With St Patrick’s Day on the horizon we’re getting into the Irish spirit in the Your Golf Travel office and with the Emerald Isle being a bona fide Mecca for golf enthusiasts, there is certainly no shortage of courses to choose from and places to visit along the way.
With this abundance of golfing, cultural and historic attractions in mind, not to mention some of the most captivating scenery imaginable and the legendary Irish hospitality to boot, choosing where to go on your next Irish golf holiday can sometimes be a bit of a tricky task but with the Wild Atlantic Way awaiting your arrival, heading west ensures world class golf and plenty of amazing sights and sounds between some truly epic rounds.
The Wild Atlantic Way – the longest defined coastal driving route in the world – is Europe’s final frontier before the mighty Atlantic stretches out towards the USA. Wild, rugged and unspoiled, this amazing stretch of the Irish coastline offers those visiting the Emerald Isle the chance to enjoy a seemingly never ending journey of discovery and some world class golf along the way.
Some of the amazing sights and sounds of The Wild Atlantic Way
Stretching over 1,500 miles from the Inishowen Peninsula in County Donegal to Kinsale in County Cork, there is something for everyone both on and off the golf course and while we’d all love to drop everything, pack the clubs away in the car and head of on a golfing odyssey of epic proportions, stopping at every course between the Old Head Golf Links and Ballyliffin, for most of us, that’s just not going to happen.
However with a number of famous golfing hotspots dotted the whole way up Ireland’s west coast, there’s nothing stopping us golfers from exploring the Wild Atlantic Way…if only a little bit at a time. With that in mind, we’ve split the journey up into three stages and will highlight a few points of interest along the way as well as the golf courses to look out for on your journey…
Stage 1 – Ballyliffin to Rosses Point
The most northerly point in Ireland, Malin Head, marks the starting point of the Wild Atlantic Way and the beginning of the first of the golf friendly stages of this amazing stretch of coastline. Waves crashing in from the Atlantic have carved deep crevices – Hell’s Hole is a particularly spectacular one – into this rugged headland and it is here that countless bird flock to, riding the firm Atlantic winds towards the peninsula’s tip, known as Banba’s Crown. Here you can warm up for the first leg of your golfing odyssey by hooking up with Cycle Inishowen and taking a 45 minute bike ride, learning about the area’s wildlife, geology and history along the way. Now for some golf…
Located half an hour’s drive from Malin Head, Ballyliffin Golf Club, which lies just off Tullagh Point on the Atlantic edge of the Inishowen Peninsula, is often described as “the Ballybunion of the North” or “the Dornoch of Ireland”, high praise indeed! With two thoroughbred links courses – The Old Course and the monstrous Glashedy Links – on offer here, Ballyliffin is the perfect place for golfers to get in tune with the demands of links golf on the untamed west coast of Ireland.
Ballyliffin Golf Club
Onwards and…um…downwards along the Wild Atlantic way towards what became the largest single golf resort in Ireland in late 2012. Before we get there however, making your way down the Knockalla Coast Road is simply a must.
As the road ascends you are greeted at the top by one of the most breathtaking views in Ireland; be sure to have the camera primed and ready to go! With views out over Portsalon, home to another excellent golf course, as well as Ballymastocker Bay, home to what was voted the 2nd most beautiful beach in the world in the not too distant past, this section of your road trip along the Wild Atlantic Way should prove to be unforgettable.
Edge your way west towards Sheephaven Bay and you’ll inch closer towards Rosapenna.
This magnificent golf resort already boasted 45 holes when it acquired a further 370 acres and 36 holes formerly known as St. Patricks Golf Links. 81 holes should be enough to keep even the most ardent of links lovers busy for a few days, especially considering 18 of those make up arguably the most difficult course in Ireland. Pat Ruddy’s Sandy Hills Course is a monstrous tournament course that scythes through the enormous dunes of the incredible landscape that so captivated Old Tom Morris over a century ago.
Rosapenna Golf Club
Driving further south and tracking the coastline will bring you past Sliabh Liag which are among the highest cliffs in Ireland and it is here that you’ll enjoy some of the most spectacular panoramic views on your journey.
Alternatively, if you spent enough time in the company of Mother Nature and just fancy cosying up to a pint of Guinness in a traditional Irish pub, head directly south from Rosapenna towards Letterkenny. Here you’re sure to find something to suit your taste, whether you’re looking to enjoy a hearty meal and a nightcap in the form of an Irish Whiskey or indeed a night of Irish revelry and a few pints of Guinness!
After you’ve shaken off the cobwebs, make a beeline towards Donegal and the Murvagh Peninsula which juts out into Donegal Bay. Here lies a course that has enjoyed the privilege of having two of Ireland’s most influential course designers – Eddie Hackett and Pat Ruddy – sprinkle their magic dust on it; this stop off is a must for the ardent golfer. Following Ruddy’s more recent work; Donegal Golf Club is now a thoroughbred championship test. A word of warning: pack some tissues in your golf bag as the par 3 5th, aptly named “Valley of Tears” could well have you weeping should you miss the green to the right!
Donegal Golf Club
Another 35 miles down the Wild Atlantic Way, situated in the heart of Yeats country (W.B.Yeats won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923, becoming the first Irishman to do so), Rosses Point offers some of the most picturesque coastal views of any golf course in Ireland.
The Darty Mountains and the famous Benbulben (Sligo’s limestone “Table Mountain”) loom large on one side of the course and The Ox Mountains can be seen further to the south, providing an epic backdrop while Drumcliffe Bay sweeps its way around the golf course; the view from the 2nd tee in particular is truly breathtaking…in a more literal sense, so is the climb up the short par 4 2nd to reach it!
County Sligo Golf Club
While Rosses Point is undoubtedly the highlight of County Sligo for golfers, Sligo itself, the cultural centre of Ireland’s Border Region, is a great place to sign off on this leg of the Wild Atlantic Way. Head to The Belfry Bar for award winning bar food, Fiddler’s Creek for live music or Kennedy’s Bar to enjoy some old worldly charm. With countless other sights and sounds to explore in Sligo, spending a couple of days winding down after your journey of exploration down Stage 1 of the Wild Atlantic Way is the perfect way to sign off on your Irish golfing odyssey.
We’re sure that Stage 1 of the Wild Atlantic Way already has your mind drifting to your next Irish Golf Holiday but be sure to keep your eyes peeled for Stage 2 where golfing titans such as Ballybunion and Doonbeg await your arrival.