Sometimes there’s nothing quite like hitting the road and enjoying the amazing scenery we have here in Ireland. With so many wonderful driving routes spread around the country, it can be hard to decide on an area to set off and explore with the family, your partner or on your own. From the rugged and spectacular coastlines to the Lakelands and historic midlands, there is so much to see and do when you explore Ireland on four wheels. Below we take a look at 10 driving holidays to consider for the coming weeks and months.
10 Great Irish Driving Holidays for Summer 2017
1 Copper Coast, Waterford
The south coast of Ireland has some of the most breathtaking views and scenery in the country, and one of the finest examples of this Copper Coast, home to Copper Coast Geopark, a UNESCO Global Geopark. This stretch of land gets its name from the 19th-Century copper mines that lie at the heart of it. The drive takes you from the Tramore to Dungarvan, allowing you to explore two of Waterford’s most popular coastal towns.
The 50km drive provides plenty to see and do, and is driveable in one day. Discover the history of Copper Coast at the Geopark’s Visitor Centre, and be sure to stop by some of the key geological sites along the way including Ballydowane Bay, Stradbally Cove, Fenor Bog, Knockmahon Cove and Tankardstown. This stretch of coastline has some stunning beaches dotted along it, including the start and end points of the drive at Tramore and Dungarvan, while the towns of Bunmahon and Annestown have some stunning beaches.
2 Inishowen 100, Donegal
The Inishowen 100 gets its name from the 100 miles (160km) distance that it takes to drive this picturesque area of Ireland. The route takes you along the north of Donegal and while you can join the loop anywhere, its starting point is the village of Bridgend. For many, this is the perfect starting point to explore the Wild Atlantic Way, and while it can be explored in one day, two to three days is recommended. This coastal drive takes in many of Donegal’s top tourist attractions including Malin Head, Grianán of Aileach, Doagh Island (home to the Doagh Famine Museum) and Lough Swilly.
This drive around the stunning Inishowen Peninsula will see you pass through many popular coastal and inland towns and villages including Muff, Redcastle, Moville, Ballyliffin, Carndonagh and Buncrana. From surfing and whale watching to cycling, hiking and golfing, there’s so much to explore in the Inishowen Peninsula, this will be a driving trip you’ll remember for years to come.
3 Burren Beauty Drive, Clare
The Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark in County Clare is one of the most spectacular areas in the whole of Ireland, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. The 70km Burren Beauty Drive will take you through the Burren National Park as you begin to explore this vast moonlike limestone landscape. Sweeping down through ‘The Burren’ is like nothing else you will experience when driving through Ireland.
While the drive through Burren National Park provides plenty of great photo opportunities in this spellbinding landscape, you’ll also drive through some of Ireland’s most popular towns including Doolin, Lisdoonvarna and Ballyvaughan. The area is also home to two stunning sets of caves (Doolin and Ailwee), while the Burren region is the only place in the Europe where Mediterranean and Arctic-Alpine plants grow together in perfect harmony. There’s a reason it’s called the Burren Beauty Drive, and this part of Ireland simply has to be seen to be believed.
4 Lough Derg Scenic Drive
Lough Derg is the largest lake on the River Shannon, and the scenic Lough Derg Drive will take you on a 130km road trip through Cork, Tipperary and Galway. This circular driving route can be joined at any point, but the charming twinned towns of Killaloe/Ballina at the south of the lake is a great place to start.
As you drive the Lough Derg Loop, you will come across many popular villages including Ballycuggaran, Scariff, Portumna, Dromineer and Nenagh. The Lough Derg Loop has a number of stunning castles and historic sites to be explored, while there are plenty of great viewpoints as you drive around the lough. Nenagh Castle, Holy Island at the mouth of Scariff Bay and Brian Ború’s Fort in Killaloe are among the must-see attractions along the way. If the weather is great, this is a memorable drive to enjoy with the family and one that can be completed in a day, giving you ample time to set off and explore more of Clare, Tipperary or Galway.
5 Boyne Valley Scenic Loop, Meath
The Boyne Valley Scenic Drive is the ultimate drive of exploration to Ancient Ireland. Explore over 5,000 years of Ancient Irish history as you explore the Boyne Valley area, taking in some of the most historic sites in Meath, and indeed the country. From the historic site of Newgrange and the location of the Battle of the Boyne to the towns of Trim, Kells and Navan, there is so much to uncover as you drive Boyne Valley.
Other famous historic sites to explore along the way include the Hill of Tara, Loughcrew Cairns and Passage Tombs, Trim Castle and Monasterboice Monastery, making Boyne Valley Scenic Loop really a real journey through thousands of years of Irish history.
6 The Sally Gap, Wicklow
The Wicklow Mountains are one of the most-visited areas in Ireland and with good reason thanks to the stunning surroundings of the wider national park. Home to the stunning historic site of Glendalough and Blessington Lakes, Wicklow Mountains are perfect for a day trip, and a great area to explore in the car. Take the east-to-west road through the mountains at Sally Gap and enjoy some of the most amazing views anywhere in Ireland.
7 Slieve Bloom Scenic Drive, Laois / Offaly
The Slieve Bloom Mountains on the Laois/Offaly border offer a number of beautiful driving and walking routes to be explored. The 40km Glendine route provides plenty to explore in 24 hours and will take you through the heart of this impressive mountain range. There are several viewpoints along the way, each providing great vantage points of the Bloom region, and the wider area surrounding Laois and Offaly, depending on where you are coming from.
Some of the highlights along this route are Lacca Church and Millenium Wood, Kinnitty Castle (and indeed the village of Kinnitty), Glendine Gap and Ardmore Country House.
8 Mourne Coastal Route, Down
A designated area of outstanding natural beauty, the Mourne Coastal Route in County Down is a 120km drive along the rugged County Down coastline. Travelling through many quaint seaside towns and villages, this drive will take you through the heart of the Mourne Mountains, the highest mountain range in Northern Ireland. Take your hiking boots with you and set off to explore Slieve Donard, the highest peak in Northern Ireland, before grabbing lunch in the town of Newcastle.
This area is known for its wide variety of water-based and outdoor activities, with kayaking, coasteering and orienteering popular across the year. You’ll also find some of the best mountain bike trails in Ireland along the Mourne Coastal Route, while the area is also home to two of Ireland’s finest golf courses at Ardglass and Royal County Down. Give yourself two to three days to explore the Mourne Coastal Route and all its glory, and when exploring by car be sure to check out the striking Spelga Dam and Silent Valley areas, and the famous Magic Hill at Spelga Dam, where your car will reverse uphill all by itself (a must visit when exploring the Mournes).
9 Slea Head Drive, Kerry
We recently featured Dingle as a bank holiday break to consider in Ireland, and one of the best ways to explore this beautiful part of the world is by exploring Slea Head Drive. This circular route begins and ends in the town of Dingle, and takes in many scenic routes along the way. The route takes you through the popular seaside village of Ventry where you must stop by the beach if the weather is good, before heading towards the iconic sites of Dunbeg Fort and Slea Head itself, which provides great views of the famous Blasket Islands. This part of the drive is one of the most picturesque, and one reason why the Dingle Peninsula is often voted among the most scenic driving routes in Ireland.
This part of the drive is one of the most picturesque, and one reason why the Dingle Peninsula is often voted among the most scenic driving routes in Ireland. Continue to follow the Slea Head Drive signs as you drive past Mount Brandon, passing a number of charming villages on your way. You’ll also pass the ancient Gallarus Oratory, so be sure to allow time to visit this ancient Christian chapel, and if you are planning an extended day in Dingle, be sure to head out to see and get acquainted with Dingle’s most famous face, Fungi the dolphin.
10 Lough Allen Drive, Leitrim
Last on our list of scenic drives to consider in Ireland this summer is the Lough Allen Drive in Leitrim. This short drive will take you from Leitrim into Roscommon, as you travel the 30km looped route of Lough Allen. Be sure to visit Drumshanbo, famous for its musical tradition and its unique high street fronted by a stone wall. Drumshanbo is also home to Ireland’s shortest main street, so park the car up and make this a stopping point along the way.
If you want to add some adventure and outdoor activities to your trip, check out the Lough Allen Adventure Centre, while the border village of Dowra has you well positioned to explore the area surrounding Lough Allen on foot. This drive should only take a few hours, providing you ample time to explore neighbouring Sligo or get to know Leitrim a little better by visiting Glencar Forest Park and Carrick-on-Shannon.
Plan Your Next Irish Road Trip Today
Whether it’s a day out in the car, a weekend break or an extended holiday, there’s so much to explore by car around Ireland. For more inspiration on planning your ultimate Irish driving holiday visit Drive Ireland, and plan your stay with Expedia.ie and check out our latest deals.
Images via Fáilte Ireland