Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way: The Truman Show

Lord Mountbatten's erstwhile summer home in Sligo could fit right into a storybook
Photographer: VINOBHA NATHAN

Explore the breathtakingly beautiful Irish countryside along the Wild Atlantic Way, on Ireland’s west coast. Cycle through pastures, hike up holy mountains, or just sit back with a glass of craft beer, looking out over the majestic Atlantic


It’s been a few months since I got back from the Republic of Ireland. I’ve got photographs as proof, but, even as I write this, I’m still unsure if I was actually, physically, there. And I’ve got good reason to be sceptical. Nothing that perfect can be real. Sure, Europe in general is spectacular, but Ireland? Ireland is something else!

I think the whole thing might have been an extremely elaborate set for The Truman Show; CGI in real life, or something like that. How can anything be so damn good? The weather was perfect, the people were genuinely friendly, the beer was delicious, the meat exquisite. Even the butter was the best I’ve ever had. And the countryside? Oh man! The countryside was magnificent.

I can almost hear you guys saying, “What was that you said about the weather? Perfect, is it?” Yes, it was.

It was overcast for about an hour out predicted it. Like all Irish folk, it seems of Dublin, and it rained for 15 minutes on day two. That’s it. Other than that, it was just glorious sunshine. An Indian summer, they were calling it. And that was when I started getting suspicious. It didn’t strike me as odd that every town and village in the countryside looked like it had just jumped straight out of a fairytale. I didn’t find it peculiar that Irish donkeys don’t do any farm worm work anymore, but they’re still cared for and loved in the sole capacity of pets. And I hadn’t even realised that my route along the Wild Atlantic Way, a breathtaking road along Ireland’s western coast, conveniently allowed us to sample the wares of some of the finest craft breweries in Ireland – till I was back home poring over route maps. Christof, The Truman Show’s ‘man on the moon’, did well, but he overcooked it with the weather. Considering that this Christof was, in all probability, Irish, I could have predicted it. Like all Irish folk, it seems like he wanted me to really like his country. It’s a strange trait I’ve noticed in the Irish; something very remotely resembling the sheepishness of post-Nazi Germans.

Sure, the IRA didn’t do the tourism industry any favours. But the free Republic of Ireland, even sans the violence, is still bearing the brunt of a tourist version of PTSD. Which is a shame, because it’s a magical land that offers a totally unreal experience. Perhaps it’s a small-country thing. Perhaps it’s a ruled-by-the-British-until-recently thing. Or maybe the Irish are just as nice as they’re reputed to be. “The friendliest people in the world,” a friend of mine calls them. And now that I’ve been there myself, I agree.

I can’t vouch for the city slickers, though. You see, the most fantastic part of my trip was that I didn’t spend a single day in the city! Not even half of one, for that matter.

We’d flown to Dublin on the east coast, from where John Carew, our local expert, had picked us up, and driven us right across the breadth of the country, all the way to the west coast. And, in the days to come, up north through the countryside, all along the jagged Irish coastline. Anywhere you go in the world, the countryside is almost always a great place to be, but Ireland takes it to a different level. Miles and miles of gently rolling hills, fat cows in pastures, gurgling brooks, and towns so pretty that my eyes hurt. And all the places we went to had such enchanting names, too. Westport was perhaps the only one that I could pronounce. Then, it was Mullrany, Sliabh Mór, Strandhill, Drumcliffe, Sliabh Liag, Dunfanaghy, Rathmullan… And I haven’t told you about half of them!

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