owned by a lovely couple, it is not precisely a Heritage B&B, it is a sustainable option supporting locals and with all local products for breakfast. As soon as we checked in, our hosts greeted us and showed us up to our lovely rooms overlooking the Baltimore harbor. In the evening, after a day of exploring, our hosts came down and started a fire for us, and we shared stories of traveling over wine by the crackling fire. 

Farm to Table, Local Restaurants & Pubs

Baltimore has plenty of great food tucked in along the charming streets, including The Lookout. However, for real farm to table dining, do not miss Glebe Gardens. With more than 5 acres of the garden, they source nearly all their food within those 5 acres or from local farmers and fishers. Plus, four amazing women run the cafe. Explore the gardens and eat fresh local food after. For local craft beer, then head to West Cork Brewery.

Green Outdoor Spaces, Conservation, or Wildlife

Sherkin Island This wild green island is just off the coast of Baltimore. For a few Euros hop on the ferry and ride over to the island. During the offseason, it was just us and some locals who lived on the island, which allowed us to connect with the locals. On the island, you can walk to horseshoe bay and then onto Silverstrand beach. Bring good walking shoes, as the path is uneven and a bit in the wilderness. The beach is simply stunning, and you’ll feel as if you’ve been transported to a tropical paradise. 

Sherkin Island Baltimore Ireland

Baltimore Whale Watching Baltimore is a popular spot for whale watching during peak seasons. Most of the companies that operate seem to be ethical. Still, Baltimore Sea Safari collects data to help universities and research groups collect information on sea life in the area, which is an added perk!

Local Hidden Gems

Beacon at sunset No matter what you are doing in Baltimore, as the sun begins to set, you need to hightail to the Beacon. You can either walk or drive most of the way and park, but you will need to scramble up the cliffside for this incredible experience. Watch the sky turn purple and Fuschia as the moon comes out, and the sun goes down. It’s windy and takes effort to get to, but it’s definitely worth it – so bring your camera. 

Stop 5: Beara Peninsula

There are so many ways to support responsible travel in the Beara Peninsula it will be hard not to travel this area unsustainably unless you’re on a big tour bus. Drive slow and take your time in this hidden gem as an alternative to the famous Ring of Kerry.

Heritage and Culture

Allihies Copper Mineshaft & Museum. The Allihies area is known historically for its copper mining. To learn about history, stop by the museum. Afterward, take a small hike out to the mineshaft for context. The mineshaft, while blocked from entry, overlooks the Allihies area and is a cold-looking stone ruin. 

Stone Circles The Beara Peninsula is home to several stone circles, notably the Uragh and Ardgroom stone circles. The Uragh is possibly easier to access by road, but it is quite small, and there is a 4 Euro charge to see it. The lake setting is lovely, though. The Ardgroom is a bit of an adventure from the car park you will need to walk about 10 minutes through mucky boggy land, so bring water boots, and you will also need to climb over a sheep ladder. However, once you are there, the view is gorgeous. 

Ardgroom Stone Circle Ireland

Local Businesses

The Beara Peninsula has lots of beautiful local art galleries, and unique local gift stores to support. Check out Sarah Walker Art Gallery and Adrigole Arts for plenty of meaningful goodies to take home. 

Local B&B

Staying in Castletown-Bearhaven for the night is a great option, and there are plenty of locally owned B&Bs to choose from, so pick one that looks cozy like Brook Haven and settle in as a home base on the Beara Peninsula.

Farm to Table, Local Restaurants & Pubs

As we were leaving the Peninsula, we stopped at Teddy O’ Sullivans for lunch, and it was such a fantastic experience. The tiny restaurant along the coast was packed full of charming locals. When we sat down to try the open-face crab sandwich and Murphys, the bar owners – two sisters, and restaurant patrons chatted us up talking about local interests and the weather. 

In Castletown-Bearhaven, our local guides and friends over at Traverse Journeys recommend eating at Breen’s Lobster Bar or the top-notch Ocean-Wild.

Green Outdoor Spaces, Conservation, or Wildlife

As soon as you drive up to Gleninchaquin Park, your jaw will drop. This stunning park is such a local hidden gem. A Small entrance into the park gives you access to a sprawling outdoor space. If you’re up for a hike, you can hike up and over the waterfall in about 45 minutes. If you have kids or less mobility, explore the water trail or the heritage site. Exploring this park was one of the best things I did in Ireland, and there was literally no one elsewhere in the shoulder season. 

Gleninchiquin Park Ireland

Local Hidden Gems

If you enjoy quiet breaks during your travels then take some time to visit the Dzogchen Beara Buddhist Temple, this hidden meditation retreat is a vegan cafe with a meditation garden open to the public. After grabbing vegan coffee and cake head down to the garden, high up on the cliffs, you can peacefully reflect on the crashing of the waves.

The colorful town of Allihies is also a total local hidden gem. Take some time to explore the local rainbow street and appreciate the amount of effort the locals put into the tiny village. 

After spending some time on the Beara Peninsula, you can exit Teddy O’ Sullivans and Gleninchaquin Park through the Healy Pass. Less famous than the coastal route, this drive cuts through the highlands for a completely different look at the Wild Atlantic Way, with less traffic and more views – you can’t go wrong. 

Dzogchen Beara Buddhist Temple

Stop 6: Ring of Kerry

The Ring of Kerry is one of the most popular parts of the Wild Atlantic Way, so if you don’t like crowds, then you can avoid the area, however, there are ways to minimize the crowds by traveling shoulder season and finding some hidden gems. 

Heritage and Culture

Inside Killarney National Park is Muckross Abbey, often overlooked compared to Muckross House, this is a great way to explore a secluded site. The Abbey is massive, and you are free to wander inside the old hallways and under the archways. In the middle of the Abbey is an ancient Yule Tree with a twisted and knotted trunk in a magical-looking courtyard. Ross Castle is a historically accurate castle. Book your tickets to explore the castle with a guide, learning about what life was like in Medieval Ireland.

Local Businesses

My local friend living in Killarney recommends you stop by and check out Murphys Bar, which has been family-owned since 1955. While quite popular among tourists, Mucros Weavers are still locally Irish with tons of stylish wool products to keep you warm and cozy during your time in Ireland and back home. 

Eco B&B

My lovely friend Alex and her Irish partner own Slieve Bloom Manor and Eco-Friendly B&B in the heart of Killarney. They are both committed to sustainability and conscious business practices, so you know you’re reducing your impact by booking accommodation with them. They also created The Killarney App, which you can download for plenty of local things to do in Killarney. 

Green Outdoor Spaces, Conservation, or Wildlife

Killarney National Park is a lush green space, but it is pretty crowded and popular, so a quick walk to Torc Waterfall will give you a taste for the area. To get away from the tourist hot spots, book a tour with a family-owned Gap of Dunloe Traditional Boat Tours to explore the park from Lough Leane.

Torc Waterfall Killarney National Park

Torc Waterfall in Killarney

Local Hidden Gems

If you prefer to get away from Killarney, then cozy up in Sneem booking accommodation at Bank House B&B and explore the Sneem Sculpture Park. 

Stop 7: Dingle Peninsula

The Dingle Peninsula is one of the best parts of the Wild Atlantic Way, and there are plenty of great opportunities to support responsible travel in the area, including some great cultural experiences and stunning nature. 

Heritage and Culture

The Dingle Peninsula is teeming with cultural experiences. Stop by and see the Dingle Sheepdog Demonstrations to meet a local Irish Farmer and learn about the past, present, and future of sheep farmers and their working dogs. On-site there is also a small museum about the Irish Famine. 

You can visit traditional Irish Beehive Houses along the Dingle Peninsula. For a few Euros, you can walk around exploring brick ruins. The area is quite small, but it is one of the better-constructed beehive houses in the area. 

If you appreciate an excellent museum, then head to the Blasket Centre / Ionad an Bhlascaoid Mhóir. The museum covers topics of Blasket Island life, farming, culture, language, history, and more. Plus, there is an excellent view of the ocean from their lawn. 

Ireland Sheep Dog demonstrations

Local Businesses

On your way to Clogher Head Strand, stop at Louis Mulcahy Pottery for a charming pottery and gift store with a cafe overlooking the ocean. The entire upstairs has plenty of unique Ireland-inspired statement pottery that is just begging you to take them home. 

If you are a fan of spirits, then take a tour of Dingle Distillery. Hand bottled and labeled this small local business is creating top-notch spirits, and their tour is detailed and filled with plenty of booze samples. 

Local  B&B

An Portan B&B is the perfect rustic, remote cottage by the sea. The wonderful hosts are down to earth and love sharing their love for the Dingle Peninsula.

Farm to Table, Local Restaurants & Pubs

Global Village Restaurant is probably one of the most eco-friendly restaurants around. With fish sourced directly from Dingle fishers, with vegetables for their vegan dishes grown on a Dingle hillside, and with meat from Dingle farmers, all the food is local and fresh. 

For a great night out in Dingle, then don’t miss local pubs and favorites Foxy John’s and Dick Macks. For an authentic experience, head to the Tig Bhric & West Kerry Brewery for a local night of Trad music, craft beers, and friendly locals.

Green Outdoor Spaces, Conservation, or Wildlife

Exploring the outer reaches of the Dingle Peninsula means there are plenty of opportunities for lush green coastal walks. Park at the Clogher Head Strand and from the beach, head along a path that takes you around Clogher Head. The trail is refreshing and not very crowded. Sea mist will kiss your cheeks, and wind will whip your hair as waves crash along the cliffs. Another chance to get a brisk walk in is the Dunmore Head, which is the westernmost point of mainland Ireland. You can hike up and over the cliffside to reach the end. Lots of cars might fill the parking lot, but as soon as you start the journey up the hill, the crowds clear out a wee bit. 

For wildlife viewing, book an adventure with the Blasket Islands Eco Marine Tours, for ethical bird viewing, whale watching, and more. They are a member of the International Ecotourism Society and have won awards for their ethical adventures

Slea Head Drive, Dingle, Ireland

Off the Beaten Path

To escape the crowds, book a trip out to the Blasket Islands on the shoulder season to have the island nearly to yourself. The island is uninhabited, but teeming with wildlife, hiking, and natural highlights. 

As you drive down the unpaved and uneven road to Minard Castle, you might wonder where on earth you are going. Then you see this local hidden gem of a castle, and chances are if you’re on the offseason, you will have this place to yourself for epic photos and exploration. 

Minard Castle Ireland

Stop 8: Cliffs of Moher and Buuren

Heritage and Culture

The great thing about the Cliffs of Moher is there are some magnificent castles and historical sights along the cliffs. Don’t miss Doonagore Castle, O’Brien’s Tower, and Moher Tower. 

The Aran Islands have rich Christian and Celtic Heritage and are worth visiting for anyone who wants to see the remote and isolated churches or fort ruins, cross markers, and more. These islands have the bonus of impressive natural and wildlife highlights, including seal colonies, puffing holes, and other geological features. Staying on the islands is the perfect way to combine culture and nature. 

Local B&B

You’ll want to stay just outside Lahinch for a quiet escape and scenic views. Both the Wild Atlantic Lodge or Cragshore B&B aråe great authentic options with lovely hosts. 

Farm to Table, Local Restaurants & Pubs

Don’t miss local favorite Kenny’s Bar for a night out in a traditional pub. 

Green Outdoor Spaces, Conservation, or Wildlife

Just outside of the Buuren is Irish Seed Savers. This seed saving bank and biodiversity conservation group are open for visitors and would love to give you a tour, sell you heritage seeds, or share some fresh-pressed apple juice. Read more Irish Seed Savers.

Wild Kitchen foraging walks are a great way to learn about local food sources in the Buuren, including wild seafood. Learn from a local about how to collect and harvest seaweed and then enjoy a picnic with local flavors and foods!

Irish Seed Savers

Off the Beaten Path

While the Cliffs of Moher Geopark might be one of the most popular places in Ireland, avoid the crowds and take off in the evening starting from the Coastal Walking Trail, which is a local hidden gem. Take your time to meander toward the visitor center around sunset. Make sure you have a way to travel back in the evening if you stay out late IE a flashlight.  For a great view from the beach, don’t miss Spanish Point. 

Cliffs of moher Ireland

Stop 10: Stay Green in Galway

Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to make it up to Galway, but if you have a few additional days, then head up to this fantastic eco-gem. Galway was named Europe’s Sustainable City, so head over to This is Galway, for loads of ethical and responsible trips for visiting Galway.

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