Ireland’s Best Road Trips

: From proper holidays to day trips, Ireland has a range of road trips for every taste, budget and timetable. Here are some of our favourites

Who’s up for a drive? Hitting the road is a fabulous way to enjoy Ireland, with so many scenic journeys and countless places worth visiting that are just a short drive apart.

Indeed, for such a small Island, we have more than our share of motorways, main roads, byroads and through-roads. We could include many more journeys in this piece, but this is a sampling of what you can do with four (or two) wheels, a map and a dose of wanderlust.

Naturally, you can drive these routes any way you choose, changing the starting point and travelling in the opposite way, for instance, or starting halfway along.

Let’s start with one of the most famous road trips…

West Coast / Wild Atlantic Way

The Wild Atlantic Way covers just about the whole left side of the country, starting in Kinsale, Co. Cork, and stretching all the way to Northern Headlands (Donegal Town). We firmly believe that every bit of it is worth exploring, and below are just two of the many fine drives on the West Coast.

Westport to Cliffs of Moher

Highlights:

  • Croagh Patrick
  • Clifden
  • Cliffs of Moher
  • The Burren

This journey offers an abundance of incredible views, both of land and sea. The vast, humbling Atlantic is a frequent star of this road trip.

It begins in Westport, County Mayo, a rightfully beloved place with a lovely Georgian town centre. Next, you’ll approach the epic Croagh Patrick and Clew Bay.

Following this route will bring you through the incredible scenic Connemara. If you want to truly experience the Atlantic, you could stop off for a jaunt on the sea, whether that means taking a dip or a detour via boat to the Aran Islands.

After this, you an continue to Clare for the Burren and the legendary Cliffs of Moher. (We talked about the Burren in our recent Botanic Walks story.)

Ring of Kerry

Highlights:

  • Gap of Dunlow
  • Skellig Michael
  • Ladies’ View
  • Killarney

This one warrants a mention because not only is it utterly beautiful, it’s a reasonably convenient drive to take – bringing you around the loop in the space of a day.The Ring of Kerry is incredibly popular (as you might have heard!) so the earlier in the morning you can start this trip, the better. As the day goes on, you will see more rental cars, cyclists and tour buses.So, what are they all travelling to see? The Ring of Kerry has plenty of elevated spots, from which you can see the emerald, craggy, dramatic and diverse landscapes the Kingdom has to offer. Not for nothing, the region features heavily in lists of Ireland’s most spectacular peaks.The journey starts in Killarney going towards the Gap of Dunloe, where you’ll see the spectacular Macgillycuddy’s Reeks. Then head to Skellig Ring where you’ll enjoy a view of Skellig Michael. Loop back around and the journey finishes in beautiful Muckross House and Lakes in Killarney.

Midlands

Ireland’s midlands are sometimes underrated and underappreciated. If you haven’t been to Lough Key or Carrick on Shannon, you’re missing out.

Highlights:

  • Lough Key Forest
  • Cavan Burren park

This drive starts at Boyle, County Roscommon, and brings you first to Lough Key Forest Park. This beautiful corner of the world has an 8k cycle track, numerous beautiful walking routes and its eponymous lough, all within 350 hectares of woodland.

Next, head northeast towards the Shannon Pot, which is where the River Shannon begins. Then continue to Cavan Burren Park and its enchanting forest trails.

East Coast

Ireland’s Ancient East has plenty of drives, from coastal jaunts to hilly, historic landmarks.

Boyne Valley Scenic Loop

Highlights

  • Hill of Tara
  • Newgrange
  • Slane

This is an easy drive with great rewards. If you’re leaving from Dublin, it’s a pretty straight shot from the Navan Road (which you can easily join from Cabra, Castleknock or almost anywhere north of those areas).

In less than an hour, you’ll pass a Welcome to Meath sign and shortly after that, be at the Hill of Tara. From there, we recommend you stop and take your time, walk the gentle incline and bask in the view of Boyne Valley. It’s quite breath-taking. There’s a good chance of finding an ice cream van in the car park too!

It’s a short trip there to the historic Trim Castle, and from there to Loughcrew Cairns. As well as gorgeous views, this journey is steeped in 9,000 years of history. Indeed, the whole drive is filled with ancient wonder, so it’s worthwhile reading a little about the history of the locations before you set off.

Wicklow Mountains

Another handy drive, you can get to the Wicklow Mountains from most parts of Dublin within an hour (avoid rush hour if possible). Once you get off the main roads, you’re onto smaller, winding roads, but it’s more than worth the effort.

Make your way to Calary Bog, where you’ll see the Sugarloaf Mountain from the road. Glendalough is an early highlight. The “glen of two loughs” is a lovely spot, with green hills descending to the reflective bodies of water. Allow some time here to take it in.

Head to Enniskerry, a picturesque village, for a gentle stroll to wind down the journey before returning home.

OSi – sending you on the right road

Ordnance Survey Ireland has been helping people find their way for over a century now. Our comprehensive maps will never crash, will work online or off and never run out of battery. Below are a selection of Maps that will be very helpful with locations in this post. Otherwise explore our Online Shop for all your map needs.

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