Ireland is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Steeped in history and at the same time playing host to an array of modern cities, it’s a place where the old and the new meet in perfect harmony.
The beaches, coastlines, and general scenery of the island nation attract millions of visitors from all over the world, but those visitors would perhaps be best advised to avoid driving while they’re there. Even the locals struggle with some of the nation’s most lethal roads.
If you've only ever looked in at Ireland from the outside, you might have been seduced by some of the stereotypes that exist about the place. There was no shortage of candidates to make our list of the most dangerous roads in Ireland, but we narrowed the list down to the five which we’re about to name here. Travel down them if you dare!
Wild Atlantic Way
When this road calls itself ‘wild,’ it really means it. Despite being considered as one of the most scenic routes through Ireland, the Wild Atlantic Way is also fraught with danger. Perhaps that shouldn’t be considered a huge surprise given the sheer length of it - it carries on for more than 2500 kilometers between Cork and County Donegal, connecting the north of the country to the south. Along the way, drivers pass through nine counties, and it seems that the counties have differing opinions about acceptable standards of road safety. At some points, you’ll face narrow bends on the edge of a cliff. Sharp drops of hundreds of feet with little warning are also common, and then there’s the sheep to contend with as well. Much of rural Ireland is used as farmland, and not every farmer has great control of their herd. Sheep often wander out into the road, and it’ll be a test of your brakes every time it happens.
Wicklow Old Military Road
According to many internet bloggers who should be trusted on the subject, Old Military Road in Wicklow is a great place to visit for a walk or a hike. It isn't quite so much fun for drivers. As the name suggests, this is a very old route (centuries old, in fact), and wasn't designed to cope with high-speed vehicles. The numerous blind spots presumably weren't so much of a problem when the only vehicles that traveled down it were carriages pulled by horses. The terrain is rugged, and even in the middle of summer, you'll be blasted with vicious crosswinds the whole time you're on it. Even taking that into account, driving down it in summer is a pleasure compared to trying your luck with it any other time of year. When the rain comes down, the land that the road runs through turns into bogs and marshes. Sometimes, that causes the road to sink completely.
Gap Of Dunloe
There's only one way to drive the Gap of Dunloe in County Kerry, and that's slowly. You'll sometimes question whether you should be on the road at all. It's so narrow and so full of walkers that you'll find yourself wondering whether you've accidentally taken a wrong turn and driven down a footpath. You have every right to be on the road legally, but there's little in the way of marking or road signs to help you navigate. It's thin, it's winding, and it rises and falls to extreme heights and depths frequently. To keep things interesting, some of the sharpest drops come just after blind corners. If you make one wrong turn to avoid an unexpected horse, it could be the last thing you ever do. The scenery of the Purple Mountain Groups just about makes the trip worth it, presuming you live to tell the tale and show people your photographs.
The Gap of Dunloe isn’t the only hazardous road you’ll come across in County Kerry - there’s Slea Head to worry about, too. At times, the narrow surface of the road is the only thing between you and a plunge straight into the Atlantic Ocean. As the drops are frequently completely exposed and don’t have protective barriers, it would be all-too-easy to go for an unexpected dip in the icy water. Some of the hairpin bends are so unexpected and difficult to navigate that they almost seem as if they were designed to cause a crash. Cliff-top roads are often narrow, but there are several points on Slea Head Drive that only allow enough room for one car to pass. Should you come up against someone driving the opposite way, it would take an exceptionally brave driver to reverse and make space. Given that there’s nowhere to safely pull off, that reversing might go on for more than a mile.
Making it a hat-trick for terrifying roads in County Kerry, Conor’s Pass might just be the most lethal of the lot. We’re not sure if calling this road ‘Conor’s Pass’ was a joke, but there’s almost no room to pass anywhere on it. When you find yourself face to face with a driver coming the other way more than 1300 feet up a mountain, you’ll find yourself praying for help whether you believe in a higher power or not. Conor’s Pass almost rises up to the level of the clouds, and visibility is terrible. The climb is so steep that all you can see is the road that’s immediately ahead of you, which makes for the blindest of all blind turns. It’s advisable to blast your horn before you attempt any turnings just in case someone’s trying to come the other way - a crash at this height would almost certainly be fatal, and you’d be waiting a long time to be rescued even if it wasn’t. For that reason alone, we’d have to call it the most dangerous road in all of Ireland.