While the Irish capital of Dublin has many cool things to do, even if you’re traveling on a budget, there’s so much more to discover around the Emerald Isle. Get out of the capital and take road trips around Ireland to appreciate the country’s splendid scenery and diverse attractions. As well as letting you see more of the country, you can travel in comfort and at your own pace.
Plus, road trips can be one of the most cost-effective ways of exploring.
1. Slea Head Drive
The looped Slea Head Drive can be found on the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry. It is part of the famous Wild Atlantic Way. Starting and ending in the fishing town of Dingle, the route leads past ancient sites and offers stunning views. The 38-mile route is easy to follow on a single day, though allow plenty of time for long stops to fully admire the area.
Relax on the beach at Ventry, complete with vies of the Skellig Islands in the distance. See the stream that has been nicknamed the Upside-Down Bridge. Learn more about the area’s fishing heritage at the Great Blasket Centre. Historic spots along the route include Reasc Monastic Site, Kilmalkedar Church, Dunberg Fort and several old hillside shelters known as Beehive Huts.
2. Ring of Beara
The Ring of Beara driving route covers 85 miles, starting in Glengarriff, Cork, and finishing at Kenmare, Kerry (or vice versa). Although it can be completed in a day, if time allows, take a couple of days to fully enjoy the islands and sights along the way.
Take a trip to Garnish Island from Bantry Bay before setting off and, as you drive through the mountains, admire the stunning vistas along the Healy Pass. Bere Island is home to the stone circle of Derreenataggart and you can also visit the nearby Dersey Island. Allihies is another interesting stop on the route.
3. Copper Coast
One of the most scenic road trips in Ireland’s southern areas, follow the Copper Coast in County Waterford for 25 miles between Dungarvan and Tranmore. The coastal views are picturesque and there are plenty of opportunities to hop out of the car and enjoy a variety of activities. You’ll come across several scenic beaches, some that offer swimming, fishing, and water sports. The cliffs and bays are ideal for stretching your legs and exploring by foot.
Highlights along the Copper Coast include the Copper Coast Geopark Centre, the Bog of Fenor, the former mining town of Bunmahon, Dunhill Castle and the standing tombs at Gaulstown Dolmen.
4. The Sally Gap
Travel across the impressive Wicklow Mountains with a drive along the Sally Gap. The looped drive is less than 20 miles long. Built by the British Military, it was constructed to allow soldiers to easily find rebels hiding in the mountainous areas.
The road twists and turns, presenting superb views around every corner. It is one of the best road trips around Ireland for seeing lakes and mountains. Admire the lush Glencree Valley and Glenmacnass Waterfall. Visit Glencree War Cemetary, which contains the remains of German soldiers who perished in Ireland. Other things to see on the drive include Lough Tay and the Visitor Centre at Glencree.
5. Ring of Kerry
Covering 111 miles, the Ring of Kerry is one of the most stunning places on Ireland’s west coast. Located in County Kerry, it is another route that is part of the much longer Wild Atlantic Way. In addition to the dramatic coastal areas, you can also discover verdant forests and plentiful historic sites.
Cross the thin mountain pass of the Gap of Dunloe, take a trip to Innisfallen Island, marvel at the Meeting of the Waters and soak up the views of the Black Valley. Other highlights include Derrynane Beach, the old stone forts in Leacanabuaile and Cahergal, Muckross House and the charming former plantation colony of Kenmare.
Whether you visit in winter, spring, summer or fall, there’s a road trip for every season. Of course, it’s also important to take into account the weather conditions too. Use winter or summer tyres as appropriate.