The first day of your coastal road trip around Ireland takes you to Dublin. Takes some time to explore this lively and friendly city, full of culture and history; with plenty to do, see and taste.
2 Dublin to Waterford - 268km
First day on the road! On your way to Waterford, we suggest you stop at the following places:
Powerscourt Waterfall: Set in one of Ireland’s most beautiful parklands in the foothills of the Wicklow Mountains. Powerscourt is Ireland’s highest waterfall at 398 feet.
Glendalough: explore the remains of the 6th century monastic village, once referred to as the ‘centre of learning in Europe’.
Wicklow Gaol: Wicklow’s Historic Gaol tells a story of crime, cruelty, exile and misery. Experience first-hand the sights and sounds of harsh life in the dungeon. One of the spookiest places in Ireland, it is a must-visit at Halloween.
Hook Lighthouse: Constructed over 800 years ago this is the oldest intact operational lighthouse in the world. Visitors can climb the 115 steps to the see the spectacular panoramic view from the balcony.
John F. Kennedy Memorial and Dunbrody Famine Ship: a harrowing world-class interpretation of a famine emigrant boat, housed on an authentic reproduction of an 1840’s migrant vessel.
3 Waterford to Cork - 208km
Originally a Viking settlement dating back to 853 AD, Waterford was Ireland’s first city. Don’t leave the city without trying the local ‘blaa’ (floury bap). On your way to Cork we suggest you stop to visit:
The Rock of Cashel, also known as Cashel of the Kings, was the seat of the High Kings of Munster, most of the buildings date from the 12th century.
Swiss Cottage is a delightful ‘cottage orné’ built in the early 1800’s. Its interior contains a graceful spiral staircase and some elegantly decorated rooms.
Cahir Castle: Once the stronghold of the powerful Butler family, the castle retains its impressive keep, tower and much of its original defensive structure. It is one of Ireland’s largest and best preserved castles.
Lismore Castle and The Vee drive tour, one stunning vista after another as this leisurely loop unfolds, ducking between the Comeragh Mountains and Copper Coast.
The Jameson Experience in Middleton: tells the story of one of the world’s best loved whiskeys through a series of reconstructed scenes from the original distillery, exhibition areas showcase the seven stages of whiskey making.
Cobh is a pretty seaside town in County Cork, steeped in history: it was the departure point for 2.5 million Irish people who emigrated to North America during the famine. It was also the final port of call for the R.M.S. Titanic before she set out on her ill-fated maiden voyage.
4 Cork to Killarney - 302km
Today, the coastal road trip around Ireland continues from Cork city: is a historic, creative, exciting and ever-changing city with extraordinary surprises to be discovered every time you turn a corner. The English Market is a must-visit in the city: this roofed food market owned by Cork City Council has been trading since 1788 and it is the oldest municipal market of its kind in the world.
Blarney Castle: built nearly 600 years ago by one of Ireland’s greatest chieftains, Cormac MacCarthy. Visitors come to see the Stone of Eloquence, found at the top, of the main tower. Legend has it if you kiss the Blarney Stone you’ll never again be lost for words again.
You will meet the Wild Atlantic Way route in the picturesque seaside village of Kinsale, regarded as the gourmet capital of Ireland; there is no shortage of restaurants, cafés and pubs to suit every taste and budget.
From here you will travel West following the spectacular coast and stopping in villages along the way. Make a pit stop in Baltimore originally settled by a colony of Normans around 1169, the village still maintains remnants of this past including Dun Na Sead Castle.
Also today you will reach Mizen Head, Ireland’s most Southerly point. Here you should admire breath taking panoramic views and explore the visitor centre, signal station, Fastnet Hall and arched bridge; or have a break in the café.
5 Killarney to Killarney - 298km
Starting in bustling Killarney, today the coastal road trip takes you to areas of magnificent beauty: The Dingle Peninsula and the famous Ring of Kerry. Be prepared for spectacular views along the way.
National Geographic once referred to The Dingle Peninsula as “the most beautiful place on earth” and its easy to see why: breathtaking landscapes, pristine beaches that go on for miles, plenty of history and culture, great food … it is the West of Ireland in all its glory.
The road around Slea Head follows an impressive cliff-top route, where you will enjoy a dramatic seascape of crashing waves, rocks and sea birds.
After Inch Beach, you will reach Annascaul and ‘The South Pole Inn’ owned by legendary polar explorer Tom Crean when he retired from the navy, there is a museum on site, full of equipment and artefacts from his expeditions.
Returning to Killarney for tonight’s accommodation you will follow the Ring of Kerry, this 200 km looped driving route takes in some of the finest and most iconic coastal views in Ireland, including: Molls Gap, perfect for viewing the famous Macgillycuddy’s Reeks and surrounding lakes; and Torc Waterfall, one of the iconic landmarks on the Ring of Kerry. Back in Killarney, visit the Muckross House 19th century Victorian mansion set against the stunning beauty of Killarney National Park.
6 Killarney to Galway - 294km
From Killarney you will be driving through North Kerry and take the ferry across the Shannon Estuary into County Clare, home to Ireland’s most iconic cliffs: the Cliffs of Moher. Your stop for the night is Galway City, a lively University town and always full of music and cultural events.
The Shannon Estuary is a recognised breeding ground for bottle nose dolphins and you may be lucky enough to catch sight of one during your crossing on the Tarbert Ferry this morning.
Loop Head epitomises what the Wild Atlantic Way is about: panoramic cliff views, abundant local seafood and plenty of quiet beauty spots.
The impressive Cliffs of Moher stretch along the coast for over 8km and tower 214m above the Atlantic Ocean. In the impressive visitor centre you will get information about the area, cafes and bathrooms.
The Burren is referred to as “fertile rock” for its home to a unique mixture of herb and floral species. It is also home to impressive archaeology and you should definitely visit the famous Poulnabrone Dolmen portal tomb dating back to the Neolithic period; as well as the Ailwee Caves.
Rounding Black Head you will find a small lighthouse perched on the cliff top and from this vantage point you will have spectacular views of Galway Bay.
7 Galway to Westport - 195km
From Galway to Westport, you will be driving through fascinating Connemara and passing the locations of ‘The Quiet Man’ and ‘The Field’. Connemara National Park covers some 2,957 hectares of scenic mountains, expanses of bogs, heaths, grasslands and woodlands.
Driving through Roundstone you will have an opportunity to explore the workshop of Malachy Kearns, (better known as Malachy Bodhrán among folk musicians) at his craft of making Ireland’s oldest product the Bodhrán (Bow-Rawn).
From Clifden take the ‘Sky Road’, one of the most breathtaking in the country.
In 1920 a community of nuns purchased Kylemore Castle, after their abbey in Ypres Belgium was destroyed during WWI. The nuns transformed the castle into Kylemore Abbey, the abbey and walled gardens are open to the public.
Killary fjord is located in the heart of Connemara and is one of three glacial fjords that exist in Ireland. Here you will be leaving Galway and entering County Mayo.
Just before Westport, you will be passing by Croagh Patrick: Ireland’s ‘holy mountin’. Legend has it that Croagh Patrick is the site from which Saint Patrick banished snakes from Ireland. An annual pilgrimage in July sees thousands of devotees from all around the world travel to Croagh Patric, for a day of worship in honour of Ireland’s patron saint.
Your stop for the night is picturesque Westport, a busy little town with plenty to offer: walks, scenery, gastronomy and also pubs with entertainment that will take you into the small hours of the morning.
8 Westport to Sligo - 275km
From friendly Westport town, the coastal road trip around Ireland continues on towards Achill Island, the largest island off the coast of Ireland. Take a scenic tour of this beautiful island, following the breath taking Atlantic Drive, visiting the picture perfect Keem Bay and taking in the Deserted Village, consisting of over 80 stone cottages on the southern slopes of Slievemore Mountain.
Also on your route today:
Ballycroy National Park: comprising of 11,000 hectares of pristine Atlantic blanket bog.
Beneath the wild bog lands of North Mayo lies the Céide Fields, the most extensive Stone Age monument in the world, consisting of field systems, dwelling areas and megalithic tombs.
Carrowmore Megalithic Tomb: is the oldest and largest collection of megalithic tombs in Ireland, with monuments ranging from five thousand to six thousand years old. Archaeologists have uncovered over 60 tombs of which 30 are visible.
And if the sun is shinning, take a detour and go for a stroll in Strandhill, just outside Sligo town. You are now entering Yeats Country!
9 Sligo to Derry/Londonderry - 266km
Today’s itinerary takes you from Sligo town to Drumcliff Cemetery, the final resting place of the famous Irish poet W.B. Yeats is located in the Shadow of iconic Benbulbin Mountain.
Stop at Mullaghmore Beach for a wonder if the sun is shining. Once in Donegal, make sure you visit Donegal Castle, former stronghold of the O’Donnell clan. It is furnished throughout and includes Persian rugs and French tapestries. Information panels chronicle the history of the castle owners.
Following the Wild Atlantic Way route you will reach Killybegs Harbour, one of the largest fishing ports in Ireland. A great place to stop for fish and chips (tip!).
At Slieve League (Sliabh Liag) you will have an ideal location to take in the awe inspiring view majesty of the sea cliffs. Rising over 600 meters from the Atlantic Ocean, they are the tallest sea cliffs in Ireland, nearly 3 times taller than the popular Cliffs of Moher.
Glenveagh House & Gardens: this area is most famous for its gardens, where seven full time gardeners work tirelessly to maintain the two themes originally developed in the 1880’s, a Pleasure Gardens and more formal Walled Garden.
The Stone Fort of Grianán of Aileach is sits on a hilltop in Inishowen County Donegal, the stone fort was probably first built on an earthen rath dated back to 1700 BC.
You will also be reaching Malin Head, Ireland’s most northerly point today before following the coast all the way to the walled city of Derry, in Northern Ireland.
10 Derry/Londonderry to Belfast - 193km
Another day packed with fascinating stops awaits, on your coastal road trip itinerary today:
The Derry City walls are 26 feet high, 29 feet thick and stretch for a mile around the city, they were never breached during siege or attack which is why Derry is known as the ‘maiden city’. The walls are now the perfect vantage point to view Derry’s historic city centre.
Following the Causeway Coastal Route you will reach Dunluce Castle, a heritage gems providing visitors with iconic view of this part of the country.
Established in 1608 the Bushmills Distillery is the oldest continuously producing distillery in Ireland. Suspended almost 100 ft above sea level, the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge was first erected by salmon fishermen 350 years ago, to span the 65 foot gap to a prime fishing location.
The Giants Causeway is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This world-famous landscape consisting of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns is the result of an ancient volcanic eruption.
As you make your way south again following our coastal road trip itinerary you will travel a stunning coast road along the edge of the Glens of Antrim.
For more than 800 years, Carrickfergus Castle has been an imposing monument on the Northern Ireland landscape, the castle now houses historical displays as well as cannons from the 17th to the 19th centuries. Your stop for the night is the city of Belfast.
11 Belfast to Dublin - 233km
In Belfast you’ll find a cornucopia of historic landmarks and fantastic attractions, such as the birthplace of the Titanic, Belfast Castle, City Hall, Botanic gardens and Stormont Parliament Buildings to name but a few.
Once you are back in the Republic of Ireland, you will be stopping in the wonderful medieval town of Carlingford before moving inland.
Monasterboice: is one of Ireland’s earliest Christian sites dating back to roughly 480 AD, today you can still see the round tower, magnificent high crosses and the remains to two churches.
Visit the site of the Battle of the Boyne at Oldbridge House, the most important battle ground in the Jacobite-Williamite War, this location saw the deployment of over 60,000 troops: English, Scottish, Dutch, Danes and Huguenots (French Protestants) and Irish. This battle played a defining role in Irish and European history.
Brú Na Bóinne Visitor Centre interprets the Neolithic monuments of Newgrange (the best known Irish passage tomb, dates to c.3,200 BC), Knowth and Dowth. The extensive exhibition includes a full scale replica of the chamber at Newgrange as well as a full model of one of the smaller tombs at Knowth.
The Hill of Tara: is a complex of ruins and ancient monuments, according to tradition, was the seat of Árd Rí Na hÉireann, or the High King of Ireland.
Back in Dublin to finish your coastal road trip around Ireland. Take some time to explore this exciting and always lively city. Ask the IrelandWays.com travel consultants about adding extra nights if you wish to spend some more time in Dublin. Some of the must-see attractions in the city include:
The Phoenix Park: at 707 hectares is the largest enclosed recreational spaces within any European capital city.
Guinness Store House: is fast becoming Ireland’s number one visitor attraction, providing an unforgettable welcome and a magical journey deep into the heart and heritage of this world famous beverage.
Located in the heart of Dublin City, the Old Library in Trinity College houses the Book of Kells, a 9th-century gospel manuscript, written in Latin on vellum and famous throughout the world for its lavish decoration.
Kilmainham Gaol: is one of the largest unoccupied gaols in Europe, covering some of the most heroic and tragic events in Ireland’s emergence as a modern nation from 1780s to the 1920s.
Glasnevin Cemetery: contains historically notable monuments and the graves of many of Ireland’s most prominent national figures.