Top 10 Irish Drives: The best scenic road trips in Ireland
Ireland is full of epic landscapes and coastal views, offering a variety of driving routes available all over the country. Here’s 10 of our favourites:
1. Wind through the Wicklow Mountains
Dubliners needn’t cross the country for a scenic drive. Start your trip in the capital city and watch as the grey turns to green and rural countryside as you get closer to the Wicklow Mountains and the source of the River Liffey.
Take a picnic stop at Powerscourt Waterfall and stretch your legs for the view at Sally Gap's pass, just 45 minutes from Dundrum Town Centre, and have a coffee in the cute village of Laragh. St Kevin's monastery is the perfect stop off before reaching Portlaoise.
2. Cruise along the Causeway Coast
Michael Palin once dubbed the train ride from L/Derry to Coleraine as one of the most beautiful on earth, and the drive is right up there too. Drive along the ancient coastline and take in the sights of the world famous Gaint’s Causeway, the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and the ruins of medieval Dunluce Castle. Home to more locations from the Seven Kingdoms than anywhere else in the world, Northern Ireland truly is Game of Thrones Territory, with locations from the HBO series ranging from Ballintoy Harbour to Portstewart Strand.
3. The Ring of Kerry
Beginning and ending in Killarney, the Ring of Kerry is a world-class touring route. A perfect combination of ocean, islands, mountains towns and villages makes it an exciting journey with new sights around every corner. It’s a road trip that ranks right up with the most magical in Ireland.
4. Boyne Valley Scenic Loop
Think of the Boyne Valley, and history springs to mind. This journey through the Royal County is packed with glorious green views and ancient monuments; from Newgrange to the Hill of Tara and St. Peters Church which contains the real head of Oliver Plunket, an Irish saint from the 1600s. Other top stops along the route include Knowth and Dowth burial mounds from the Brú Na Bóinne Visitor Centre, the Battle of The Boyne site, Trim Castle (of Braveheart fame) and Slane Castle.
5. The Burren Loop
Cruise around the Burren National Park, a Unesco World Heritage Site and one of the most dramatic and unique landscapes in the world. This huge limestone landscape in County Clare was characterised by Irish poet Seamus Heaney as a sort of “holiday postcard.” It is a place full of wonder, offering a wide range of flora and fauna that are an Instagram delight.
6. Poetry in Yeats Country and Lough Gill
Glencar Waterfall is situated near Glencar Lake, 11 kilometres west of Manorhamilton in County Leitrim. Along with the awesome table-top like Benbulben Mountain, Glencar Waterfall is perhaps the most recognisable natural wonder from the poems of W.B Yeats. It is particularly impressive after rain and dunks 50 feet or so down into a horseshoe-shaped pool. Benbulben, overlooking Sligo Bay, is another showstopper. Carved by moving glaciers, it's one of the Wild Atlantic Way's most distinctive landmarks, though not the place for a casual climb. Just a short drive away, Yeats himself lies buried in the small cemetery at Drumcliff. It’s hard to believe such a variety of National Geographic-standard views exist within just a few dozen kilometers.
7. Connemara’s Sky Road and Omey Island
Explore the rugged West as you drive through sheep-flecked Connemara, making sure you stop in the seaside village of Clifden for tea before taking the famous 'Sky Road' for ultimate scenic views. Irish drives don’t come sweeter - with views ranging from Inishturk offshore to the Twelve Bens inland. It’s doable as a cycle, but driving allows you to swing north when you re-emerge onto the N59, before turning left towards Claddaghduff and proceeding towards the jewel in the Aughrus Peninsula’s crown: Omey Island.
8. Go far out on the Fanad Peninsula
Donegal provides any number of scenic drives, from Slieve League to Star Wars locations on the Inishowen 100. The Fanad peninsula has a little bit of everything, however — and arguably the county’s best beach at Portsalon. Taken as a loop from Letterkenny, drive north on the R246, stopping at Fanad Head before returning south via the Knockalla Coast Road to Rathmullan. The views over Ballymastocker Bay are breathtaking here —it’s the perfect stop for a swim, too.
9. Glengesh Pass to Cliffs of Moher
With incredible sights at both the beginning and end of this drive, start off in Donegal and drive the winding roads through the striking valley of Glengesh Pass. Continue south through Sligo and Galway, getting out to stretch your legs in Father Ted's house near the match-making village of Lisdoonvarna before you arrive at your destination: the spectacular Cliffs of Moher. Towering 214mtrs (660ft) above the sea at their highest point, they stretch for 8km along the coastline. The Aran Islands and even the north coast of Galway Bay can be seen from them.
10. Wild Atlantic Way
The Wild Atlantic Way is the worlds longest signed coastal drive at more than 2500km. It winds along Ireland rural coast roads from Kinsale Co. Cork in the south to Inishowen, Co Donegal in the north also taking in the rugged coastlines of counties Kerry, Limerick, Clare, Galway, Mayo, Sligo and Leitrim along the way.
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