Top 25 Best Scenic Drives and Road Trips in Ireland
Driving in Ireland is an unforgettable experience, from wild winding coastal roads to high mountain passes and from gentle lakeside rides to road trips through endless lush green valleys, Ireland has some the best scenic drives and road trips in Europe if not the world. Not only do you get great scenery at every turn but you also experience Irelands rural villages, pubs, local people, ancient history, heritage, mythology and ancient trading and pilgrim paths. You will have plenty of stories to tell on your return from a weekend trip, holiday or long vacation about driving on the left hand side of the road along winding country roads. Take our scenic driving route with you on our free App for iPhone and Android and share your photos on the ActiveMe facebook page.
National Geographic, Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, The Guardian, Telegraph, Skyscanner and many more well known publications place Ireland drives in the Top Scenic Drives in Europe and one of the great road trip holiday destinations in the world. Our climate means Ireland is a perfect year round driving destination and some drives like the Wild Atlantic Way are even better on bad weather days which is good, because Ireland is sometimes known to get a bit of rain and wind 🙂
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Irelands Wild Atlantic Way is now the World’s Longest Scenic sign posted driving, cycling and walking route at over 2,800km long and is probably one of the greatest road trips in the world. Although it takes in many of Irelands already iconic and well known great driving routes such as The Ring of Kerry, The Inishowen Peninsula, Sky Road near Clifton, The Skellig Coast, Loop Head and many more, these scenic drives also deserve to be mentioned in their own right on the list of best drives below.
Step back 2,000 years into Irelands Ancient past and it is said there were five principal highways or ‘slighe’ (roads) radiating from the sacred Hill of Tara and the seat of the High Kings of Ireland, to the various provincial capitals of Ancient Ireland. Evidence has also been found for even more ancient trackways built and used by Neolithic traders traveling across Ireland around 6,000 years ago. It is thought that some of Irelands rural scenic drives may have been built upon these ancient trackways. Another interesting theory is that many of the ancient monuments such as standing stones may have acted as ancient signposts.
Now with nearly 100,000km of roads on offer in Ireland, the choice is endless and allows tourist to pick any route they wish and go off the beaten track. We have tried with difficulty to pick the top 25 and best driving routes in Ireland including some of the best known drives to some secret hidden gems known to only to few!! Feel free to agree, strongly disagree or add your own suggestions here or on the ActiveMe facebook page. Click the links and photos below for detailed route maps, guides, gps and gpx files and also find them in the driving section of the Free ActiveMe App.
Prepare for one of the best road trips in the world. The Wild Atlantic Way is the worlds longest signed coastal drive at more than 2500km. It winds along Ireland rural coast roads from Kinsale Co. Cork in the south to Inishowen, Co Donegal in the north also taking in the rugged coastlines of counties Kerry, Limerick, Clare, Galway, Mayo, Sligo and Leitrim along the way. If its not blues skies you’re after, don’t fret, the drive is even better in stormy weather and best enjoyed over a 2 week period or more!!
The world famous Ring of Kerry is one of them ‘must do’ scenic drives or cycles in County Kerry, in the south west of Ireland. Named by many top travel publications as one of the best drives or road trips in the world, The Ring of Kerry is a 180 to 200 km driving and cycling loop with follows the Kerry coastline along the Wild Atlantic Way, visiting many great places including Valentia Island, Killarney, Kenmare, Derrynane and more.
The windswept Loop Head Peninsula drive is 50 to 90km loop drive starting from Kilkee town and following the coastline of the Loop Head Peninsula visiting the superb points of interest, scenic views, attractions, bird watching spots and heritage sites along the way including the fascinating Pollock Holes, Bridges of Ross, Cliff top walks, Ring Forts and more. Take the Loop Head scenic driving route with you on our free App for iPhone and Android and share your photos on the ActiveMe facebook page.
Follow in the footsteps of Fionn MacChumhaill, the ancient hero of Irish Mythology on this scenic drive, in an area which was home to Irelands first settlers around 10,000 years ago when the rest of Ireland was covered in ice. This 230 km (140 mile) full day route takes well over a week to complete properly and see all the sights including the magical and scenic Comeragh Mtns, the secluded Nire Valley, the banks of the River Suir, Clonmel Town, the ancient walled town of Fethard, the world famous Rock of Cashel, Tipperary, the splendid Glen of Aherlow, Cahir Castle, The Vee scenic mountain pass, the heritage town of Lismore and the seaside town of Dungarvan in an area now known as the Munster Vales which covers Tipperary, Waterford, Cork and Limerick. Take the Munster Vales scenic driving route with you on our free App for iPhone and Android and share your photos on the ActiveMe facebook page.
In glorious Co. Wicklow and Ireland’s Ancient East, this full day 75km (47 mile) scenic drive takes in the beautiful Blessington Lakes and rich surrounding heritage, the Sally Gap mountain pass, Wicklow Mountains and the famous medieval monastic settlement of Glendalough founded by St Kevin in the 6th century. The scenic drive can start in Blessington town but you could start at any point along the route, from Dublin City or any surrounding town. This route passes some great attractions, sights, scenic views and things to do in Wicklow including the Blessington Lakes, Baltyboy House, Valleymount Village, Ballyknockan Village and Quarry, the spectacular Glendalough, Wicklow Mountains National Park, great mountain hikes, Lough Tay where the Vikings TV series films, Sally Gap and much much more. Take the scenic driving route with you on our free App for iPhone and Android and share your photos on the ActiveMe facebook page.
The Tralee to Dingle Scenic Drive 135km (84 mile) full day or multiple day road trip on the Wild Atlantic Way and is one of the more spectacular scenic drives in Ireland if not the world, with cliff top roads, high mountain passes, breathtaking coastline views, nearly 200km of great beaches, Blasket Islands, surfing, walking, diving and other awe inspiring things to see and do along the way. Recently this drive featured on the BBCs Top Gear and the entire team loved it. You can start in either Tralee or Dingle and it takes in the entire Dingle peninsula with a great figure of 8 loop which allows you to break up the route into multiple days or great places to stop for food and drink along the way. Take the Tralee to Dingle scenic driving route with you on our free App for iPhone and Android and share your photos on the ActiveMe facebook page.
Taking its name from the Giants Causeway, the Causeway Coastal Scenic Drive is a 212 km (130 mile) road trip along the rugged and spectacular coast of Northern Ireland connecting Irelands Wild Atlantic Way to Belfast City. The route, following the coastline from Derry to Belfast is one of Ireland’s most scenic drives with some of Irelands premier tourist attractions including the Carrick a Rede Rope Bridge and the Giants Causeway among many other equally as impressive sights and things to do. Just picture walking the Kings Road from episode 2 of Game of Thrones and there you have it, it was filmed at the Dark Hedges near BallyCastle off the Causeway Coastal Route. Take the Causeway Coast scenic driving route with you on our free App for iPhone and Android and share your photos on the ActiveMe facebook page.
The Sky Road is a 20km (12 mile) jaw-droppingly scenic loop route near the town of Clifden in the wonderful Connemara, Co Galway. Part of the Wild Atlantic Way scenic drive along Irelands west coast, the Sky Road peninsula juts out into the Atlantic against the backdrop of the 12 Bens Mountain Range to the east. Along with the Inagh Valley scenic drive south of Leenaun, the sign posted Sky Road in Clifden is one of the top tourist attractions in the entire Connemara region. In addition to great scenic views over looking Clifden Bay, Streamstown Bay, Inishturk and Turbot Island, the Sky Road Peninsula itself is rich in heritage with ancient Megalithic Tombs, Standing Stone, Promontory Forts, scattered along its length. The rugged rocky coastline can also boast a number of fine sandy beaches and turquoise waters where you can relax for a picnic and enjoy the waters. Take the Sky Road scenic driving route with you on our free App for iPhone and Android and share your photos on the ActiveMe facebook page.
The Copper Coast Scenic Drive and Cycle Route is a 166km (100 mile) full day or multiple day, scenic coastal road trip starting from either Dungarvan, Co. Waterford or Rosslare in Co. Wexford. The Copper Coast Drive is one of the more spectacular driving and cycle routes in Ireland and a top way to explore Ireland’s Ancient East over a number of days. The route takes in the entire Copper Coast European Geopark between Dungarvan and Tramore in County Waterford and it extends onwards to Dunmore East, passing Waterford City, down to the Hook Head Peninsula and Lighthouse, Tintern Abbey, Kilmore Quay and more. Take the Copper Coast scenic driving route with you on our free App for iPhone and Android and share your photos on the ActiveMe facebook page.
The Sheep’s Head Drive and Cycle Route is a 70km (43 mile) full day driving loop or multiple day scenic coastal road trip starts from Bantry town in West Cork on the Wild Atlantic Way and is one of our top 25 scenic drives in Ireland. Located in the south west coast of Ireland, The Sheep’s Head Peninsula is a narrow finger of land protruding into the wild Atlantic Ocean and is nestled between the more famous and larger Beara Peninsula to the north and Mizen Peninsula to the south. Take the Sheeps Head scenic driving route with you on our free App for iPhone and Android and share your photos on the ActiveMe facebook page.
The Inishowen 100 scenic tourist drive is a 100 mile (160 km) signposted scenic driving route around the stunning Inishowen Peninsula, Co. Donegal on the Wild Atlantic Way. The coastal route passes many of the top tourist attractions and places of interest on the peninsula and there are great things to do at every turn from hiking to cycling, golf to fishing and from blue flag beaches to Whale watching. Take the Inishowen scenic driving route with you on our free App for iPhone and Android and share your photos on the ActiveMe facebook page.
The Priest’s Leap Mountain Pass Drive is a 40km (25 mile) stunning scenic road trip or cycle over Irelands highest mountain pass at 465m (1,500 ft) from Bonane in Co. Kerry to Coomhola in Co. Cork is one of Irelands hidden gems off the well trodden nearby tourist routes and is steeped in folklore and mythology. Best approached from the Kerry side at Bonane as there are more passing opportunities on your ascent, the Priest Leap (pronounced locally as Lep) mountain pass is a steep, narrow and winding mountain road on the border of counties Cork and Kerry on the Wild and I mean Wild Atlantic Way. Oh and it scares the hell out of cyclists with an average gradient of over 8%. Take the Priests Leap scenic driving route with you on our free App for iPhone and Android and share your photos on the ActiveMe facebook page.
The Burren 100 mile Scenic Loop Drive is varied 150km figure of 8 looped driving route around the Burren National Park, a Unesco World Heritage Site and one of the most dramatic and unique landscapes in the world. The Burren is a huge rocky karst pale grey limestone landscape in County Clare on the west coast of Ireland and on the Wild Atlantic Way and a place full of wonder, interesting places to visit and a wide range of flora and fauna. Take the Burren scenic driving route with you on our free App for iPhone and Android and share your photos on the ActiveMe facebook page.
The 60km Skellig Ring Scenic Drive is without doubt the best section of the world famous Ring of Kerry Scenic Drive and Wild Atlantic Way along the Skellig Coast in the south west of Ireland. the road trip takes in awe inspiring views of the Skellig Islands at every turn, the wonderful Valentia Island accessed by ferry and bridge, the picturesque fishing village of Portmagee, Ballinskelligs with its great Blue Flag beach, the famous seaside Waterville village and all things these places offer. Take the Skellig Ring scenic driving route with you on our free App for iPhone and Android and share your photos on the ActiveMe facebook page.
15. Lough Corrib Scenic Loop Drive, Cong and Galway City
The 150km Lough Corrib Scenic Loop Drive is one of Ireland’s great road trips, starting from Galway City in the south to the picturesque village of Cong, Co. Mayo in the north and forms a spectacular inland circuit of Lough Corrib, Irelands second largest lake. with ever-changing scenery, ruins, castles, sheep-lined roads and plenty of places to visit. Starting from Galway City, Lough Corrib covers an area of approximately 175 square kilometres and encompases the villages and towns of Headford, Cross, Cong, Maam Cross, Oughterard and Moycullen. With walks, picnic spots, cycles and scenic views at every turn, Lough Corrib separates Connemara and the Maumturk Mountains to the west from the rest of county Galway and Ireland to the east. Take this scenic driving route with you on our free App for iPhone and Android and share your photos on the ActiveMe facebook page.
16. Cooley Peninsula Scenic Drive, Co. Louth
The 80km Cooley Peninsula Scenic Loop Drive between Dundalk to the south and Newry in the north is a small but remotely splendid road trip around the wooded and hill strewn peninsula which rises from the waters of Carlingford Lough in county Louth on Irelands north east coast and part of Irelands Ancient East. Steeped in Irish Mythology and stories of the famous Cú Chulainn and the Cattle Raid of Cooley, the Cooley peninsula contains ancient sites and monuments including the Proleek Dolmen which has a capstone weighing 35 tons, great walks, Slieve Foye and Carlingford Mountains, views of the Mourne Mountains, picnic spots, Blue Flag beaches and much more. Starting from Dundalk or Newry, the road trip visits Greenore, Carlingford, Omeath, and other smallers places along the way. Take this scenic driving route with you on our free App for iPhone and Android and share your photos on the ActiveMe facebook page. You can easily extend this scenic drive and take on the amazing 615km or 380 mile Táin Trail Touring and Cycling Route which follows the story of the Táin through several counties.
Follow in the footsteps of Irelands ancient High Kings and wander through 9,000 years of rich Irish history on the 190km or 120mile Boyne Valley Scenic Drive, County Meath. The epicentre of Irelands Ancient East, county Meath is still known as the Royal County as High Kings have sat here since the second century AD. You can start at any point along the route but for now we will start in the historic town of Drogheda, in which a St. Peters church actually contains the real head of Oliver Plunket, an Irish saint from the 1600’s.
The pure number of historic monuments show how important this area is now and and in ancient times. Starting the tour with a bang, you visit some of the oldest man made structures in the world, the Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth burial mounds from the Brú Na Bóinne Visitor Centre, the Battle of The Boyne site, The Hill of Tara, where The Book Of Kells originated, ancient Cairns, Trim Castle (of Braveheart fame), Slane Castle and more. Take this scenic driving route with you on our free App for iPhone and Android and share your photos on the ActiveMe facebook page.
18. Glengesh Pass, Glenties, Donegal
From a landscape and people who inspired the works of WB Yeats to prehistoric ancient tombs and Irish Mythology, the 185km or 115 mile Yeats County and Lough Gill Scenic Loop Drive or Cycle in Co. Sligo is road trip and heritage trail through some of the most scenic, interesting and awe inspiring areas on Irelands Wild Atlantic Way. Starting and ending in the centre of Sligo, this drive gives you a great mix of Irish culture, scenic views, literary history, beaches, Irish mythology, mountains, walks, ancient tombs, cycles, watersports and more. Take this Sligo driving route with you on our free App for iPhone and Android and share your photos on the ActiveMe facebook page.
Truly a hidden gem, the Bealach Óisín (Ballaghisheen) and Bealach Beama Scenic Drive and Cycle is a stunning 80km or 50 mile long (2-3 hour driving) route from Killarney to Waterville or vice versa through the centre of the Iveragh Peninsula to some of the most remote, scenic and mythology inspired parts of county Kerry known as the Highlands. Leaving Killarney on the Ring of Kerry, the route passess its most famous sites including Killarney National Park, Muckross House and Garden, Torc Waterfall, Ladies View and Molls Gap before you leave the main road for the remote Bealach Beama. An alternative to the world famous Ring of Kerry and Wild Atlantic Way drives which take the coastal route around the Iveragh Peninsula this scenic drive is simply spectacular. For the return journey you can either head north and join the Skellig Ring and Ring of Kerry route back through Glenbeigh and Killorglin or south to Waterville, Sneem and onto Kenmare. Either way you are blessed with some of the best road trips in Ireland and the world!!! Take this scenic driving route with you on our free App for iPhone and Android and share your photos on the ActiveMe facebook page.
21. Short Mountain and Caherconree Loop from Tralee, Kerry
22. Sperrin Mountains Loop, Tyrone and Derry
23. Ring of Beara, Healy Pass and Caha Pass, West Cork
24. Lakelands and Kingfisher Trail Scenic Drive, Fermanagh
25. Kinsale to Clonakilty Scenic Drive, Co. Cork
See our full list of Irish Scenic Drives and Cycles Here.
We hope to have more Top 10 Lists coming soon and if you would like to contribute please visit here.
The lists may include the Top 10 and Best Scenic Drives by County, Top 10 Suggested Travel, Holiday and Vacation Itineraries in Ireland, Top 10 Short Scenic Drives in Ireland, Top 10 Coastal Scenic Drives in Ireland, Top 10 Mountain Pass Scenic Drives in Ireland, Top 10 Lakeside and Inland Scenic Drives in Ireland, Top 10 Long Distance Scenic Drives in Ireland, Top Pilgrim Path and Ancient Pagan Walks and Trails in Ireland.