Exploring Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way

17th April 2016

Early in 2015 I got an email from David Flanagan (Three Rock Books) asking if I was interested in helping him write a guidebook for the Wild Atlantic Way. I knew Dave mostly through email - by then he had written three climbing guidebooks, one of which was in its second edition and all of which had been nominated for the Banff Mountain Book Competition (an international event and a big deal in the climbing world). Though we had only met each other once we had exchanged countless emails, swapping climbing information and photos for his previous books. The idea appealed to me and, even more importantly, I trusted Dave's ability to get stuff done. I really like his climbing guides, and having helped him with small sections of some of them I knew he was easy to work with and good at what he does. Which was important, as he was in charge of putting this new book together. While I had input into everything that happened, Dave was the one creating the file that would be sent for printing. If it was the other way around then we'd probably still be nowhere near finished.

The Wild Atlantic Way brand is a recent creation, but the content has been there for a long, long time. It's an area that has appealed to me since I was young. I'm a tourist in my own country, with far more interest in getting to know the west coast of Ireland than in traveling to the other side of the world to somewhere exotic. I like to feel connected to a place, and fleeting visits to other countries don't really give me that. There's an amazing variety of landscapes, stories, wildlife, weather, accents, attitudes and history from Cork to Donegal, far more than anybody can get to know well in a single lifetime. The creation of the Wild Atlantic Way was a wonderful thing because it helps draw attention away from all the usual hotspots and make people aware that the entire west coast is about far more than The Cliffs of Moher and The Ring of Kerry. There are places worth seeing in every corner of the country, no matter what kind of holiday you're after. We wanted to show people that.

Most travel guides are heavy on text. Working from a template that was created before the internet age, there's a general trend for long lists of everything for fear of leaving something out. But these days most people who can afford to travel probably have a phone in their pocket that they can use to get online. Nobody gets all their information from one source anymore. So there's an argument to be made for ditching the older style of travel guides and trying to create something a bit more visually appealing. If a picture says a thousand words then it only makes sense to let the photos do the talking. I know from personal experience that seeing a striking image of a place is far more likely to make me want to go there than a short line of text is. We wanted to create a book that would make people excited about travelling to the west of Ireland and inspire them to get outside and take it all in, not a book that read like a telephone directory and wasn't beautiful in its own right. Of course it had to be functional. After all, this wasn't meant to be a coffee table book. It's designed for people who want to plan a trip along the Wild Atlantic Way. And I believe it does that better for the photographs than it could without them.

Although the process lasted a few months longer than we had originally planned it was pretty smooth sailing overall. In the weeks that followed it going to the printers I had a big guidebook shaped hole in my life. You often hear about things like this being a nightmare. I can't speak for Dave but it was pretty fun for me (admittedly I did have it easier than him). Between traveling along the route, writing it up and sorting through the photographs there was little not to like, and a hell of a lot learned. I hope the next book is as enjoyable.

It's impossible to be objective about something you've been so involved in. I think it's great. I don't want to sound cocky - I just wouldn't have been happy to let it go to completion if I wasn't satisfied with it. Hopefully some other people will like it too. If it gets people to head west then I think the places themselves will do the rest.

Thanks to Dave for getting me involved, and to everybody who helped along the way. If you'd like to get yourself a copy you can find it in the shop.


Photo comment By Jim Gibson: Lifted this book up , in a shop in belfast & cud'nt put it down ! Photo's are amazing. I now want to go see these beautiful places , if i can coax my wife , to come with me ! ...if not, I may have to go without her. I want to do a little more walking , a little more cycling, & maybe a wee cosy dram or two , in between. N.Ireland has some beautiful places too , the mournes , the giant's causeway , the fermanagh lakes , all of which I have visited many times over the years, but I always knew there were fantastic places in Southern Ireland , & your book proves that to be true , so many times over. ( that pic of two walkers , lying peering over the cliffs of moher , is just awesome ) . I must confess , I didn't buy the book from the shop that day , I cudnt see the price on it & I only had a small amount of on me , but rest-assured , i will be purchasing the book very soon , before choosing from it , my 1st visit to part of The Wild Atlantic Way . Thanks for the inspiration & I look forward to seeing these wonderful places , with my/our own eyes.

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