Ireland is one of my favorite countries.
It’s magical and mystical.
It’s so green it makes your eyes hurt.
And it is meant to be explored slowly along rural roads that are not quite 2 lanes wide.
This is where you truly see Ireland — where you experience the real Ireland.
And there are loads of scenic drives.
Pick any road that looks as though it’s not a main road and you won’t be disappointed.
But I want to share some of my favorite drives with you that I also think are some of the best drives in Ireland — some of the most scenic drives in Ireland.
And I have driven at least part of each of these so I can attest to their beauty.
So without further ado here are some of the most scenic drives in Ireland (according to Lynne)!
Dingle Peninsula — Slea Head Loop
There’s no way that any list is complete without this gorgeous drive.
Just driving from Tralee to the town of Dingle is beautiful.
But driving from Dingle Town out to Slea Head and looping back to Dingle is mesmerizing.
You’ll get views out to the Blasket Islands, see some pretty beaches and take in the stone beehive huts that the peninsula is famous for.
Did I mention this is the most westerly point of mainland Ireland?
Yup it is.
And it’s only 30 miles so you can truly take your time and stop along the way, especially if the weather is dry.
It’s one of the most stunning drives in Ireland.
And one I very much want to do again.
This very short yet very dramatic loop drive begins just outside the town of Dunfanaghy in northern County Donegal.
And it’s a stunner!
You’ll follow a narrow road up and through sheep fields until you come to a fork in the road.
If you go left, you can park out by the old lookout tower and walk the final bit out to the tower which is right on top of Horn Head.
I didn’t do this, but wish I had.
But if you continue to the right you’ll find a wide pullout with fabulous views back to Horn Head itself and you’ll see the tower.
Do both if you have time and the weather is good.
Then circle back around where you’ll get incredible views back to Dunfanaghy and Muckish Mountain.
It packs a lot of awesomeness in 11 miles (17km)!
Copper Coast — From Dungarven to Tramore
I took this drive with my Irish friend, Aedín, on my first trip to Ireland.
And it is lovely.
For 25 miles (40km) you’ll skirt along the coast taking in rugged sea cliffs, sandy beaches and green fields dotted with sheep.
While the sea cliffs aren’t as high as you’ll find on the west coast, they’re still impressive.
I call it a gentler drive — a bit less rugged than some of the west coast drives.
But no less stunning.
In my opinion this area of Ireland — County Waterford — is often overlooked.
So you may find it less crowded which only adds to the beauty of this drive.
Molls Gap — From Killarney to Kenmare
I love this drive!
I’ve done this twice — once on my own and the second time with my parents.
This is the slower — yet shorter route at 20 miles (32km) — to get from Killarney town to Kenmare.
But it’s far more picturesque (I’ve taken the other route and it’s not nearly as scenic).
It’s actually a main road — the N71 — but it winds its way through the gorgeous Killarney National Park then up to Molls Gap.
From here you’ll have stunning views over one of Ireland’s most dazzling national parks.
It’s really one of my favorite drives.
Now I didn’t get to drive this whole loop that circles around the Inishowen Peninsula up in County Donegal.
But I did drive bits of it on the southwest part then the area up near Malin Head — the most northerly point in Ireland.
And what I saw was amazeballs!
I truly regret not having spent more time here and making the drive all the way around.
Everyone that does this route says it’s wonderful.
So this best drives in Ireland list wouldn’t be complete without it.
The Burren Drive
There are some wonderful drives through this unique and enchanting landscape.
I’m going to give you a few options.
Starting in Ballyvaughan you can drive the main N67 to Lisdoonvarna and the drive will be spectacular.
Or you can shoot off onto the R480 toward Ailwee Caves and the Poulnabrone Dolmen then follow the R476 back toward Lisdoonvarna.
I’ve not been on this part but have driven part of the N67.
Corkscrew Hill on the N67 has some fabulous views back toward Galway Bay.
Once in Lisdoonvarna head toward the coast on the R477 and drive the coastal road up to Black Head then back to Ballyvaughan.
The coastal drive is gorgeous.
I’ve done this and love this drive.
You can reverse this if you want and do the coastal drive first.
Or you can start and end in Lisdoonvarna.
Whatever you decide you won’t be disappointed.
The Burren and the coast here in northern County Clare are splendid and otherworldly.
Causeway Coast — Northern Ireland
There’s a lot of wow on this drive.
The best spot to pick this drive up is in Portstewart if you’re coming from Derry.
I picked it up in Portrush so I missed the far western part of this drive.
But that wow factor really kicks in just east of Portrush and keeps on going until you reach Ballycastle.
You can stop at Bushmills Distillery, Giant’s Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge.
My favorite stop was White Park Bay and its gorgeous beach.
And if you’re a Game of Thrones fan, you may see some familiar places along this drive.
This short yet delightful drive begins and ends in Clifden — in the Connemara area of County Galway.
It’s only about 12 miles (20km) around, but the views to the sea and the 12 Bens (mountains) are sublime.
As you head out from Clifden you’ll see the signs.
And as you drive along you’ll see there are 2 options — Lower Sky Road or Upper Sky Road.
I think I’ve done both although this last time I took the lower road.
The upper road may afford slightly better views.
Regardless this is one of the most scenic drives in Ireland.
I’ve actually done it twice — and I’d do it again!
Ring of Beara
Of the 5 peninsulas in the southwest of Ireland I’ve just driven 2 of these.
And the Ring of Beara is the second one — although my friend Aedín was driving this one.
It’s a stunner and one I’d like to do again — like Dingle.
We took this from Kenmare skirting the northern coast first, then we drove south over Healy Pass which is gorgeous then along the southern coast out to the tip then circled back around.
Unfortunately the weather turned and we had lots of rain on the northern part of the coastal drive as we headed back to Kenmare.
So I don’t have many if any images from it.
But even in the rain it was gorgeous.
Leave yourself a good long day to do this as there are some wonderful stops to make along the route — colorful towns like Castletownbere, Allihies and Eyeries — as well as seeing the Ring of Beara (Yay! A stone circle.) and the cable car to Dursey Island.
Perhaps you even want to make the trip to Dursey Island!
My favorite part might have been the county line between Cork and Kerry.
It’s a rivalry in certain sports — and even among its citizens — so it was fun to put a foot in each!
This one doesn’t make it on many best drives of Ireland lists but I think it should.
It’s a short roller coaster of a ride with some beautiful scenery.
Located in northern County Donegal, and not too far from where I recently stayed in Dunfanaghy, this route starts in Carrickhart and heads north on the R248 through the Downings.
You’ll roll along through some pasture land and, yes there are quite a few holiday homes.
But it’s still a fun drive.
It culminates just past the settlement of Doagh as you drive up to an overlook and are rewarded with this magnificent view.
Then you drive a bit further and get this view.
And you can’t leave without stopping at the Singing Pub — a very old, traditional Irish pub.
Have a pint or a half pint for the driver.
Or maybe a wee dram.
Kinsale to Baltimore
One of my all time favorite drives is located in southwest County Cork.
And it starts in one of my favorite towns — Kinsale.
Kinsale is a bit touristy, but I still love it.
And it’s a great base to explore some of the towns that lie along the coast.
Starting in Kinsale head to the Old Head of Kinsale — the lighthouse.
This is the R600 to the R604.
Make the loop around the R604 and hook back up with the R600 to Timoleague.
Follow the R600 into Clonakilty.
You may want to stop here to pay homage to Michael Collins.
From here you may want to drive on the main N71 for a short time or you can drop down onto the R598 for a bit to get back near the water.
At Rosscarbery pick up the R597 toward Glandore.
If you want follow the signs to Drombeg Stone Circle for a side trip here.
But the R597 through Glandore and around the inlet is one of the best parts — so you don’t want to miss it!
Jump back on the N71 at Leap and follow it to Skibereen.
Here take the R595 all the way to the tiny sailing village of Baltimore.
It’s a picturesque spot for some lunch, tea or a pint.
I’ve done this drive twice and I recommend it to all my clients staying in Kinsale.
Be sure to give yourself a full day to do this and get an early start.
Galway to Westport via the Doolough Valley — Connemara
I think this could be my favorite drive in all of Ireland.
For me it is hauntingly and starkly beautiful.
And because of the tragedy of the Doolough Valley during the famine years, it seems to embody the spirit of the Irish.
You can begin this drive in Galway City and make your way to Clifden or start in Clifden itself.
It’s a pretty drive along the main N59 as you make your way into the Connemara area although the road isn’t great in spots for a national road.
As you continue on the N59 through Clifden you’ll loop back to the east and pass Connemara National Park and Kylemore Abbey as you make your way to Leenaun.
The alternative ways to Leenaun from Galway City are to follow the N59 to Maam Cross and take the R336 or drive a bit further west to the R344 just past Recess.
These are lesser roads but the scenery is stunning.
On my first trip to Ireland, Aedín and I took the R336 and I remember it being absolutely amazing.
Leenaun is located on on Killary Fjord and it’s really beautiful here.
It’s a wonderful spot to stop for some refreshments.
You’ll continue to follow the N59 then you’ll branch off onto the R335 toward Delphi.
And while the drive up to this point is lovely, be prepared to be bowled over as you drive through the Doolough Valley.
There’s something very special about this landscape.
Dramatic might be the right word.
Look for the memorial stone along a pull out on the road for the Doolough Tragedy.
It’s quite moving.
As you head further north toward Louisburgh keep your eyes open around Cregganbaun for the R378 toward Killadoon.
There are some superb beaches out this way.
It makes a nice side trip.
Aedín and I did this and it was one of my favorite moments from that first fateful trip to Ireland.
Once you get to Louisburgh stay on the R335 toward Westport and enjoy the views of Croagh Patrick and Clew Bay.
This is truly one of the most scenic drives in Ireland.
So are you ready for a road trip in Ireland?
There are so many wonderful drives.
I’d probably include the Sally Gap through the Wicklow Mountains and the Cooley Peninsula up near Carlingford as honorable mentions.
Ireland is made for driving.
Just know that the roads are narrow, more rural-like and — as a result — slower.
So pack your patience.
Take your time.
Stop along the way.
Soak in the scenery.
And enjoy one (or 2 or 3) of the best drives in Ireland.
A side note:
It is Ireland so you can run into bad weather so have a backup plan.
I don’t recommend a lot of these drives if it’s lashing rain.