Driving 14 of the most scenic roads of Ireland
Ireland is full of epic landscapes and coastal views. Here are the best ones you can find behind a wheel:
1. Galway – Clifden – Westport
Cutting through the rugged Connemara region, this route takes you high up into the mountains – giving you a panoramic view of the coast on your way to Clifden. When you reach Clifden, you make your way back down towards Westport passing the Doolough Valley and many a quiet lake on the route.
2. The Inishowen 100, Donegal
Named because of its approximate distance in miles, the Inishowen 100 takes you around the coast of Ireland’s most Northernly point. The route stops in at Malin Head and it’s nearly all a coastal drive – so the views tend to be stunning. Starting in Muff, you take the road up the coast to Moville and continue North through the Malin Head loop and back down to finish in the small village of Burnfoot. A truly stunning drive, with many a place to stop and take it all in.
3. The Burren Beauty, Clare
This 68km drive takes you to the corner of North West Clare overlooking the Atlantic and Galway Bay. Starting in Kilfenora, this route takes you through Lisdoonvarna and up the coast to Black Head. Eventually looping you back down trough Carran. Throughout the trip, you’re surrounded by the rocky Burren terrain on one side and the ocean on t’other.
4. The Sally Gap, County Wicklow
An East-to-West road across the Wicklow mountains, the Sally Gap drive provides some of the best lake and mountain scenery that’s not on the coastline. This is really accessible from Dublin as well, so it’s the perfect way to get out of the city for an hour or two. Taking the R759 east across the mountains, head north on the R115 to complete the loop.
5. Giant’s Causeway Coast, Northern Ireland
This driving route offers an epic tour of many of Northern Ireland’s main tourist sites. Starting in Belfast, you drive the Northern coast of the country, taking in the Giant’s Causeway itself, the Bushmills distillery and the seaside towns of Portrush and Portstewart. It’s 190km long in total, and doesn’t loop back around – but it will be some trip.
6. Sheep’s Head Peninsula, Bantry – Durrus, Cork
The ring drive starts in Bantry and loops around the Sheep’s Head Peninsula, eventually finishing up in Durrus – not too far away from where you started. It takes in the whole of the Peninsula itself- which is very thin, meaning you get fantastic views of the ocean on either side during the drive. It’s only 40km long, so a short enough trip but worth every second.
7. Bray to Dublin City Centre
Taking the coastal road into Dublin from Bray takes you through Killiney, Dalkey and Dun Laoghaire giving you an epic view over the city and the coastline to your right.
8. Copper Coast – Dungarvan to Tramore, Waterford
This 40 km drive between Dungarvan and Tramore in Waterford takes you right along the Southern coastline of Waterford, with spectacular vistas. Just start in either town and stick to the coast all the way along and everything will be grand.
9. Sperrin Mountains, Tyrone
The Northern mountains are a spectacle of sights. Starting out in Strabane in the West of Tyrone, you can make your way through the twisty roads towards Sawel Mountain, which is the peak of the Sperrins. The valleys and peaks above and below make it one of the most memorable landscapes on the whole island.
10. Kenmare to Bantry
Crossing the Cork and Kerry border, this drive takes you along the coast for a bit coming out of Bantry town and then past the Glengarriff Nature Reserve. You complete it crossing the bridge into Kenmare with the wonderful Kenmare Bay on your left.
11. Clonakilty – Old Head of Kinsale
This scenic route brings you through West Cork and along the sensational coastline starting at Timoleague. Then you follow the coast to the famous Old Head of Kinsale – with views to match those anywhere in the country.
12. Dollymount to Howth Head, Dublin
Being so close to the city centre of Dublin, this drive takes you along the coast of the Northside with views stretching out as you loop up and around Howth Head looking down on the city and the Poolbeg Chimneys as you climb higher.
13. Slea Head Drive, Dingle Peninsula, Kerry
Starting out in Dingle, this loop around the most westerly point of mainland Ireland takes in the tip of the Dingle Peninsula – giving you beautiful views stretching out over the Atlantic and to the Blasket Islands.
14. Ennis – Doonbeg, Clare
Following the line of the Shannon Estuary westwards, this drive will take you around the Southern tip of Clare and onwards to Doonbeg on the Atlantic coast. It’s not the quickest way to get between the two towns, but it’s by far the best.