Road trips in Ireland - six of the best Irish routes

Road trips in Ireland - six of the best Irish routes
The Emerald Isle is known across the world for its friendly people, weathered landscapes, and a certain famous stout.

But the best place to experience all things Irish is on the roads that criss-cross this green land.

To help you make the most of your trip, we’ve handpicked six of our favourite road trips to help give you a taste of what makes the Irish so lucky.

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Wicklow Mountains (Dublin – Wicklow)

wicklow mountains

Dublin is a great place to dip your toe into Ireland, from its quaint Georgian streets and cosy pubs to its must-see Guinness brewery at St James Gate.

When you’ve had your fill of city life, head south out of Dublin, via Bray, towards one of Ireland’s great roads, Sally Gap pass.

From the R755, the R759 climbs steadily upwards and lets you take in some truly breathtaking views of the Wicklow Mountains.

The pass itself is fairly exposed to the elements so check local weather conditions before you set off.

At the crossroads at the top of the pass, turn left onto the Old Military Road (R115) – this is where the fun ratchets up a notch.

Twist your way through the mountains on little more than a tarmac track, before heading onto Wicklow, a pretty market town tucked onto the coastline.

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Causeway Coast (Derry – Ballycastle)

giants causeway

From the walled city of Derry, head north up along the coastline towards the iconic ruin of Dunluce Castle perched on the cliffs and accessed only via a bridge.

From there, the coastal roads take in the Giant’s Causeway, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most mystifying landscapes on Earth.

After exploring the Causeway follow the coast towards the village of Ballintoy and its exquisite harbour for some perfect Instagram opportunities when the sun sets.

Another must-see stop-off is the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, which sways precariously out to a small island high above wave-drenched rocks below: it’s not for the faint-hearted.

Once back on the mainland, head along to Ballycastle, a small town with great coastal hikes and views across to Scotland.

The Wild West (Galway – Westport)

galway

The full Wild Atlantic Way — the route that clings to the full length of Ireland’s west coast — stretches for 2,500km, but if you’re looking for a taster then this route from Galway to Westport is a great place to start. 

Head north from Galway and take in Connemara — where you’ll be outnumbered by sheep — before driving on to the quiet seaside village of Clifden.

Soak in the fresh sea air before taking the famous ‘Sky Road’ for some of Ireland’s best coastal scenery.

Next, carry on up the coast to Killary Harbour — nicknamed Ireland’s fjord — before driving through the eerily beautiful Doolough Valley.

The final leg of the journey takes you onto Westport and beyond, where islands flake off from the mainland into the wild Atlantic. 

READ MORE: How to pack for a road trip

Yeats Country (Sligo County)

sligo county

Starting and ending in Sligo, this route takes in what is affectionately known as Yeats Country, after legendary Irish poet W.B. Yeats who called this area home. 

Kicking off at the ruined 12th century Sligo Abbey, take the R292 west and drive out towards Knocknarea Mountain and park up so you can enjoy the hour or so’s hike to see Queen Maeve’s Cairn, an unexcavated tomb that sits at the summit.

From here, head back through Sligo and go north to the stunning Benbulbin Mountain, the table-like rock formation that dominates the landscape for miles around.

Further north is the smart fishing village of Mullaghmore, perfect for some seafood overlooking the Atlantic.

Valley Loop (Kilkenny – Kilkenny)

valley loop

If the rugged Irish coast isn’t your thing, why not head inland to the whimsical valleys around County Kilkenny?

Begin with a wander round Kilkenny, its pretty centre is famed for a web of historic narrow lanes that spread out between the town’s castle and cathedral.

When the tourists get too much, follow the River Nore to Inistioge and drive over the village’s famous 10-arched stone bridge.

From here, head northeast towards Graiguenamanagh before crossing the River Barrow into County Carlow and heading north to the village of Borris.

From there, the route takes you winding back to the charms of Kilkenny, stopping off at the National Reptile Centre in Gowran for a bit of nature.

READ MORE: Try this Game of Thrones-inspired road trip

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Taste of Thrones (Coleraine – Castle Ward)

castle ward

Starting in understated Coleraine, this road trip takes in some of the best of Northern Ireland, and some sights you might recognise from a certain Game of Thrones.

From Coleraine, head across to the iconic ‘Dark Hedges’ on the Bregagh Road.

This avenue of 18th century beech trees that twist across the road has appeared in TV and films for years and doubled as the spooky Kings Road in Game of Thrones.

Get here early to avoid the crowds before heading onto Belfast.

After soaking up Belfast life — be sure to check out the Titanic Quarter and its excellent museum dedicated to the doomed ship — take the A22 to Comber before hitting the lanes that will lead you along the shores of the stunning Strangford Lough.

Near the mouth of the lough sits National Trust property Castle Ward, the location for Winterfell in the first season of Game of Thrones.

Have we missed your favourite Irish road trip? Make sure you let us know using the comment section below.

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