Ireland does road trips like nobody else – seeing the gorgeous greenery and history galore is like poetry in motion.
Wind your way through breathtaking scenery, watch thousands of years of history unfold before you, and discover charming towns and villages in between. Of course, in Ireland a road trip is just as much about the extraordinary people you’ll meet along the way; their warmth, lively banter, unique heritage and rich cultural traditions will make your journey a memorable one.
Here are five spectacular road trips that you simply can’t miss out on.
1. Wild Atlantic Way
Stretching more than 2,500 km along the length of Ireland’s west coast from the Inishowen Peninsula in County Donegal to Kinsale in County Cork, the Wild Atlantic Way is exactly what it sounds like – windswept, untamed, and uniquely Irish.
Some of the most incredible sights in Ireland can be found on the Wild Atlantic Way, including the iconic UNESCO Global Geopark, the Cliffs of Moher. Visually spectacular, the Cliffs of Moher sit with the striking landscape of the Burren on one side and the Wild Atlantic Ocean on the other.
Another must-see stop is the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry. Look beyond the town of Dingle (after you’ve had a pint or two of course) and you’re faced with an incredible 6,000 years of history and the Kerry coastline with its pounding waves, salty winds, dramatic cliffs and wide racing skies.
Wild Honey Inn, Lisdoonvarna – One of the best pub restaurants in Ireland, with lovely cottagey rooms a stone’s throw from the Cliffs of Moher.
The Hardiman, Galway – A grand old Victorian hotel that sits right in the heart of the city.
Kilmurvey House – One of the best B&Bs on Inis Mór, with cosy rooms and views of Dún Aonghasa
The Beach – Days Bar and B&B – Simple rooms behind the pub, great for falling into bed after a session with locals, and good hearty food.
2. Game of Thrones
From the Dothraki grasslands to the Kingsroad, George RR Martin’s epic landscapes are brought to life throughout Northern Ireland – and there is a lot to pack in.
Becoming a cultural phenomenon, one of the show’s greatest strengths is the stunning locations that bring a gritty realism to the sensational storylines. The dramatic landscape of Game of Thrones found a home in Northern Ireland, becoming part of local lore and legend.
And there is much more than just natural attractions on offer. Visitors can join guided tours, practice their archery skills, and even meet “direwolves” at a range of Game of Thrones experiences throughout Northern Ireland. And for the ultimate immersive experience, the Game of Thrones Studio Tour at the Linen Mill Studios in Banbridge is a must.
Blackrock Beach House, Portrush – Conveniently located for exploring the entire Causeway Coast and Game of Thrones film locations, you will also discover the best bars and restaurants in Portrush.
The Merchant Hotel, Belfast – Remarkable heritage and modern luxury await guests of the Merchant Hotel.
3. Ring of Kerry
One of Ireland’s most admired spots, the Ring of Kerry sits in the beautiful surrounds of Killarney National Park. Beginning and ending at Killarney, this is also the heartland of quintessential Irish villages, such as the vibrantly coloured Sneem, Waterville and Derrynane. And then there’s the stunningly historic Bog Village that’s preserved in the 19th Century.
Ladies View, named as it was greatly admired by Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting when they visited Kerry in the 1800s, with its sprawling vistas of the Lakes of Killarney, stands in stark contrast to the craggy Atlantic coast and the dramatic spikes of the Skellig Islands, and both are jaw-dropping.
If you have time, we recommend you take a detour and pre-book a boat trip out to the UNESCO World Heritage site Skellig Michael off the coast of County Kerry. Tours to the island take an hour from the Portmagee marina and are a great way to explore this unique island.
Muckross Park Hotel and Spa, Killarney – Set amongst 25,000 acres of the pristine Killarney National Park, at this 5-star luxurious hotel, everywhere you look is bathed in a sea of the Emerald Isle’s famous greenery.
Sneem Hotel, Sneem – Nestled in Goldens Cove on the famous Ring of Kerry and the Wild Atlantic Way, this quiet and unspoilt location will take your breath away and make you feel right at home from the moment you arrive at this beautiful hotel.
Foleys, Kenmare – Smack bang in the middle of the action to hop between the Ring of Kerry and grabbing a pint and watching the world go by.
4. Causeway Coastal Route
Known as ‘one of the world’s greatest road journeys’, the Causeway Coastal Route curves around the north-eastern coast between the cities of Belfast and Derry-Londonderry. The journey meanders along imposing cliffs, crystal-clear waterfalls and characterful castles.
This region is famous for the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Giant’s Causeway, a natural wonder consisting of 40,000 basalt columns resembling stone steps, with a compelling legend to go with it – that of the 16-metre-tall giant Finn McCool (Fionn mac Cumhaill).
Along the way, visitors should also make time for the Gobbins cliff-walk, which has clung to the basalt cliffs of the Islandmagee Peninsula for over one hundred years. Cross striking bridges, climb stairways carved into the cliff face and explore hidden smuggler caves as the wind howls and the mighty ocean waves pound the rocks below.
MAISON, Bushmills – A recently renovated ‘unique and chic’ townhouse in the village of Bushmills just two miles from the Giant’s Causeway offering French-inspired 5-star luxury.
Coachman’s Cottage, Stranocum – Only 20 minutes to Portrush, Ballycastle, Giant’s Causeway, Bushmills Whiskey Distillery, Ballintoy, the Glens and all the beauty of the fabulous North Antrim coast.
Ballygally Castle, Larne – Perched on the tip of the famous Causeway Coastal Route is this stunning 17th Century Castle which overlooks the golden sands of Ballygally Bay and has uninterrupted views across the Irish Sea.
5. Ireland’s Ancient East
Spanning 5,000 years of history, Ireland’s Ancient East boasts every facet of the island. Dotted across this lush landscape and rolling down to panoramic seascapes are megalithic tombs, medieval castles, holy treasures, ghostly gothic architecture, and tombs that predate the pyramids.
Even the most astute of history buffs will be in awe seeing sites such as the sixth-century monastic site of Glendalough, which comprises a beautifully preserved 30-metre round tower built 1,000 years ago, as well as extensive ruins of churches and a cathedral. Not to mention the medieval town of Carlingford which has traces of Viking and Norman history, and the Rock of Cashel, a collection of remarkably preserved medieval buildings perched on a rocky limestone outcrop.
However, possibly trumping the lot is Europe’s most significant collection of megalithic art, Brú na Bóinne. This concentration of prehistoric passage tombs Knowth, Newgrange and Dowth is scattered across the Boyne Valley, now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Clone Country House, Wicklow – Clone House, first built around 1650, is surrounded by five acres of private land and gardens. Located near Glendalough, just an hour south of Dublin, it’s an ideal country spot.
Cashel Palace, Cashel – With gorgeous views of the Rock of Cashel, the Cashel Palace dates back to 1732. Optimally located between the town and the countryside, Cashel Palace offers elegant bedrooms, suites and public areas, complemented by expansive gardens, a world-class spa and the welcoming Guinness Bar. What more could you want?