This walks starts in the little village of Carrowteige and takes in part of the Children of Lir Loop and almost all of the Benwee Head Loop to pass over the impressive cliffs around Carrowteige and Portacloy. I based the route initially on the cliffs walk in Lonely Planet's Hiking in Ireland, but deviated slightly from it.
I took the main road from the trailhead in the one-shop village of Carrowtiege and, instead of following the waymarkers, followed the main road for 2 km to a T-junction and there took a bog track leading straight down to the cliffs. Here I joined up with the Children of Lir Loop, which stays close to the cliff edge, providing great walking. Once past the Children of Lir sculpture, the Lir loop heads back inland, but I followed the obvious upward track towards Benwee Head, the highest point of the walk.
By now I was following the Benwee loop in reverse, encountering blank trail posts that were arrowed on the other side. The route is obvious anyway, as the only way is up. On the ascent of Benwee it is harder to stay close to the cliff edge. Unlike the previous cliffs, there is a fence along Benwee Head which, if not crossed, limits the view on this part of the walk. I crossed it at the summit in order to make sure I had bagged it and stayed on that side for the initial descent, visiting a couple more easy headlands with super perspectives on the cliffs and the Stags of Broadhaven offshore.
The harbour village of Portacloy comes into view after Benwee making the route ahead again obvious. There are a few more headlands that can be visited on the way down, a couple of them involving knife-edge traverses and inaccessible to the mere walker, but nice to look at. Finally, there is a lower headland, not listed as a summit on MV, with the EIRE 63 sign and lookout tower, known as Teachin a’ Watch, as a local woman told me, and worth the short detour out.
Then it is down to Portacloy and onto the road, keeping right at a junction. A steady climb and the road gives way to a good track. I missed a turn-off to the left 1 km along the track, a fiendish one as it leads onto a barely perceptible path while the rocky track continues on in an authoritative manner. The marker post was, from this side, unobtrusive and plain black so it was 1 km on, as the track began to peter out, that I realised I had missed something and got out Google Maps to locate myself and then the loop map to work out where I should be. 1 km of retraced steps and I was back to the missed turn-off where, in between recriminating myself for my subpar eyesight and lack of observation skills, I wondered why these trails are rarely if ever made in such a way as to be easily followed in either direction.
The last few kms from Portacloy to Carrowteige involve standard boggy surrounds but the 10 km of cliff-top rambling beforehand is more than enough for a very memorable walk. The stretch on the Children of Lir Loop is perhaps even better than the Benwee Head Loop, because it is perhaps better to look at Benwee Head than from it and also because of the fencing at the summit of Benwee, but it is all good.
The route also seemed on this sunny midweek June evening to be much quieter than walks of comparable quality elsewhere on the Wild Atlantic Way and by much quieter I mean I didn't see a single person on the cliffs all evening, just a couple parked at the Lir sculpture and a man footing turf near Alt Breac.