No matter where you live in Ireland, you’re not far from truly breath-taking scenery, and we’re spoiled for choice in terms of scenic road trips. Here are five suggestions, but we’d strongly advise you to get off the beaten track and explore further afield, as there are plenty of relatively unknown beauty spots all around the country, too.
1 – Ring of Kerry
An obvious one to start with, but it’s popular with the tourists for a reason. In fact, it’s so popular with coach tours in the summer that they are obliged to treat it as a one-way road, travelling anti-clockwise around The Ring. Thankfully, you don’t have to do that in your car, but keep your eyes peeled for said coaches, as the road can be exceedingly narrow in places. Nonetheless, it’s a spectacular drive, taking in sections of the N70, N71 and N72, from Kenmare, via Sneem, Waterville, Cahersiveen and of course, Killarney. The Killarney National Park alone is spectacular, with Molls Gap nearby.
2 – Dublin to Wicklow Mountains
While everyone knows about the picturesque Glendalough and the Sugar Loaf Mountain in Wicklow, few realise how accessible that mountain range is from Dublin City. It takes just minutes from the M50, along the Military Road (R115), to be in the wild Dublin Mountains, with loads of small roads off it to explore. Keep going until Sally Gap and then beyond, where the road and scenery get truly epic. This eventually will bring you to Laragh, near Glendalough, but you can skirt that and avoid the crowds by heading for the Wicklow Gap and then back toward Dublin via Hollywood.
3 – The Causeway Coastal Route
If you fancy the frisson of crossing the border into Northern Ireland, and you have enough time on your hands, the northern coastal route is well worth exploring. You could use the excellent motorway network to get to Belfast, but we’d suggest taking a detour via Carlingford for the more scenic option, then into the beautiful Mourne Mountains. You may want a second day to explore the coast properly, from Carrickfergus and Larne to Ballycastle and, of course, the Giant’s Causeway.
4 – Co. Mayo
There’s rugged coastline and wild countryside galore in Co. Mayo, with plenty to see and do in Castlebar and Westport in particular, including the mighty Croagh Patrick. But our favourite scenic drive in the area involves Achill Island. It’s not a particularly long drive (well, depending on where in Ireland you’re coming from, of course), but you’ll want time to gawp at the magnificent views from the island in all directions. Make sure you make it all the way to Keem Bay for a picnic.
5 – The Burren
Co. Clare is full of beautiful scenery, and its crowning glory is the Burren. There aren’t loads of main roads through the rocky area, but there are plenty that surround it and give you a view of the unique landscape. Just follow your nose through it to find the R480 that passes the iconic Poulnabrone Dolmen and Ailwee Cave, but there’s loads to see around there taking in Lisdoonvarna and Ennistimon. A real treat is the coast road from Doolin to Ballyvaughan, along the R477.