Ireland’s Most Beautiful Driving Destinations

The Republic of Ireland is renowned for its culture, history and breathtaking natural beauty. Here are two touring routes that allow you to experience the country’s aquatic wildlife and just some of its many beautiful and historic places.

Wild Atlantic Way

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View at Keel and Slievemore mountain from Minaun, Achill island.

At 2,500km, the award-winning Wild Atlantic Way is the world’s longest coastal touring route. It runs north from Muff and around County Donegal’s coast before snaking down the west coast to Kinsale, passing 188 ‘Discovery Points’ and 15 ‘Signature Discovery Points’ on the way.

To see the highlights, north to south:

Malin Head

Visit Malin Head to admire Hell’s Hole, a large crevice hewn into the rock by the Atlantic—and, if you’re lucky, the Northern Lights—then conquer the steep path and aptly-named One Man’s Pass at Sliabh Liag to be rewarded with fantastic views.

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Mullaghmore Head

At Mullaghmore Head, visit Classiebawn Castle, the lovely Glencar Lake and Waterfall and the 6th century monastic ruins on nearby Inishmurray Island before travelling to Downpatrick Head. Here, you’ll find the huge sea stack, Dún Briste, inhabited until storms separated it from the mainland in 1393.

Cliffs of Moher

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Explore the deserted village at Keem Strand and spot dolphins at Killary Fjord before visiting the famous Cliffs of Moher, part of a UNESCO Global Geopark and Special Protection Area. Enjoy the fantastic views, nature trails and the abundance of seabirds before carrying on to Loop Head for some whale-watching.

Blasket Islands

Take a boat trip to the abandoned Blasket Islands and the 6th century monastic settlement on Skellig Michael, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, then ride Ireland’s only cable car to Dursey Island, with its lighthouse, castle ruins and standing stones.

Kinsale

Finally, walk across the arched suspension bridge to Mizzen Head and its museum before finishing your trip at picturesque Kinsale, Ireland’s oldest town, with its dramatic views and famous golf course.

The Ring of Kerry

This 179km route begins and ends in Killarney, home to the 19th century Muckross House and its gorgeous gardens—Ireland’s first ever National Park. Head towards Killorglin and you’ll pass Ireland’s tallest mountain, Carrauntoohil, and King Puck, the goat statue symbolising Ireland’s oldest festival, the Puck Fair.

Next, visit the endless white sands of Rossbeigh Strand before heading to Cahersiveen with its 7th century fort and 15th century Ballycarbery Castle.

Waterville

Waterville’s natural beauty should be enjoyed in the daylight, but stay until dark to stargaze and appreciate why it’s part of the International Dark Sky Reserve. The next day, enjoy Derrynane House and its gardens and woods before leaving for Staigue Fort, one of the largest ring forts in Ireland, and the nearby picture-postcard village of Sneem.

Kenmare

Kerry’s first Heritage Town, Kenmare, offers old world charm, good food and contemporary style in equal measure. Visit a pub or gallery before setting off through idyllic mountain passes towards Moll’s Gap, a scenic stretch of road curving between beautiful lakes. This road takes you back to Killarney National Park with its stunning Torc Waterfall.

Follow these two routes and you’ll know you really have seen ‘the best of the west’ in Ireland.

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