9 Classic Routes for Your Next Road Trip in Ireland
Originally published on PassionPassport.com
Ireland is the perfect country for road trips, which makes choosing a specific route particularly difficult. To help aid your planning, here are nine routes across the country, of varying length, to take on your next jaunt through the Emerald Isle.
WILD ATLANTIC WAY
Location: Inishowen Peninsula in County Donegal to Kinsale in County Cork
Length: 1,550 miles (2,500 kilometers)
Follow the Signs: There’s no reason to use your GPS — just follow the signs for Wild Atlantic Way and look for the corresponding logo (a blue zigzagged line).
Scenic Stops: Cliffs of Moher, Dingle Peninsula, Slieve League Cliffs, Mount Errigal, Mullaghmore Head in County Sligo, Malin Head, Kylemore Abbey in Connemara, Galway City
While you’ll want to plan your trip for three weeks to a month if you’re hoping to drive the entire Wild Atlantic Way route, it’s much easier to choose a specific section to fit in your itinerary. With beautiful views and dramatic landscapes, this relatively young route (it was just launched in 2014) is never boring. There are 188 discovery points, 1,000 attractions, and over 2,500 activities along the way.
RING OF KERRY
Location: County Kerry
Length: 111 miles (179 kilometers)
Follow the Signs: Leave from Killarney via the N71, take the N70 around the Iveragh Peninsula to Killorglin, and then return to Killarney on the N72.
Scenic Stops: Ross Castle, the Gap of Dunloe, Killarney National Park, Moll’s Gap, Kerry Cliffs
Though it seems short enough, you’ll want to save at least one full day to drive the entirety of the Ring of Kerry. This circular route winds through small towns, along the coast, and across one of Ireland’s national parks, so there’s plenty to see and do along the way. To avoid most of the traffic, drive clockwise so you don’t get stuck behind tour busses perusing the area — the majority of which drive counterclockwise.
THE CAUSEWAY COAST
Location: Belfast to Derry in Northern Ireland
Length: 154 miles (248 kilometers)
Follow the Signs: The A2 is clearly marked, and there are also brown “Causeway Coastal Route” signs along the way — so keep your eyes peeled.
Scenic Stops: Giant’s Causeway, Dunluce Castle, Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Cushendun Caves, the Dark Hedges, Rathlin Island, Downhill Demesne
Though this curving route is actually in Northern Ireland, it’s so beautiful that it deserves a top spot on this list. The Causeway Coastal Route takes travelers through “Game of Thrones” filming locations and colorful towns, past the ruins of ancient castles and endless fields of livestock, and along the island’s breathtaking northern coast. Don’t miss Giant’s Causeway and Dunluce Castle — which just so happen to be down the street from one another, and are equally breathtaking.
THE SKY ROAD
Location: County Galway
Length: 10 miles (15 kilometers)
Follow the Signs: Look for the signs that say “Sky Road,” or the blue zigzagged line that marks the Wild Atlantic Way (the two routes overlap).
Scenic Stops: The D’Arcy Monument, Clifden Castle
Though it may be short, it is fierce — that’s how the saying goes, right? The steep ascent along the Sky Road in Connemara provides amazing views of the Clifden Bay and features plenty of landmarks and photo-worthy stops. Just make sure that you’re not holding up traffic when you pause to pull off and photograph the peninsula.
Yeats County and Lough Gill Scenic Loop
Location: County Sligo
Length: 115 miles (185 kilometers)
Follow the Signs: Lough Gill Scenic Loop doesn’t have road signs along the way, but you can easily follow a few main roads or look up the route online. Starting at Sligo Abbey, take the R286 around Lough Gill. It will turn into R288, R287, and R292 as you go around the lake.
Scenic Stops: Lough Gill, Parke’s Castle, Sligo Abbey, Knocknarea Mountain, Mullagmore, the Isle of Inisfree
For a look at the landscapes that inspired much of W. B. Yeats’ literary work, head to County Sligo and start the Yeats County and Lough Gill Scenic Drive. Chock-full of Irish mythology, history, and inspiring scenery, this route starts in Sligo and passes through mountains, past islands, and through quaint villages. After this drive, you’ll be pumping out poetry in no time.
Boyne Valley Scenic Loop
Location: County Louth and County Meath
Length: 135 miles (220 kilometers)
Follow the Signs: Look for the swirling curly-Q on the brown signs marked “Boyne Valley Drive” — you can’t miss them.
Scenic Stops: Newgrange, Knowth, and Dowth in Meath; the Hill of Tara; Trim Castle
History buffs, this one’s for you. The Boyne Valley Scenic Loop takes visitors through an ancient region full of burial tombs, crumbling castles, and aged battlefields. The oblong figure-eight-shaped route is directly north of Dublin, making it the perfect stop if you don’t have time for a drawn-out road trip but want to soak up as much history as possible!
Galway to the Cliffs of Moher, via the Burren
Location: County Clare
Length: Varies, but approximately 45 miles (70 kilometers)
Follow the Signs: Burren National Park is clearly marked, and the Wild Atlantic Way signs (with the blue zigzagged logo) lead right to the cliffs.
Scenic Stops: The Cliffs of Moher, Burren National Park, Kinvara, Lisdoonvarna
For an especially scenic drive, head to the Cliffs of Moher from Galway and take the long way ’round — through Burren National Park. The Burren is Ireland’s smallest national park, dominated by karst landscapes and endless limestone expanses that stretch as far as the eye can see. This windy, coastal route leads to the Cliffs of Moher, one of the most well-known landmarks in the country. It’s prone to rain though, so don’t forget your jacket!
THE COPPER COAST, INCLUDING THE COMERAGH MOUNTAINS
Location: County Waterford
Length: Approximately 95 miles (156 kilometers)
Follow the Signs: Take the Copper Coast Road, better known as the R675.
Scenic Stops: Cork, Limerick, Waterford, Lismore, the Copper Coast Geopark, Comeragh Mountains, the Rock of Cashel, the Vee Mountain Pass, Dunhill Castle
Named for its mining history (or, possibly, the color of its coast at sunset), this region features a route that’s truly the best of both — well, all — worlds. Featuring picture-perfect towns, coastal views, ruined castles, expansive coves and beaches, endless countrysides, and mountain ranges that never seem to end, the Copper Coast route is one of Ireland’s best-kept secrets. Don’t forget your camera.
Location: Rosguill Peninsula, County Donegal
Length: 7 miles (11 kilometers)
Follow the Signs: The Atlantic Drive is part of the Wild Atlantic Way and is well-marked — just remember to look for the blue zigzagged logo.
Scenic Stops: Melmore Head, Sheephaven Bay, Horn Head, Creeslough, Downings Center, Glenveagh National Park (nearby), Doe Castle (nearby), Derryveagh Mountains (nearby)
Add a few extra stops onto this short drive and make a day out of your time in Donegal. The Atlantic Drive takes you around Rosguill Peninsula through beaches and dune-filled scenery, and the route is so short you can easily cycle or walk it if you want. Grab a tweed jacket at Downings Center, and then head to one of the other nearby stops for more fun.
None of the photos in this post are my own.