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Scenic Irish drives: The 5 best road trips in Ireland

Fancy a family holiday full of fairytale castles and fearless adventures? Or would you prefer a weekend with no WiFi signal getting back to nature? Get behind the wheel and explore Ireland with our pick of the country's most scenic drives.
Driving in Ireland - the 5 best road trips in Ireland

Whether you’re looking for big city lights or a bit of peace and quiet in the countryside, Ireland has it all. With good road conditions and some great deals on car hire, the best way to explore the country is to rent you own ride and hit the road. Keep that big wheel turning and take off on one of these jaw-dropping road trips in Ireland.

Top 5 most scenic Irish drives

  • Wild Atlantic Way – Donegal to Cork
  • Dublin to Galway
  • Kerry to Cork
  • Causeway Coastal Route – Belfast to Londonderry
  • Dublin to Portlaoise

1. Wild Atlantic Way – Donegal to Cork

Donegal Castle - 5 best road trips in Ireland

Road trips in Ireland don’t get much more scenic than this! The world’s longest touring route, the Wild Atlantic Way is Ireland’s answer to California’s Pacific Highway, an iconic drive that takes in dramatic coastline, stunning scenery and more than 150 landmarks. You can rush through the whole route in a few days, but why not take your time and spend a little longer by breaking it up into sections? Visit a real Hell’s Hole, a steep rocky crevice in Malin Head, Donegal, or look out across the Atlantic Ocean from the top of Loop Head Lighthouse.

Distance: 2,500km

Stay: Hayfield Manor, Cork

2. Dublin to Galway

Galway - 5 most scenic road trips in Ireland

Fly to Dublin and get behind the wheel for a magical road trip in Ireland, passing some of the country’s most romantic castles and impressive fortresses, en route to Galway. First stop, Martello Tower, Dublin, the former home of novelist James Joyce. On your way through Trim, pull in to check out the largest Anglo-Norman castle in Ireland, dating from the 13th century. Before reaching your final destination, make a pit-stop at Athenry Castle, a charming walled medieval town.

Distance: 208km

Stay: Park House Hotel, Galway

Fancy swotting up on your Celtic legends and Irish history? Here is our pick of the 10 best castles to visit in Ireland.

3. Kerry to Cork

Family on a road trip - most scenic Irish drives

Kiss a magical stone and you’ll turn into a silver-tongued Lothario; what a load of blarney! Well that’s exactly what it is, down at Blarney Castle in County Cork. Drive through Kerry, passing mountains and along rugged coastline, until you reach this charming castle, the ancestral home of the McCarthy clan and the legendary Blarney Stone – a smooch with which is said to bestow you with the gift of the gab. When you finally arrive in Cork City, reward yourself after a hard day on the road with a pint of Red Rebel ale from the local Franciscan Well Brewery.

Distance: 100km

Stay: Brook Lodge Hotel, Killarney, Kerry

Taking a family road trip? Here are 10 games to play to survive boring car journeys.

4. Causeway Coastal Route – Belfast to Londonderry

Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland

Spend a few days exploring Northern Ireland’s capital, the bustling city of Belfast, before heading out on the Causeway Coastal Route. Follow in the giant footsteps of mythical man Finn McCool, and see the world famous Giant’s Causeway. This incredible stair, allegedly built by McCool in order to defeat his Scottish rival Benandonner, comprises of 40,000 hexagonal basalt columns and was actually formed by cooling lava more than 60 million years ago.

The 20m-long Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge in Northern Ireland

Another sight worthy of a stopover is the 20m-long Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge to Carrick Island, where you’ll find the ruins of medieval Dunluce Castle, gushing waterfalls in Glenariff Forest Park, and dazzling limestone cliffs.

Distance: 250km

Stay: The Merchant Hotel, Belfast

See it like a local with our pick of the 10 best things to do in Belfast – a local’s guide.

5. Dublin to Portlaoise

Glendalough, Ireland

The Wicklow Mountains’ stunning backdrop makes this one of the most scenic road trips in Ireland. Once you’ve done enough partying in Temple Bar sipping on pints of Dublin’s famous black brew, Guinness, head out from the busy city and get some downtime in the wilderness. Picnic at the foot of Powerscourt Waterfall, Ireland‘s highest, in a scenic spot surrounded by oak and pine trees.

Cruise through the Wicklow Mountains National Park and stop for the night in the lovely village of Laragh. Take time out for calm contemplation in Glendalough valley, where you’ll find a sixth-century monastic settlement founded by St. Kevin. Driving in Ireland is a unique chance to immerse yourself in all the beautiful scenery and feel a million miles away from the chaos of modern life.

Wicklow Mountains

Distance: 138km

Stay: The Marker Hotel, Dublin

Why not get the best out of the city while you’re there? We’ve rounded up the best cheap and free things to do in Dublin, the best things to do with kids, as well as the best places for full Irish breakfast in the capital!

*Revised March 2020. Information correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.

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