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9 Best Scenic Drives In Ireland

Road trips in Ireland are the best, because each time you turn a corner in a winding road, you are met with stunning views. From short drives up Ireland’s highest peak to the longest coastal drive in the world –  the Emerald Isle is true road trip heaven. 

When in Ireland, it is a must to experience not just one but at least three of its scenic drives. One would never get enough of the rugged coasts, dramatic cliffs, majestic mountains, ancient monastic sites, and the thousands of castles.

What then, is the best way to make the most of a visit to Ireland? Rent or hire a car, download a map, have a fully charged power bank, a good camera, and drive. Where to go? Here, choose your adventure with nine of these best scenic drives in Ireland. 

9 Best Scenic Drives In Ireland

best scenic drives in Ireland

1. The Ring of Kerry

Length: 111 miles (179 km)

Travel Time: 3 to 4 hours to drive through, but spend at least 3 days to experience it. 

killarney national park

Killarney National Park

A scenic drive around the Iveragh Peninsula in southwest Ireland, the Ring of Kerry starts and ends in Killarney. One of the most popular routes in Ireland, the Ring of Kerry traverses through idyllic towns and villages, stunning mountain passes, sandy beaches, and rugged islands. 

The Ring of Kerry is not an easy road to take, as some parts are narrow or steep. Yet, it is one of those road trips in Ireland that many travelers want to tick off their bucket list. This counterclockwise route only takes a few hours to complete if you’re just driving and at least two days to explore the area.  

Points of Interest:

  • Torc Waterfall
  • Killarney National Park
  • Gap of Dunloe
  • The Rossbeigh Hill Loop Walk
  • Valentia Island 

2. Wild Atlantic Way

Length: 1553 miles (2500 km)

Travel Time: 4 to 5 days to see just portions, 1 to 3 weeks to explore

Slea Head drive

Slea Head

Rough, rugged, and spectacular, the Wild Atlantic Way is also the world’s longest signed coastal drive. The route winds along the west coast,  passing nine counties of Ireland that start in Kinsale, County Cork in the South, and ending in Inishowen, County Donegal in the north. 

Spanning 1,553 miles, a nonstop drive along this dramatic coastal route takes 32 hours. That is just several hours short of the total driving time from Washington, DC to Los Angeles in California, USA.

The entire stretch of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Coast has over a thousand attractions and discovery points that it will take more than a few days to see everything.

To appreciate this epic drive, choose a few sections to explore within several days if pressed for time.  If possible, however, drive the entire stretch and see everything in at least three weeks.  

Points of Interest:

3. The Coastway Coast, County Antrim

Length:  130 miles (212 kilometers)

Travel Time: 5 hours drive, at least a day to explore the area

Giant Causeway , image by Christine Rogador

Giant Causeway , image by Christine Rogador

Named after the Giants Causeway, this North Ireland route connects the Wild Atlantic Way to the city of Belfast.

Known as one of the best drives in Ireland, the Causeway Coast route is filled with some of Northern Ireland’s most iconic destinations. A popular stop near Ballycastle off the coastal route is the enchanting Dark Hedges, featured in Game of Thrones

The thrilling Carrick-a-Rede-Rope Bridge that crosses the ocean to a nearby rock Island is another must experience in the Causeway Coast route. The mind-blowing Giant’s Causeway is where the drive ends. Stop and walk on thousands of interlocking basalt columns, while taking in the views of the Atlantic. 

Points of Interest:

4. The Burren Loop, County Clare

Length: 100 miles (160 km)

Travel Time: 4 to 6 hours

Burren National Park

Burren National Park

Located in the dramatic limestone landscapes of County Clare, the Burren Loop is one of the truly unique road trips in Ireland.

Cruising around the Burren National Park, the 100-mile drive navigates a lopsided figure 8 route. The road passes through sceneries of huge huge karst pale grey limestone, and a variety of flora and fauna.

A UNESCO World Heritage site, the road also passes many ancient heritage sites such as castles, cairns, megalithic tombs, ring forts, and more.

Points of Interest:

5. The Inishowen 100

Length: 100 miles (160 km) 

Travel Time: 4 to 5 hours with stops

Mizen Head

Mizen Head

Spanning 100 miles, the Inishowen Scenic Drive loops around the Inishowen Peninsula, the largest in Ireland.   Those looking for nice drives in Ireland that won’t take days to explore would love the varied landscapes of this area.

From pretty coastal towns to rolling green hills, sandy beaches to dramatic cliffs, travelers are sure to stop and take in the views every few miles or so.

Some of the best things to see along the Inishowen Drive are the stunning Mamore Gap and the epic Mizen Head, which is at the end of the route and also Ireland’s northernmost part. 

Points of Interest: 

  • Fort Dunree
  • Mamore Gap
  • Glenevin Waterfall
  • Knockamany Viewpoint
  • Malin Head

6. The Boyne Valley Scenic Loop, Louth and Meath

Length: 173 miles (278 km)

Travel Time: 7 to 12 hours with stops

Brú na Bóinne ireland

Brú na Bóinne

Rich history and fantastic scenery merge in the 173 miles that it takes to traverse the Boyne Valley Scenic Loop. Passing through counties Louth and Meath, the route has a large concentration of historic sites.

Every attraction here is located close to each other and worth the stop. This journey in the eastern part is one of the best drives in Ireland.

Along with lush landscapes, travelers are treated to ancient monuments such as Newgrange, burial mounds, and castles.

Points of Interest:

7. The Slieve Gullion Forest Park Drive, County Armagh

Length: 8 miles (12.8 km)

Travel Time: 25 minutes to the top, stay awhile to enjoy the views

Cooley Peninsula

Cooley Peninsula

A portion of the longer Ring of Gullion driving/cycling route in County Armagh, the Slieve Gullion Forest Park Drive is one of the shortest scenic routes in Ireland. The narrow road goes up the Slieve Gullion, the highest peak in the county.

Recognized as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Armagh, the best time to drive here is during the day, especially when the sky is clear.

As the road goes on a careful ascent, the views become even more spectacular. Patchwork green fields, lush forests, and a nearby mountain all against the clear sky – the drive may be short but worth it. 

Points of Interest:

  • Ring of Gullion
  • Mourne Mountains  
  • Cooley Peninsula

8. The Copper Coast, County Waterford

Length: 100 miles (166 km)

Travel Time: 4 to 8 hours with stops

Dunhill Castle

Dunhill Castle

Not a lot knows about the Copper Coast but for those looking for more nice drives in Ireland, this is a wonderful discovery.

Located in County Waterford in the south, this scenic drive goes from Tramore to Dungarvan and stretches to a hundred miles. The drive passes through the incredible Copper Coast European Geopark, as well as sandy beaches and coves, rugged cliffs, and beautiful coastal villages.

A nonstop drive takes a few hours, but with the many attractions along the way such as Dunhill Castle and Ballydowane Bay, it is best to set aside a day to explore the Copper Coast. 

Points of Interest: 

  • Dunhill Castle
  • Clonea Strand 
  • Ballydowane Bay
  • Kilmurrin Beach
  • Dunabrattin Head

9. Lough Gill and Yeats Scenic Drive, County Sligo

Length: 115 miles (185 km)

Travel Time: 5 to 9 hours with stops 


Benbulben Mountain

This inspired scenic drive starts and ends in Sligo town, and probably one of the most meaningful road trips in Ireland. Aptly called the Yeats Country and Lough Gill Scenic Loop Drive, the route features stops that either inspired or were featured in W.B. Years’ works.

From the Glencar Waterfall to the Benbulben Mountain, this drive combines beaches,  Irish culture,  literary history, Irish mythology, mountains, and more scenic views.

Spanning 115 miles, the Yeats County and Lough Gill Scenic Loop Drive or Cycle is both an epic road trip and heritage trail, in one of the most awe-inspiring areas in Ireland.

Points of Interest:

  • Rosses Point
  • Benbulben Mountain
  • Lough Gill  
  • Strandhill town
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