You’ve decided to take a road trip across The Emerald Isle so let us take you on a tempting little preview. One of the many joys of a road trip in Ireland is its amazing accessibility; whilst there’s a huge amount to see and do, you can cover the best of it in as little as ten days, and our holiday cottages in Dublin offer a perfect base for you to start from! Before you hit the road, build in a couple of days to explore this historic and fun-loving city!
Recently awarded the accolade as one of National Geographic's Best Trips 2018, Dublin is known as Europe’s largest village.
Steeped in ancient and modern history - James Joyce and Oscar Wilde, just two of Dublin’s famous sons are immortalised in impressive statues you’ll find dotted around the ‘Fair City’ as you wander it’s lively streets.
The landmark sites are a must, including, but not exclusively: Dublin Castle, The Jameson Distillery, Trinity College with its unique exhibition of the 800 AD Book of Kells and of course the raft of traditional music pubs, bars and eateries. A couple of days is just enough time to sip the cream of the Irish coffee – so try to factor in a couple more days on your return to the Fair City!
Now that you’ve absorbed the Irish vibe, buckle up and head west to Galway and take the majestic River Shannon; the spectacular monastic ruins of Clonmacnoise; and the formal Palladian beauty of Belvedere House. Wineport Lodge in Athlone, County Westmeath, makes a fine stopover, either to pause for a hearty home-made meal or take a bed for your first night in Ireland, depending on your time of arrival.
It’s an easy drive from here to the city of Galway, packed with characterful streets, cultural treats, and atmospheric pubs and eateries. You can’t go wrong at Tigh Neachtain’s for a creamy pint of stout and some Irish music.
After the City of the Tribes, head south, destination the Ring of Kerry.
Set in the rich landscape of Munster province, Limerick is a major southern city, famed for its fine rugby tradition. Take a couple of hours to wander along the River Shannon and tour the jaw-dropping glory of the 13th Century King John’s Castle. It’s hard not to linger in Limerick, but you’ll need to press on and head down to Killarney to give you an unhurried drive around the magnificent Ring of Kerry, which starts and ends there.
If you can, give yourself a couple of hours to sample the fine fayre (the seafood is legendary!) and traditional music pubs for which Killarney is famed. This vibrant town bursts with character and energy making it a lively counterpoint to the stunning natural landscapes that surround it. Do visit the stupendously beautiful Muckross House and Gardens, a 19th-century mansion surrounded by majestic grounds. But make sure to keep some energy, the Ring of Kerry is just about to start...
Factor in at least a whole day to travel the 110-mile Ring of Kerry journey around the Iveragh Peninsula, a magical region renowned for it’s unique combination of ocean, islands, mountains towns and villages. There’s so much to see and do along the route, but Killarney National Park is a must especially if you like to cycle (bikes are easy to hire on-site)
The first stretch of The Ring takes you past the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks mountain range with Ireland’s tallest mountain, Carrauntoohil. Golfers travel from all over the world to play at the Killorglin Golf Club, so if that’s your game take the opportunity to play a few holes at one of Ireland’s most scenic courses.
No time to tee-off? Well, crack on through Killorglin towards Glenbeigh, a peaceful village that basks in beauty thanks to the vast sands of Rossbeigh Strand, and the surrounding hills and mountains. A perfect landscape for hiking or simply stop a while and take in the inspiring scenery – famed for its extraordinary light at most times of the year.
It’s also worth a short detour from the N72 to where the Gap of Dunloe slices narrowly through the MacGillycuddy Reeks mountains. Beginning at Kate Kearney’s cottage, the walkthrough is a 5-mile round-trip treat of mountains, lakes and curving roads. Exhilarating pony and trap rides on offer and definitely worth a go!
...The Skellig Ring, which lies just off the Ring of Kerry! Here you’ll find stunning beaches, exceptional Atlantic views, the island of Valentia, and trips out to the 6th Century island monastery of Skellig Michael as featured in the Star Wars series.
Take a beach break!
If you’ve been looking for the perfect picnic spot, spread your blanket on one of the soft green hills overlooking the pristine white sands of Derrynane beach.
Affording beautiful sea views and quaint little coves the beach is a pebble-throw away from Derrynane House. Home of Daniel O'Connell, one of Ireland's greatest 19th Century politicians, this imposing property is set in stunning grounds which you can visit and even enjoy a coffee in the former stables.
If you’ve still got a couple of days in hand, take a small detour into the distant past; just west of Sneem is Staigue Fort, believed to pre-date St Patrick’s arrival in Ireland and one of the largest ring forts on the island with walls scaling some 18ft high and 13ft thick in parts.
Sneem has a charm all of its own. A truly picture-postcard village with neat colourful houses lined around the main square and plenty of pubs and eateries to re-fuel. Dwarfed by the majestic backdrop, the village is divided by a gentle river into two parts; north and south. Park up, walk around and experience the charm of this remote coastal gem.
Once you’ve ‘filled your boots’ with coastal charm, it’s time to head back to Killarney to complete The Ring.
This magnificent stretch of road takes you through impossibly beautiful mountain passes as you head towards Moll's Gap. Named after Moll Kissane who set up an síbín (illicit bar) here in the 19th Century, the ‘Gap’ is an outstanding stretch of curving road enhanced by a scattering of lakes and, takes you, once again, past the hulking presence of the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks mountain range.
Back to the beginning
Unless you have days on hand to further explore the Emerald Isle, then having experienced some of the best of your Ireland road trip, it’s time to head back to the Capital! It’s a fairly direct drive on the M7/M8, approx 190 miles which can be done in under 4 hours (depending on your pace + stopovers). It is a toll road by the way so best look up the respective charges along the route so you can be prepared with Euros in hand!
Once visited, never forgotten, there’s little doubt that you’ll want to return to mop up more of your Ireland road trip! We’ve not touched on the Ancient East, The Wild Atlantic Way or even Northern Ireland with its world-renowned Giant Causeway, among many other historic gems.
Next time but meantime .. Taisteal sásta! (‘happy travels’ as they say in these parts!)