MR SIGNS TOP 10 DRIVING ROUTES IN IRELAND
Whether hiring a car or motorcycle or bringing your own vehicle, Ireland is one of the best destinations for the “self-drive” tourist. From its endless range of lush green valleys to dramatic mountain passes and from wild winding coastline routes to stunning lakeside drives, Ireland has some of the best scenic routes and road trips in Europe.
Not only does Ireland offer some of the most breathtaking landscapes and seascapes in the world but, once off the beaten track, the traveller will also experience Ireland’s charming towns, picturesque villages, castles, ancient ruins, history, heritage, friendly locals and its renowned world-famous hospitality. It’s one adventure you won’t forget.
Wild Atlantic Way
Slí an Atlantaigh Fhiáin
The Wild Atlantic Way is the world’s longest defined coastal driving route. The driving route passes through nine counties. It goes from the country’s most northerly point, Malin Head in Country Donegal, through Leitrim, Sligo, Mayo, Galway, Clare, Limerick, Kerry and finishes up at the country’s most southerly point, Mizen Head in Country Cork. The route weaves and winds across 2,500km of spectacular coastline and is probably one of the greatest road trips in the world. Although the routes outlined below are part of The Wild Atlantic Way, they deserve to be mentioned in their own right due to their spectacular and magnificent views.
Leithinis Inis Eoghain
The Inishowen Peninsula is Ireland’s largest peninsula and is located in County Donegal. Known nationally as the Inishowen 100, due to the distance in miles it takes to drive around this picturesque area of Ireland. The route takes the traveller through the north of Donegal, a scenic area bound by water on three sides. The peninsula is almost triangular in shape, is situated between Lough Foyle and Lough Swilly and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean at its northern side. Apart from the stunning coastal scenery, the area has a collection of ancient forts and monuments, museums, sandy beaches, charming fishing villages and friendly locals.
Yeats Scenic Drive and Lough Gill
Bealach Scéimhe Yeats agus Loch Gile
Both poet W.B. Yeats and artist Jack Yeats both drew great inspiration from the landscape of Yeats Country. This scenic drive, which includes a heritage trail, is a 185km route through County Sligo and it offers a great mix of literary history, mythology, ancient tombs, and of course, amazing views…….mountains, forests, waterfalls, seascapes and beaches.
The Atlantic Drive
Slí an Atlantaigh Fhiáin
The Atlantic Drive in County Mayo has two circular scenic routes, one on the Currane Peninsula and another on Achill Island. Both routes are around 20km in length and offer some of the most spectacular coastal views in one of the most remote parts of the country. There are several stopping points along the routes from where the traveller may marvel at the scenery.
The Sky Road
Bóthar na Spéire
The Sky Road in Clifden, County Galway, is one of the most picturesque areas in the Connemara region. The circular route is approximately 15km and takes you along the stunning rugged coastline of Cliften Bay, with the magnificent Twelve Bens mountain range as its backdrop. Very few places can match its scenery and it’s an area of unique natural beauty. As one ascends the climb on this route one will find a viewing point, with plenty space, at which to stop and enjoy the panoramic views.
The Burren Coastline Drive, Co. Clare
Bealach Cósta Bhoirne, Co. an Chláir
This scenic drive is approximately 70km along the western seaboard in north Clare and overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The Burren is a lunarlike grey limestone landscape extending over 160km2 and is renowned for its range of rare flora and fauna. The Burren is a UNESO World Heritage site and is one of the most dramatic and unique landscapes in the world.
Loop Head Peninsula, Co. Clare
Leithinis Cheann Léime, Co. an Chláir
Located right in the middle of the Wild Atlantic Way, the Loop Head Peninsula is a slender finger of land pointing out to sea from the most southwesterly point of County Clare. This spectacular circular coastal drive is approximately 80km in length and has always been defined because of its relationship with the water. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, with its dramatic cliffs, on one side and by the Shannon Estuary on the other. Awarded a European destination of excellence in aquatic tourism, the Peninsula provides plenty of activates and attractions along the route, including some amazing beaches which are among the safest swimming amenities in Ireland. At the tip of the Peninsula there is a lighthouse station dating back over 300 years. Visitors can avail of guided tours of the tower and, weather permitting, can go out onto the balcony to enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding area. The location is also a haven for wildlife, with thousands of seabirds nesting on the rock ledges, and it can boast an estimated 160 bottlenose dolphins living in the mouth of the Shannon River.
The Dingle Peninsula, Co. Kerry
Leithinis Chorca Dhuibhne, Co. Chiarraí
Renowned for its dramatic and spectacular views, the Dingle Peninsula is a stunning coastal circular route approximately 50km long and is enclosed by sandy beaches and wild rugged cliffs. Move inland and enjoy the rolling hills, lush green valleys, mountains, lakes and the unforgettable Conor Pass. This narrow and twisting (single lane) pass is the highest mountain pass in Ireland (457m) and it offers breathtaking views of the peninsula and its surrounding landscape. It’s advisable to drive it on a fine day to take full advantage of the stunning scenery.
The Ring of Kerry
The Ring of Kerry is a 180km circular route around the Iveragh Peninsula in County Kerry in the southwest of Ireland. This world-famous scenic route offers a spectacular stretch of wild coastline, majestic rugged islands, dramatic mountain passes, glistening lakes, stunning white-sandy beaches and charming rural towns and picturesque seaside villages. Top travel publications rate it as “one of the most beautiful scenic drives in the world.”
Ring of Beara, Kerry & Cork
Mórchuaird Bhéara, Ciarraí & Corcaigh
The Ring of Beara is a 135km circular route around the Beara Peninsula in the southwest of Ireland. It’s not as well-known as the neighbouring Ring of Kerry but is equally as beautiful and the roads are less cluttered with traffic. The route offers some magnificent views as it weaves and winds its way along the rugged coastline. The Healy Pass is also worth exploring. The mountain road is approximately 12km long. It cuts through the high Caha Mountains that rise about 685m above sea level and passes between two of the highest peaks of the Caha range. It’s one of the most spectacular mountain roads in Ireland, if not Europe.
Sheep’s Head Peninsula, Co. Cork
Slí Rinn Mhuintir Bháire, Co. Chorcaí
The Sheep’s Head drive is a 70km scenic loop coastal route. Located in the southwest of Ireland, the Sheep’s Head Peninsula is a narrow finger of land protruding into the wild Atlantic Ocean and it measures approximately 28km in length and just 4km across its widest point. This rugged Peninsula is a place of natural and unspoilt beauty with fantastic coastal views. One can also explore the many standing stones, forts, holy wells, loughs and picturesque beaches. The European Commission in 2010 dubbed the region a “destination of excellence.”