5 picturesque road trips in Ireland

Wild Atlantic Way, road trip, Irlande

Ireland by car: road trip ideas for the Emerald Isle

Whether you fancy a vacation with friends or family full of castles, greenery and fun-filled adventures, or a weekend in the great outdoors to disconnect from your professional life, Ireland certainly has it all. The Emerald Isle can offer you both peace and quiet in the countryside, and the bustle of its cities. And with roads in good condition and relatively easy routes, you’ll have no trouble getting on the road. To give you some ideas of what to do by car in Ireland, here are 5 road trips to explore Ireland:

1. Dublin to Galway (208 km)

Cathédrale Galway, road trip

Galway Cathedral – Photo credit: Wikimedia – Thomas Gun

Fly to Dublin and take the wheel for a magical journey through Ireland, passing some of the country’s most romantic castles and impressive fortresses en route to Galway. Your first stop is Dublin’s Martello Tower, the former home of Irish novelist and poet James Joyce. On your way to Trim, brake to see Ireland’s largest castle and Europe’s most important Norman architectural complex, dating from the 13th century. Before reaching your final destination, make a pit stop at Athenry Castle, a charming medieval walled town.

2. County Kerry to Cork (100 km)

Péninsule de Beara, Kerry, road-trip

Cloonee Loughs, Beara Peninsula – Photo credit: Wikimedia – Raúl Corral

Kiss a magic stone with your head upside down and you’ll get the gift of eloquence. This is what you can experience at Blarney Castle, located in the small town of Blarney in County Cork. Drive through County Kerry, over the mountains and along the rugged coastline, until you reach this charming castle, the ancestral home of the McCarthy clan and the legendary Blarney Stone, known as the « stone of eloquence ». When you finally arrive in Cork, reward yourself after a hard day on the road with a pint of local beer made at the Franciscan Well brewery located in a Franciscan monastery.

3. Dublin to Portlaoise (138 km)

Montagnes de Wicklow, road trip, Irlande

Wicklow Mountains – Photo credit: Flickr – Claire Gribbin

When you’ve had enough of partying in Temple Bar, sipping pints of the famous Guinness, escape the city and head for the very natural Wicklow Mountains. Picnic at the foot of Powerscourt waterfall, Ireland’s highest, in a picturesque spot surrounded by oak and pine trees. Stroll through the Wicklow Mountains National Park and stop for the night in the charming village of Laragh. Take time to contemplate the tranquility of the Glendalough valley, where you’ll find a 6th-century monastic settlement founded by St. Kevin. Immerse yourself in the magnificent scenery and you’ll feel like you’re thousands of miles away from the hustle and bustle of Dublin, yet just a few dozen miles away.

4. Donegal to Cork (2500 km)

Wild Atlantic Way, road trip, Irlande

Along the Wild Atlantic Way – Photo credit: Flickr – Greg Clarke

The world’s longest coastal tourist route, the Wild Atlantic Way is an iconic route with many points of interest and stunning scenery. You can rush and do the whole route in a few days, but why not take your time and spend a little more time on the road, making plenty of stops? Visit Hell’s Hole, a long, deep and narrow chasm where the swell rumbles and crashes, at Malin Head in County Donegal. Why not take the time to observe the Atlantic Ocean from the tip of the peninsula and the imposing Loop Head lighthouse?

5. Belfast to Londonderry (250 km)

Coucher de soleil sur la Chaussée des Géants, Belfast, Irlande du Nord

Photo credit: Flickr – 一元 马

Spend a few days exploring Northern Ireland’s capital, the bustling city of Belfast, before heading off on the Causeway Coastal Route. Follow in the giant footsteps of the mythical Finn McCool, and see the famous Giant’s Causeway. This incredible staircase, allegedly built by McCool to defeat his Scottish rival Benandonner, comprises 40,000 hexagonal basalt columns, and was actually formed by surface cooling of lava over 60 million years ago. Another site well worth a stop is the 20-metre Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge to Carrick Island, where you’ll find the ruins of medieval Dunluce Castle, gushing waterfalls in Glenariff Forest Park and dazzling limestone cliffs.

6. Around Ireland at your leisure

A road trip in Ireland is a real adventure, and you’re also free to take any route you like, for example to tour Ireland in either direction. But such a trip requires a minimum of organization. The best thing is to rent a car in Dublin, after you’ve landed in the capital. It’s by far the easiest city to get to from France.