5 of the Best Ireland Road Trips
Ireland Road Trips Offer Amazing Sights
It’s hard to pick a region to visit with all its countless number of breathtaking scenic places to see. But, here are some of the best driving routes to do in Ireland while you’re here.
And, you can always come back again to do another of the 5 best Ireland road trips.
5 best driving routes in Ireland
Wild Atlantic Way
Seen as equivalent or greater to the Great Ocean Road of Australia (but arguably even more beautiful) with an endorsement from HuiZuChe’s Awards Ceremony organized for the ‘Best International Self-Drive Route’.
This is Ireland’s longest driving route starting from Kinsale in County Cork and finishing at Malin Head in County Donegal. The route takes you through some of the best gems in Ireland; Cliffs of Moher, Skellig Michael Islands, Ring of Kerry, Connemara and much more. This is THE trip to take if planning to spend a couple weeks slowly driving around, absorbing the traditional Irish way of life and visiting many places with countless activities to do such as Whale Watching!
Recommended stops Kinsale, Italian gardens on Garnish Island, Valentia Island, Dingle, Ladies View, Connemara National Park, Kylemore Abbey, Westport, Achill Island, Slieve League Cliffs, Mamore Gap and Malin Head.
Copper Coast in Waterford
A route that deserves a share of the limelight in Ireland, this route offers excellent panoramic scenery across the UNESCO Global Geopark and the coastline. The area was declared as a Geopark in 2001 and in 2015 it became one of the three UNESCO sites registered in Ireland.
The name derived from its copper mining heritage in the 19th Century and complete with a Geopark visitor center and exhibition on its 460 million years of geological history.
With blue flag beaches dotted along the coast and pretty villages with coastal hikes makes this an attractive region to visit if you prefer a quieter spot.
Recommended stops Tramore, Bunmahon, Stradbally, Clonea BeachDungarvan,
Ring of Kerry
Prior to the Wild Atlantic Way launch, the Ring of Kerry route held the number one spot of road trips in Ireland and still is positively ranked highly.
A small drive, big views- The route loops hug a winding, narrow road around a small pocket in the southwest of Ireland with a starting and fishing point in Killarney. You’ll want to stop every 10 minutes to admire the stunning views of Molls Gap, Ladies View, Torc Waterfall and the remote picturesque Gap of Dunloe. Should you want to go further, including the Skellig Coast drive for incredible views of the Skellig Islands – a UNESCO world heritage site.
Recommended stops: Killarney, Valentia Island, Molls Gap, Gap of Dunloe, Portmagee, Muckross House
Causeway Coastal Route – Northern Ireland
Starting in the capital, follow the A2 coast road to Carrickfergus Castle. No visit to Ireland is complete without a castle visit!
Onwards to Glens of Antrim, stopping at Glenariff valley then towards Ballintoy for views of Carrick-a-Rede. This is an extremely popular attraction so go early or even walk around for free and enjoy the views of the rope bridge. Next is the Giant’s Causeway! Highly recommended and again, go early to enjoy the photo opportunities and marvel at the nature with its perfectly hexagon shaped columns.
Visit Old Bushmills Distillery, Ireland’s oldest working distillery since 1608. Learn how the famous whiskey is made and have an Irish meal with a whiskey tasting.
If you have time, Dunluce Castle ruin is a worthy mention with being located on a clifftop offering dramatic views of a sunset backdrop.
By the way, if you’re a Games of Thrones fan, you’re in luck with plenty of filming locations scattered across the coast; Cushendun Caves, Dark Hedges, and the Mourne Mountains.
Recommended stops: Glen’s of Antrim, Giant’s Causeway, Carrick a Rede bridge, Dark Hedges, Dunluce Castle.
Boyne Valley Drive
Boyne Valley Drive is one for the history buffs with 22 historic sites and 9000 years of history in one valley! Follow the designated signs for sites around County Meath; Newgrange, Hill of Tara, Drogheda, Kells, and Trim. View driving route map
Located just 30 minutes north of Dublin brings you to the most famous site in the valley; Newgrange – a UNESCO heritage site of the megalithic passage tombs. The visitor center takes you to all three sites, Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth with interpretive displays.
The Old Mellifont Abbey is worth a visit, the first Cistercian monastery founded in 1142. An impressive site to view and learn the history of what it was like back in the day, the ruins offers great photography opportunities.
Visit Ireland’s largest castle, Trim Castle is well preserved located on the south bank of the River Boyne. Join a tour to get the history of the castle and enjoy the views from the rooftop. Braveheart was filmed here!
Recommended stops: Bru Na Boinne, Trim Castle, Mellifont Abbey, Hill of Tara.
How to do it
Unless you’re a local or driving from the United Kingdom, you would be most likely renting a car to self-drive through Ireland.
The rates vary on the season in Ireland, the choice of vehicle and collection point. It is cheaper to return to the same point where you collected the car rather than a “one-way” option.
The manual transmission is the norm in Ireland and you’ll often find automatic rates are much higher.
Compare rates using these websites Orbitz, Kayak, and RentalCars. If you prefer to book directly through an Irish-based firm; Car Rental Ireland, Europcar or Hertz all offer various rental options across Ireland.
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Lianne, the author of 5 Best Ireland Road Trips, has been traveling the world after taking her first backpacking trip to India. Since then, she has ticked over 70 countries off her bucket list and planning more trips. A now expat living in Ireland, she runs the MyDiscoverIreland travel blog & route planner tool to find unique gems while planning a road trip in Ireland.
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