Five must-do Irish road trips
The scenic beauty of Ireland makes it the ideal country to explore by car, especially when the weather is in your favour. But which drives are the best? We’ve picked out five of our favouritesso all that’s left is to load up the car and hit the road.
1. The Ring of Kerry
Yes, the Ring of Kerry is very much a tourist spot, but like most tourist spots around the world, they’re popular with visitors for a good reason. Holiday-makers and locals alike flock to this idyllic South West pocket of Ireland, and this route in particular, to take in the breath-taking scenery that could be mistaken in parts for a ‘Lord of the Rings’ filming location.
You can complete the ‘loop’ in a day (it’s 179km round trip) but that would be a waste. Make a weekend of it and visit the numerous places of interest located along the route. Highlights include Skellig Michael, a monastic site sat atop a rock in the middle of the Atlantic, The Gap of Dunloe, a narrow mountain pass forged by glacial flows, and the beautiful and expansive sandy beach in Derrynane Bay.
2. The Inishowen 100
Named as such due to the number of miles this coastal circuit stretches, this drive takes in the stunning peninsula of Inishowen in north Donegal and will take you right up to Malin Head, Ireland’s most northerly point. Unlike the Ring of Kerry, they actually did shoot a blockbuster movie here, no other than a recent instalment in the ‘Star Wars’ saga in 2016.
There are scenic highlights dotted all along the rugged coastline, mixed with ancient sites and sleepy villages. Think you’re a useful driver? Well, roads like the Gap of Mamore will test your driving skills, with its sharp corners separating the men from the boys (and girls!). Much quieter than your usual tourist hotspots, Inishowen is populated with gorgeous beaches that are often deserted, so you won’t have to worry about finding a nice spot to relax.
3. The Sky Road, Clifden
Clifden is the capital of Connemara, situated on the west coast of Ireland and located on The Owenglin River which flows into Clifden Bay. The Sky Road itself will take you on a tour of some of the best parts of Connemara, culminating in an ascent that offers epic panoramic views of Clifden Bay and its many islands. The drive is a short one but well worth doing.
Besides stopping along the way to take enough snaps to fill your entire memory card, be sure to visit Clifden Town itself, the gothic manor house Clifden Castle that was once home to the founder of Clifden, John D’arcy, and the Ballynahinch estate for its rivers, lake and woodlands to explore on foot.
4. The Causeway Coastal Route
The north is the home to this epic road trip, with the world-famous Giant’s Causeway acting as the pivot around which the whole journey hinges. Start in either Belfast or Derry and make your way along the northern coast route, stopping off at numerous landmarks and attractions along the way.
Too many to mention them all here but stand-out highlights would be the exhilarating cliff-face path at The Gobbins, giving you unrivalled access to the rugged Antrim Coast, Cushendun and The Dark Hedges, both used as filming locations for Game of Thrones, and Old Bushmills Distillery where the finest Irish whiskeys have been produced for over 400 years. Oh, and the Giant’s Causeway isn’t bad either.
5. The Wicklow Mountains
Situated just south of Dublin, a road trip through the Wicklow Mountains located within the Wicklow Mountains National Park serves up some seriously impressive vistas of the local lakes, bogland and mountain ranges and is a scenic drive to remember.
The Sally Gap is probably the best-known route and is one of two east-to-west passes across the Wicklow Mountains. The road is winding and can get a bit tight in places but is worth it for the views.
Extend your route to see for yourself the outstanding natural beauty of Glendalough, a glacial valley known for its spectacular scenery, archaeology and abundant wildlife. Lough Tay, or the Guinness Lake as it’s more commonly known, is also a sight to behold.