12 Stunning Scenic Drives and Family Road Trips in Ireland


July 6, 2020

The Copper Coast Waterford

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A family road trip is a super way to see Ireland, and a good way to have a family adventure together. There are many natural loops in Ireland which can easily be covered in a day. So pack a picnic, get the kids in the car and discover these impressive scenic drives and family road trips in Ireland.

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There is lots to see around the country, from castles and beaches to wildlife and famous landmarks. Doing a trip at your own pace, particularly with young children, is a great idea and gives you the freedom and flexibility to customise your adventure.

Some of these road trips in Ireland can be done in an afternoon, while others could be the basis for a mini break with lots to stop and see. Have a great time exploring, and don’t forget to let us know which one is your favourite!

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#1. Ring of Kerry

Ring of Kerry Road trip ideas around Ireland

Kerry is home to the most westerly point in Ireland and is the start, or end of the Wild Atlantic Way. The Ring of Kerry, one of the most famous road trips in Ireland, stretches over 180km from Killarney out to Kenmare, onto Sneem, Caherdaniel, up to Cahersiveen, Glenbeigh, Killorglin and back to Killarney and takes approx 3.5 hours to drive.

On the way you will find amazing beaches, ring forts, beehive huts, waterfalls and a few roads that fall away towards the sea! Plan in some stops to suit your family and if you happen to stop in Dingle, I can highly recommend a trip to Murphy’s ice cream parlour!

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#2. Fanad Peninsula (Donegal)

Fanad Lighthouse

Photo credit and copyright: Tourism Ireland / Failte Ireland

The Fanad Peninsula also forms part of the Wild Atlantic Way and is situated at one of the most northerly points of County Donegal, lying between Lough Swilly and Mulroy Bay.

Starting in Ramelton, take the road to Rathmullen and follow signs for the Fanad Drive. This will bring you to Ballymastocker Bay and Portsalon, both of which have awarding-winning beaches (and the links golf course at Portsalon is pretty impressive too). Follow the signs to Fanad Head where you will find the famous Fanad Lighthouse.

When you finish exploring, take the road back but instead of going to Portsalon, follow the bay with the sea to your right and head for Kerrykeel. This part of the Fanad Drive will take you past the Mulroy Bay lakes and back to Milford.

The full drive is approximately 73km and there is plenty to see and do along the way, from dramatic mountain roads to unspoilt beaches and villages that have changed little in the last 100 years.

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#3. The Burren Loop (Clare)

the burren road trips around Ireland

The Burren is situated in the west of Ireland and offers a landscape like no other. It rises from the ground in a series of dramatic limestone ‘steps’ with the coast running alongside.

Starting in Kinvara, hug the coast road passing the Flaggy Shore and follow the road to Ballyvaughan. From there, head for Murroogh, Fanore, Doolin and Liscannor until you reach the beautiful beach at Lahinch.

Once you finish exploring, take the road inland to Ennistymon onto Kilfenora then into Lisdoonvarna (home of the infamous matchmaking festival!) before coming back to Ballyvaughan. This route is approximately 100km and can be done in a day.

Be sure to take in all that The Burren has to offer including the Cliffs of Moher, Ailwee Caves, Burren Nature Sanctuary and a dive into the wild Atlantic Ocean at one of the many piers and rocky beaches. Look our for Dolmens along the way.

If you fancy going further afield, you can catch a ferry from Doolin Pier to the Aran Islands. Do check times before you travel as you could be gone for the day.

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#4. Lough Gill Loop & Yeats County (Sligo, Donegal, Leitrim)

Sligo and Ben Bulben in the Background road trips around Ireland

Take in the scenic Lough Gill route by starting in Ballysadare and skirting the edge of Lough Gill before coming to Sligo. This route is approximately 40km.

For those wishing to see Yeats County, follow the road to Drumcliffe, thought to be the burial place of WB Yeats, and on to Mullaghmore beneath the stunning Ben Bulben which rises out of the ground majestically.

Come back onto the main road and on to Bundoran, a beautiful seaside village where you can visit the famous Puffin Holes and witness the might of the Atlantic Ocean as the waves crash onto the beach in the centre of town.

You are likely to spot surfers if the waves are favourable. As you return to Sligo, you can head inland to Leitrim and take in the beauty of the Glencar Waterfall and Devil’s Chimney Waterfall before travelling back to Sligo.

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#5. Boyne Valley Drive (Meath)

Newgrange Meath Boyne Valley Drive road trips around Ireland

Part of Ireland’s Ancient East, the Boyne Valley Drive is full of historical monuments that document some of Ireland’s oldest battles. It is the seat of the High Kings of Ireland and you will see evidence of this everywhere along the way.

Starting in Drogheda, where you will find St Peter’s Church and the head of Oliver Plunkett, follow the signs for the Boyne Valley Drive. Leaving Drogheda, you will pass the Battle of the Boyne visitor centre and then on the road to Navan you will find historic passage tombs at Newgrange, a UNESCO world heritage site. These burial mounds are among some of the oldest manmade structures in the world!

From Navan, follow signs to Tara and discover the Hill of Tara, seat of the high kings of Ireland for more than 7,000 years, before travelling on to Trim to view Trim Castle, made famous by the film Braveheart.

Follow the road to Kilskeer and on to Oldcastle where you can visit the Loughcrew Cairns passage tombs, built almost 6,000 years ago. Coming back to Ballinlough, follow signs for Kells where you will find the Kells High Crosses and you can visit Mellifont Abbey.

Next, take the road to Monasterboice to see the famous Abbey with its amazing, richly decorated High Cross and round tower in the grounds. From here the roads loops back to Drogheda once more.

There is much to see and do on this road trip, so it could take you more than one day to complete!

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#6. The Wicklow Mountains, Glendalough and The Sally Gap

Glendalough Wicklow Sally Gap Drive road trips around Ireland

The Wicklow Mountains are just a stone’s throw from Dublin’s M50 (J12) and offer breathtaking views, walking trails and history.

It will take you just under an hour to reach the Sally Gap, and from there you can follow the road to Laragh and on to Glendalough, which is home to a well-preserved round tower and monastery. There is a visitor centre here and you can take walks around the lake, so be sure to pack comfortable walking shoes and maybe even a picnic.

The whole trip can be done in approximately 2.5 hours, including a few stops along the way to admire the scenery and take in a bit of the history.

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#7. The Copper Coast Drive (Wexford to Waterford)

road trips in Ireland

Photo credit and copyright: Luke Myers

The Copper Coast forms part of the Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland’s Ancient East, running from Wexford to Dungarvan in County Waterford, and is approximately 170km long.

There are sandy beaches and rocky coves to discover along the way, but the route is probably best known for the UNESCO World Heritage Global Geopark in Bunmahon. There is a visitor centre here where you can learn about the copper mining that took place in the 18th and 19th century.

Pack your swimsuit if you fancy braving the Atlantic Ocean for a swim or even a spot of windsurfing. The beaches along this route are stunning and kids will love spending time on them hunting for fossils and crabbing in the rock pools. You may even find the odd sea stack along the way.

If you have keen cyclists in the car, consider stopping off to cycle some of the Waterford Greenway, which offers safe cycling for all abilities with no traffic.

Other sights to enjoy along the way include; Johnstown Castle, Tintern Abbey, Hook Head Lighthouse, Dunhill Castle and amazing beaches.

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#8. Connemara and The Sky Road (Galway)

Connemara Galway Road Trips around Ireland

Connemara in County Galway is home to the 12 Bens, a range of mountains dotted around serene lakes, bogs and amazing scenery. The Sky Road route starts and ends in Clifden and is approximately 20km long. Along its length you will find beautiful beaches, megalithic tombs, forts and standing stones.

If you are leaving from Galway, consider taking the road through Spiddal, Inverin and onto Connemara and coming home via Oughterard and Moycullen. If time permits, pay a visit to the Coral Beach, where you can play in the rock pools, swim in pristine waters and pick up some coral for your collection.

On the way home, you could divert to Leenane at the head of the Killary Fjord, Ireland’s only Fjord. And if you have time, stop at Diamond Hill in the Connemara National Park where you will find three climbing routes, with stunning views across the Atlantic and back down the valley to Kylemore Abbey.

This route can be done in a day and adults and children alike will enjoy the sights and stops along the way.

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#9. Achill Atlantic Drive and The Currane Peninsula (Mayo)

Achill Island Ireland Road Trips around Ireland

Take the road from the Achill Sound to Mulranny and pass through some of the most rugged landscapes in Ireland. You will be surrounded by high peaks and will pass Bellacragher Bay, a large tidal inlet.

From Mulranny, follow the signs for Currane and The Atlantic Drive and this road will take you along the coast with views over the islands in Clew Bay. Along the way there are viewing points which are well worth stopping at. You will see Croagh Patrick, the Maamturks and Clare Island.

Stop in Currane Village for a spot of history. It was once a copper mining village and had several famous residents, including Sir Robert Peel. On leaving the village you will drive along the Achill Sound. Continue your Atlantic Drive through small villages, including Shraheens and Cloughmore, until you come to Darby’s Point and onwards to Ashleam Bay. Along the way you will pass towers, forts and steep rocky cliffs along with sandy blue flag beaches.

Be sure to leave time to do a spot of rambling and some gentle hill climbs. And pack a picnic and swimwear to enjoy all that Achill has to offer.

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#10. Beara Peninsula (Cork & Kerry)

Allihies Copper Mine Trail, Beara, Co Cork

The Beara Peninsula in Cork offers an insight into the Ireland of old and is one of the most unspoilt road trips in Ireland, as it takes you along around roads and country lanes.

Start either in Kenmare in Kerry or Castletownbere in Cork and the route is approximately 140kms. It can be done in a day, but you may find yourself stopping to look at the scenery, enjoy the food, the flowers and all the region has to offer.

From Kenmare follow the road to Tuosist and Gleninchaquin where you can view the Uragh Stone Circle. From there, take the road to Lauragh and take the Healy pass to Ardgroom – this is not a road for nervous drivers, but well worth holding your nerve for the breathtaking views!

In Ardgroom be sure to pay a visit to the stone circle, and just outside the village in Ballycrovane, you will find the largest standing Ogham stone in Ireland. From there it is well worth diverting to see Kilcatherine Point and then onto Eyeries. Then follow the route through Urhan to Allihies with its copper mining museum, and on to Lamb’s Head for a cable car ride above the wild Atlantic ocean to Dursey Island!

Back on dry land, take the road to Cahermore and on to the fishing port of Castletownbere. Your road trip could end here, but it would be a shame to miss some of the most amazing lakes and scenery as you follow the road back to Kenmare through Adrigole, Rodeen, Trafrask and on to Glengarrif where you will find the Glengarrif Nature Reserve.

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#11. The Causeway Coastal Route (Northern Ireland)

The Dark Hedges Northern Ireland Causeway Driving Route road trips around Ireland

Follow the Causeway Coastal Route from Belfast to Derry, or vice versa – it is one of the most fascinating road trips in Ireland, and you won’t be disappointed!

Starting in Derry, take the road towards Coleraine, passing Magilligan Point with its Martello Tower and on to Downhill Demesne where you will find the landmark, Musssenden Temple overlooking the stunning sandy Downhill beach.

From there take the road to Portstewart and Portrush. Both are well known for their scenic golf courses and beautiful beaches.

Hug the coast road and be sure to build in time to stop at Dunluce Castle ruins, perched on the cliffside overlooking the ocean. Head inland to the town of Bushmills, home of the famous Old Bushmills Distillery, and back out to the coast again to visit the Giant’s Causeway.

From there, take in Whitepark Bay and the harbour town of Ballintoy. Next take the road to Carrick-a-Rede to visit the rope bridge suspended above the wild waves and rocks below.

Be sure to come inland to visit the iconic dark hedges, featured in Game of Thrones and one of the most photographed roads in Northern Ireland.

Keep on driving through Ballycastle, where you can view the Bonamargy Friary and on to Cushendun where you will find the Cushendun Caves, also made famous by Game of Thrones. Then travel on to Murlough Bay and Torr Head via Glenarm Castle, a well preserved family castle with beautiful gardens to explore.

Be sure to stop in Carnfunnock to visit the maze in Carnfunnock Country Park and journey inland to see the Glenarrif Forest Park where you can enjoy walks and waterfalls.

For the brave in your family, follow the road to the Islandmagee peninsula and you will find the Gobbins cliff walk, a walk along the cliffs where you cross a manmade metal tube bridge bolted onto the cliff face and suspended above the sea.

After your exhilarating cliff walk, hop back in the car and take the road to Belfast where you can enjoy a warm welcome and a trip to the Titanic Museum and Carrickfergus Castle to name but a few of the landmarks in this famous city.

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#12. Inishowen Peninsula (Donegal)

Five Finger Strand, Donegal. Photo credit and copyright: Tourism Ireland / Failte Ireland

The Inishowen Peninsula in County Donegal runs along the Wild Atlantic Way from Derry to Letterkenny.

Starting in Letterkenny, take the road towards Buncrana along the coast. Your first stop will be Burt Castle and then on to Inch Island. Back on the road again, you could stop at Lisfannon Beach, before getting to the seaside town of Buncrana.

Follow signs for Malin Head, and along the way you will pass Dunree Head, before travelling through the Gap of Mamore with a steep climb up to 800ft (and an even steeper gradient of up to 30%) and down into Pollan Bay.

Go on to Carrickabraghy Castle and Five Fingers Strand, with some of the highest dunes in Ireland and breathtaking views across Trawbreaga Bay, before taking the road out to Malin Well and Malin Head, the northern most point of Ireland.

From here you will come back along the coast towards Lough Foyle passing Culdaff Beach, Kinnagoe Bay and on to Magilligan Point, Inishowen Head and Stroove, where you will find a working lighthouse. Follow along the edge of the lake passing Greencastle, Moville, Redcastle, Quigley’s Point, Carrowkeel, Muff, Culmore until you come to Derry. This famous walled city has plenty to do for all the family.

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12 scenic drives and family road trips in Ireland - Mykidstime

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