Irish Drives – Seven Of The Best
Hiring a car in Ireland is all about following your own schedule and itinerary, but it helps to know where the best driving routes are before you head out. This this is where we come in.
We’ve put together a guide to seven of the most attractive driving routes across Ireland, so you can really get the best out of the Emerald Isle from behind the wheel.
Ireland is perfect for driving tours, with top quality accommodation scattered all over the country and good roads running through all the main sight seeing spots.
Be sure to check out the DoChara guide to Irish road signs before you set out:
1. THE RING OF KERRY – Kerry
This is a great route if you are landing at Kerry Airport and one of the best loved and most well known drives in Ireland. Located in the south-west of the island, The Ring of Kerry is a circular tour of the Iveragh Peninsula, a concentration of beautiful mountain, lake and coastal scenery ing the county known as The Kingdom.
Starting at Killarney, you’ll pass the McGillycuddy Reeks mountain range before snaking in and out of the majestic Caragh Lake area and on to the quaint village of Glenbeigh. What follows is a winding coastal road down to the western peninsula of Kerry, taking in innumerable unspoilt beaches, bays and championship golf courses, passing through towns including Cahirsiveen, Caherdaniel, and Sneem. You’ll then swing back towards Killarney via the majestic town of Kenmare.
Starting in the south-west, this superb route takes in the surfing beaches and buzzing towns along the west of Ireland, through Limerick, Clare, and Galway. This route is ideal if you’re landing at Shannon Airport. You’ll start at Limerick City and motor along the coast via the bustling town of Ennis, passing through the surfing hotspot of Lahinch.
Next, you’ll encounter beautiful views over Liscannor Bay and the famous Cliffs of Moher, which face the Aran Islands. Continue on the route through the remarkable limestone landscapes of the Burren region and you’ll arrive at the mighty festival town of Lisdoonvarna, famous for its traditional music and match-making festival. You’ll then circle back towards Limerick City, via the quaint villages of Ballyvaughan, Kilfenora and Broadford.
The Connemara region is renowned the world over for its rugged beauty and warm people. If you are landing at Galway Airport. then this drive is definitely a must. Head north-west via the picturesque town of Oughterard, taking in the stunning Lough Corrib. You’ll meander past the rugged peaks of the Twelve Bens toward Clifden, right in the heart of the Connemara region.
Make for the attractive Killary Harbour area, taking in the ancient architecture of Kylemore Abbey along the way, before coming to Westport in Mayo. This attractive town borders the lake regions surrounding the old medieval settlement of Castlebar, the final stop on your Connemara tour.
4. THE INISHOWEN PENINSULA - Donegal
This route is within easy reach of Derry Airport and is also readily accessible from Belfast International and Galway Airport. Perched at the very northern tip of Ireland, the Inishowen Peninsula is virtually an island, its rocky landscapes separated from the mainland by the clear lakes of Lough Foyle and Lough Swilly.
Driving along the coast you’ll take in the marvellous Malin Head, innumerable picturesque villages, and an abundance of ancient Celtic architecture, with the windswept bays and beaches and the mountains of Slieve Snaght providing the perfect backdrop.
This drive is easily accessible from both Derry Airport and Belfast International. Make for Newry in County Down before heading for Downpatrick, passing through the old smuggling village of Hilltown. Downpatrick itself is home to the grave of St Patrick and an old medieval town well worth viewing. Head then towards the sailing mecca of Killyleigh, before taking in the picturesque coastal resort of Bangor and on towards Carrickfergus, then Glencoe.
Follow the panoramic route towards Lough Larne and the ancient Ballygally Castle, before circling round the north Antrim coast via the famous Giant’s Causeway and back onto Newry. This comprehensive route can take up to four days, but it’s well worth it – just be sure to set aside plenty of time.
This drive is perfect if you are landing at Dublin Airport. Head to the city’s south side and drive through the Rathfarnham area towards Wicklow. Make for the picturesque village of Enniskerry, taking in the gardens, lakes, and waterfalls of the Powerscourt Estate before heading for the old monastery ruins of Glendalough. Continue on to Laragh via the old Military Road, before passing through the charming village of Avoca and on toward Arklow.
Circle back via the luxuriant Mount Usher Gardens of Ashford towards the seaside town of Bray, via the Devil’s Glen of Newtownmountkennedy and the attractive coastal resort of Greystones. Continue on to Killiney and Dalkey, taking in the majestic views of Killiney Bay along the Vico Road, before hitting Dun Laoghaire and, ultimately, the centre of Dublin.
Perfect if you are arriving at Waterford Airport or Rosslare Harbour, this superb drive takes in scenery that is incredibly beautiful but overlooked by the vast majority of tourists. Head north to the quaint coastal town of Dungarvan, before making for the Comeragh Mountains, whose imposing cliffs and peaks creat a scenic backdrop to the Nire Valley.
From here, drive to Clonmel and on towards Portlaw, passing over the River Suir. You’ll take in forests and captivating woodland parks, before hitting the coast road back to Dungarvan, via the leading seaside resort of Tramore.
We hope this guide to drives comes in useful, although they are intended merely as inspiration: Half the fun of touring a country is discovering the unknown, and car hire is the ideal way to follow your own itinerary. If you want a more comprehensive list of Irish driving tours just check out the Goireland website.
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