When you’re looking to go on a beautiful drive on vacation, Ireland is the place to do it. The country was made for driving with its winding roads, lush, green pastures, and ocean views everywhere you look. You’ll love going on scenic drives in Ireland, whether you go on shorter ones near Dublin or longer ones like on the iconic Wild Atlantic Way.
I love nothing more than driving when I’m in Ireland because there’s no better way to explore small towns and see areas you might not otherwise see if you’re in a big city. That’s why I’ve put together some of the best drives in Ireland that I’ve done over the years to help you experience the country in my favorite way.
If you’re unsure about driving, I have a thorough article on how to drive in Ireland to help answer any questions you have and ease your worries.
Whether you’re spending a day in Galway or exploring Dublin, there are plenty of places you can go on a drive. With that, let’s get into the best places to drive around Ireland so you can start planning your trip.
Tips for Going on the Best Drives in Ireland
Here are some tips to keep in mind when going on a scenic drive around Ireland:
- Drive on the left: Driving in Ireland is done on the left side of the vehicle. It could take some time to adjust if you’re not used to the change. Use extreme caution when entering or exiting a new road or when traveling through a roundabout.
- Rent a car with GPS: I highly recommend that you rent a car with GPS to help you on the narrow streets and quaint towns of Ireland. This will help you avoid getting lost on the way.
- Plan your route ahead of time: While there’s nothing wrong with seeing what you find along the way on a drive (I do that all the time), you should have a general idea of where you’re going to save time.
- Take your time: It’s tempting to fit everything in during your trip, but pick a few places to visit, take your time, and enjoy them.
- Be prepared for weather changes: The weather in Ireland is notoriously changeable, so you’ll want to pack accordingly. Bring plenty of layers, including a raincoat, just in case.
- Be respectful of local drivers: It’s likely that Irish drivers will be faster than you’re used to because they’re more accustomed to the twisty roads. Let quicker vehicles pass, and never go faster than the posted speed limit to keep everyone safe.
13 Amazing Scenic Drives in Ireland to Go On
Here are some of the most beautiful drives in Ireland that I know you’ll love.
1. The Ring of Kerry
Location: County Kerry
Soak up spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean and distant islands on your Irish road trip along the Ring of Kerry. The 124-mile loop offers views of wild and craggy islands, beautiful sandy beaches, and spectacular mountain passes. This is something a nature lover would love to experience.
Many prominent travel publications have named the Ring of Kerry one of the best drives in the world, so it’s no surprise to me that many people love this route. The drive follows the Kerry coastline along the Wild Atlantic Way, stopping at several great locations such as Valentia Island, Killarney, Kenmare, Derrynane, and more.
Speaking of Killarney, why don’t you stop by the Killarney National Park to enjoy its majestic views? I particularly enjoyed the medieval castles and observing the wildlife. You can even challenge yourself to hike up Torc Mountain as part of your 7 day Ireland itinerary.
2. Wild Atlantic Coastal Drive
Location: County Donegal to County Cork
If you’ve been wondering where to go for a drive in Cork after checking into your hotel in Cork, you won’t want to miss this drive. It’s one of the best things to do in Cork when you’re visiting. The impressive Wild Atlantic Way is one of the world’s longest-defined coastal routes, and this magnificent route spans a whopping 1,553 miles.
From beginning to end, this drive reveals the grandeur of nature, the power of the ocean and its mark on Ireland’s west coast, and the peaceful countryside in all its glory, and is one of the best things to do in Donegal.
While on this drive, it’ll take you along the coasts of the counties of Leitrim, Sligo, Mayo, Galway, Claire, Limerick, and Kerry. Along the scenic route, make sure to stop by some of the incredible beaches and check out the water activities and the wildlife safaris.
The terrain is dotted with enchanting villages and old monuments whose roots have long since vanished into the mists of oblivion. I recommend you take it slowly on this drive, and every turn on this beautiful coastal road reveals a new surprise.
Make sure to know about the correct voltage in Ireland so you’ll have the right plugs to recharge your camera at the end of the night.
3. Boyne Valley Scenic Drive Loop
Location: Counties Meath and Louth
While this drive may not offer scenic views like the abovementioned routes, it provides history buffs with many historical attractions to learn from and visit.
Attractions on this route include Bru Na Boinne, The Hill of Tara, Trim Castle, Loughcrew Cairns, Kells High Crosses, and Mellifont Abbey. Further interests include Slane Castle, Monasterboice, and a vast number of historical sites in Drogheda.
This may sound like a mouthful, but Boyne Valley is packed with so many interesting historical sites it’s hard not to want to share them all. Located in Ireland’s Ancient East, some of the historical sites here are older than Stonehenge and Egypt’s Ancient Pyramid.
You can start the 118-mile loop drive at any place on the Boyne Valley map — the swirl symbol on the road signs will help to keep you on the right path.
Make sure to book your car rental in advance! I love using Discover Cars when I travel.
4. Connemara Sky Road
From the seaside town of Clifden, the Connemara Sky Road is a 10-mile loop drive that takes you through some of Ireland’s most stunning scenery. I’ve been enchanted by the immense beauty of Sky Road ever since going on this drive. You’ll get to see Inishturk Island and the Twelve Bens mountain range in Connemara’s National Park on a clear day.
The route is well-marked and easy to access from Clifden. Sky Road takes you uphill as you travel away from Clifden, and the route will split into lower and upper roads. The lower road leads downhill to the sea and provides a close-up view of the Irish scenery, while the upper is more popular due to panoramic views.
Speaking of the views, you can find unbeatable views of the Connemara landscape, the Atlantic Ocean, The Islands, and the coastlines of County Mayo and County Clare to the north and south here.
There is a parking and viewing area at the highest point with lots of room to park and snap pictures with loved ones. I highly recommend that you visit and experience this location of unmatched natural beauty on one of the best scenic drives in Ireland.
5. The Wicklow Mountains
Location: County Wicklow
This convenient scenic drive near Dublin includes everything from mountain views and lakes to waterfalls. It will have you feeling like you’re deep in the Irish countryside while you’re looking for hikes near Dublin.
The Wicklow Mountains are home to the Liffey’s source, and you may stop at Powerscourt Waterfall, Sally’s Gap, Guinness Lake, Blessington Lakes, and Glendalough while driving through the twisting mountain roads. Autumn in Ireland is a particularly scenic time to go on a drive here (trust me, I’ve been in September, and it was gorgeous).
The drive begins in Blessington Lakes and spans a total distance of 47 miles. You’ll observe heather hills, vast plains, as well as magnificent Celtic stone buildings when driving along the route of this vast mountain range.
I recommend that you consult a map before you go, so you can change the route to suit your preferences. You can then head back into town to enjoy three days in Dublin.
6. Inishowen Peninsula 100 Mile Scenic Loop Drive
Location: County Donegal
Voted in 2010 as one of Ireland’s Top 10 Scenic Drives in the Irish Independent Top 10 List by Pol O’Conghaile, the Inishowen Peninsula is a breathtakingly beautiful route. This is also a great day trip from Belfast if that’s your base.
On the Wild Atlantic Way, the Inishowen 100 scenic tourist drive is a 99-mile signposted picturesque drive around the stunning Inishowen Peninsula in County Donegal. The route runs through most of the peninsula’s key tourist attractions and points of interest, with fun activities ranging from hiking to cycling and golf to fishing. In addition, you can go whale watching or dive with sharks.
I recommend planning ahead of time as the Inishowen might be difficult to follow if you don’t have a clear route planned in advance.
7. The Vee Scenic Drive
The Vee Scenic Drive is well-known for the spectacular views of mountains and valleys that it offers as it passes through the Knockmealdown Mountains, so you’ll love one of the top scenic drives around Ireland. Driving north from Lismore through difficult mountainous terrain is the route one should follow. The journey reaches a height of around 2,001 ft above sea level.
Take the time to view Bay Lough, a bottomless corrie lake where Petticoat Loose is said to have lived. You’ll see Samuel Grubb’s grave, commonly known as Grubb’s Grave or Grubb’s Monument, standing and staring across the Vee Valley since his death in 1921.
Head to the Lismore Heritage Center if you’d like to soak up a little history and culture. Feeling a little hungry along the way? Visit the Lismore Restaurant and order a tasty meal there. Alternatively, head to Barrons Bakery & Café for freshly baked bread, confectionery, and a cup of freshly brewed coffee.
Lastly, you can visit the picturesque Lismore Castle to stretch your legs for a bit. While you can’t stay here, there are plenty of Irish castle hotels where you can spend the night.
8. Copper Coast Scenic Drive
Location: Counties Waterford and Wexford
The 103-mile Copper Coast is one of the most scenic driving and cycling routes in Ireland; however, it’s unfortunate that many visitors to the country choose to stay in the city instead.
The route starts from either Dungarvan in County Waterford or Rosslare in County Wexford. It passes through the Copper Coast European Geopark, which is an immensely beautiful natural area. The drive continues on to Dunmore East, passing via Waterford City, down to the Hook Head Peninsula and Lighthouse, Tintern Abbey, Kilmore Quay, and more.
You’ll get up close and personal with countless seascapes, steep and rugged cliffs, beautiful beaches, and lots of charming little towns and villages. Based on the magnificent views you’ll get to see, this is the best drive in Wexford.
Fun fact: The Copper Coast Drive was named after the massive mines that operated in the area throughout the 19th century.
9. Dingle Peninsula Drive
Location: Tralee to Slea Head
On your drive around the 29-mile Dingle Peninsula, you’ll pass by rugged coastlines, green fields, beautiful beaches, and charming villages. The narrow and winding roads make the drive a bit of an adventure on one of the top scenic drives in Ireland.
If you want to drive the entire loop around the peninsula, keep in mind that it will take a full day. It’s also important to note that you must complete the drive in a clockwise direction, as this will help you avoid colliding with the numerous tour buses that frequent the route during the summer months.
I recommend staying in the town of Dingle, where you’ll find plenty of fun things to do in Dingle before going on your scenic drives in Ireland. You’ll also want to book your place to stay near Dingle before you go.
Ceann Trá (Ventry) is a notable stop along the trip. The blue flag beach is a long, curved strand that provides a safe bathing and water sports environment.
The remains of Dunbeg Fort and the Fahan group of Beehive huts are the next stops on your drive after leaving Ventry. I recommend stopping at the nearby parking areas to take in the scenery and visit some of these historic sites.
Other notable stops along the way include Slea Head, the well-known Dún Chaoin, the village of Baile, and Ballyferriter. Lastly, you’ll pass by the quaint fishing village of Ballydavid before rejoining the main road south to Dingle.
You can extend your trip and head north to a cozy place to stay in Galway for the night.
10. Sheep’s Head Peninsula
Location: County Cork
Noted for being one of the most scenic places in Ireland, the incredible Sheep’s Head Peninsula drive is a 43-mile loop that begins and ends in Bantry, West Cork, and meanders along coastal roads. The terrain is not too rugged, so it’s also suitable for cyclists.
Sheep’s Head Peninsula is a thin spit of land that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean, providing unobstructed views of coastlines and wildlife.
Try one of the 20 looped walking trails if you’re a keen walker. The area has visible, well-placed signs, and its routes are easy to follow.
If you’re feeling a little peckish, I recommend stopping in Bantry town to sample some tasty local food and popular drinks in Ireland. You can then pick out a country house hotel in Ireland to stay the night at.
11. Causeway Coast Scenic Drive
Location: Derry to Belfast
The Causeway Coastal Scenic Drive is a 132-mile route from Derry to Belfast along Northern Ireland’s rugged and magnificent coast. It offers travelers 360-degree views of natural beauty and is one of my favorite drives on a Northern Ireland road trip.
Ireland’s scenery is among the best in the world, and this scenic drive in Northern Ireland is no exception. Causeway Coast Scenic Drive is one of Ireland’s most scenic and varied drives, featuring some of the country’s most famous tourist attractions, including the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and Giant’s Causeway. In addition, the drive passes through the set location for the world-famous Game of Thrones.
This scenic drive in Ireland is so beautiful it was voted 5th in the World’s Most Scenic Views in 2006. Besides its popular attractions, it passes through several dozen beaches too. The breathtaking drive hugs the north Atlantic coastline as closely as possible and connects to the Wild Atlantic Way, which runs over 1,553 miles from Derry to Ireland’s southern tip.
I have noted a few congested spots along the route, and there are plenty of places to park your vehicle and go for a walk. So there’s no need to worry if you need to stretch your legs a bit on one of the best scenic drives in Northern Ireland. You’ll also find plenty of places to stay in Derry when you need to rest.
12. Sperrin Mountains Loop Drive
Location: County Tyrone
This is one of Ireland’s most extensive and romantic natural areas, with a scenic and delightfully traffic-free drive through mid-Ulster. The Sperrin Mountains are rugged, and the drive is winding, with a number of interesting stops along the way. It’s no wonder that the Sperrin Mountains are a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland.
North, East, South, and Central are four of the picturesque driving routes to choose from in the area. Each route includes access to amenities, lodging, and breathtaking views of the unspoiled landscape, including calm rivers, valleys, and lakes.
The Sperrin Mountains are Northern Ireland’s least-explored mountain range despite its stunning vistas. I find this unfortunate as the route features dramatic landscapes, rich forests, sparkling rivers, valleys, and lakes. In addition, there are both indoor and outdoor activities, such as hiking, to engage in.
13. Skellig Ring
Location: County Kerry
The Skellig Ring spans about 11 miles to the west of the Ring of Kerry, between the villages of Cahersiveen and Waterville. It will take you approximately an hour and a half to travel.
Skellig Ring’s unspoiled peninsula with winding roads, beautiful towns, and a backdrop of mountains and islands will make you want to stop your car at every bend to take in the scenery of this magnificent route. It’s perfect for day trips in Ireland by car.
The route is remote, isolated, and surrounded by some of the most breathtaking Irish scenery you’ll ever see in this part of the country.
Which one of these scenic drives in Ireland are you most excited to go on?