Behind the scenes of the Wild Atlantic Way
The Wild Atlantic Way has inspired many but for a few it has become a beautiful obsession. We take you behind the scenes of the WAW with landscape photographer and illustrated book author, Stefan Schnebelt.
German photographer, Stefan Schnebelt, first visited the Emerald Isle in the early 90’s and the impressions stuck with him. Combining unrivalled landscape and a skilled use of the lens, Stefan’s work has converted into countless magazine features, both on paper and in online publications and his very own illustrative book. We asked Stefan what makes the Wild Atlantic Way so unique and captivating.
Creating the route
In 2013, the Irish tourist board ‘Failte Ireland’ came up with an idea to promote the continuous route along the coast of Ireland. Roads were improved and official stops created.
“The route itself has always been there – but now it’s got a name: the Wild Atlantic Way”.
An important part of the marketing has included the website, www.thewildatlanticway.com, driven and created by Stefan. With an astounding collection of his photos, lovely graphics and a vast amount of handy information, it captures the best of Ireland’s west coast.
“Along the west coast, there are many impressive natural wonders to witness, such as dramatic cliff faces, majestic sea arches, lonely beaches, and much more. There is no way of telling what kind of weather you will face. This ever-changing weather provides a permanent change of light. This is why this area is so perfect and unique for photography. What I also like far out in the west is that the clocks seem to tick a bit slower here than other places. People are very relaxed and always seem to have time for a chat”.
Memorable moments and favourite places
Many choose to visit certain parts, whilst others prefer to travel the entire route. No matter what you choose, you will be sure to see spectacular nature and will feel the need to come back and explore even more. Stefan has travelled the Irish coast several times and never seems to tire of it:
“I travelled the whole Wild Atlantic Way many times even before it got its name. I have no single favourite part but I have returned to Valentia Island in County Kerry, and Malin Head in County Donegal, many times. What these places have in common is their unspoiled nature, breathtaking views and peaceful tranquillity”.
The odds are that you will find your own little paradise while travelling the narrow roads along the coast. Make sure to bring your camera and proper rations, so you can lose yourself in the immensity of this breathtaking nature. Even though Stefan has travelled the area several times, some memories stick out:
“Some of my most memorable moments are the trips to Skellig Michael and Tory Island. Both islands are raw beauties shaped by the Atlantic. On Tory, it feels like nothing changed very much over the last 100 years. Skellig Michael is completely different from Tory as it is uninhabited. On the very top of this “most fantastic and impossible rock in the world“, as once described by George Bernard Shaw, you will find the remains of an old monastery from the 7th century”.
Stefan’s most recent trip was early this summer. Once again, he embarked on a journey along the entire stretch. His main objective was to get the final images for his illustrative book, which was published in September. He returned home with more than 4000 pictures taken over a three-week period. Once one project has been finalized, the focus seems to shift to the next.
Stefan’s top five highlights
Being a true expert and nature aficionado, we asked Stefan to present us with his all-time top five list of the Wild Atlantic Way.
“Only five? Are you kidding?”
- Malin Head: The most northern part of the Irish mainland, a rugged place inhabited by very few people
- Cliffs of Kilkee: The cliffs are located approximately 40 kilometres south of the well-known Cliffs of Moher. No visitor’s centre and no barriers – only you and wild, unspoiled nature.
- Slea Head Drive: The scenic drive that takes you along the westerly parts of the Dingle Peninsula. Witness the baffling coastal scenery.
- Archill Island: This is Ireland’s largest island, connected to the mainland by bridge. The island is blessed with beautiful and serene beaches, the highest cliffs of Ireland and several mountains.
- Mizen Peninsula: a pocket sized Ireland you need to explore”
Stefan recommends using smaller vehicles on your discovery of the Irish coast to navigate the narrow, winding roads. Some parts are best experienced on foot to get the superior views and even closer to the nature. Step out of the car and feel the strong winds and salty coastal air in your lungs. The views are sure to help you reenergize and appreciate the fantastic simplicity, and at the same time, the powers of nature’s force.
Bring a map and create your own adventure
Many of the road signs along the route will be in both Irish Gaelic and English. A good tip if you are planning to visit the Wild Atlantic Way is to bring a road map to avoid confusion. Along the way, a total of 150 discovery and 15 signature points mark the route. Stefan recommends using these as a starting point for your trip. However, keep in mind that there are so many things to see along the way, not yet signposted, that are also worth your time.
Relive your finest memories
If you just cannot get enough of the scenery, Stefan’s book is sure to bring back your treasured memories. Over 300 spectacular images will take you back to the Emerald Isle in a wonderful mixture of well-known highlights and hidden gems off the beaten track. After two and a half years of rewarding hard work, the book has now been published and you can find it here.
Ireland’s coast is, as you can see, definitely worth a visit! Find your map and start planning your special route. Remember when making your way through Country Clare to book your stay at the Park Inn by Radisson, Shannon Airport.
All photos taken by © Stefan Schnebelt