Ireland is an ancient and beautifully abundant country. Its landscapes are raw and rough from its aggressive weather and oceans. We all know what springs to mind when Ireland is brought up.. Green rolling hills, stone walls, rugged coast lines and friendly people. An Ireland road trip is not only a financially efficient way to see the country, however the most practical and easiest. You can go and see whatever you like and almost (we will talk about this) sleep wherever you like. Leaving the beauty of the country at your doorstep and its incredibility your backyard.
So, we recently finished a complete circumnavigation road trip around its magnificent coast and now we have put together our collection of The Best Ireland Road Trip.
The trip consisted of 9 days, and we followed a path which we believed to show off Ireland most beautiful natural landscapes and attractions. There are many, many more as the entire country is breath taking, but given our length of time, and what we hoped to see, we believe these are the jaw dropping, awe inducing landmarks worth most to see!
Below is a map of the route we took. Highlighted with golden stars are our favourite attractions, while the large red dots are where we camped our van each night.
Our Best Ireland Road Trip
As we imagine most people would, Our trip began as we landed in Dublin, the Capital of Ireland after arriving off a flight from Bristol, United Kingdom. We had just completed a 5months journey of hitchhiking around Europe, showcasing it is full of amazing kind people and highlighting some of Europe’s most iconic natural wonders. If your interested in more of that you can click [HERE]. Anyway back to Ireland.. We made our way with two busses to west Dublin and to pick up our rental Wicked Van for the next 9 days. It was spray painted in a hippie style. It was perfect!
Wicklow Mountain National Park was the perfect first location to begin our trip. It was as if stepping back in time to an era completely unchanged by man. Tiny mountain passes, vast empty rolling mountains of shrubs and most impressively what brought us there; many scenes of the t.v series Vikings was filmed in areas.
We camped in a waterfall carpark and heard only a handful of cars drive by the entire night.
Killarney National Park was the first ever national park in Ireland and is rightfully beautiful. It has a huge lake overlooked by impressive mountains and surrounded by lush woods. An ancient castled named Ross Castle is worth exploring along the lake front.
The Gap of Dunloe was a mountain valley road we stumbled across when looking for a free place to camp the night. Cradled between two huge mountain ridges, it follows a river while proving a true Irelands rugged landscape.
We slowed down the pace of driving and spent sometime in the cute coastal town of Dingle. That afternoon we drove only another 25 kilometres to a tiny village named Ventry and camped on the beach where a famous small pub named Páidí Ó Sé’s was our traditional Irish pub experience.
The Dingle Coast gave us a real example of what one might expect Ireland to typically look like. The entire land has been animal agriculture for centuries and so is rolling bright green fields separated with stone walls. The coast is sharp and rugged, battered from countless rough seas’s and storms. The weather for us was blanketed by a thick, low cloud and it felt exactly like we imagined Ireland would.
Dunquin is a old boat pier, well worth seeing to get an understanding of how truly raw the oceans and coast is.
Conor Pass is also raw with nature and crosses over a mountain ridge revealing the tamer, more flat side of the Dingle Coast. Stopping at the top, a carpark allows you to take in the incredible view over large lakes and surf beaches ahead.
Fermoyle Strand stretches as a beautiful 14km white sand beach where surfing is popular. With its mountainous landscapes stretching from Conor Pass, it makes for a breath taking view standing on the beach.
That afternoon we drove all afternoon north and found a camping spot in the woods just north of the Cliffs of Moher were we planned to rise early and see it uncrowded.
The Cliffs of Moher were first priority and we managed to get there just as the sun began to rise. As a result we had it entirely to ourselves and even managed to skip on paying the 6€ a person fee because nobody was even there.. maybe we got lucky!
Galway city was our next stop where we had lunch and a quick walk around. It was a neat, really vibrant city with a small town vibe and it ticked our favourite city due to its friendly energetic vibe and many, many traditional pubs.
Castle Demesne was something we simply stumbled across when following google maps quickest route to Dogs Bay. It was a vast flat orange coloured scrubland of mostly nothing. Sounds interesting! But it was simply bazaar and what made it even stranger and unique was the tiny, single lane road we followed as it bounced over the tiny hill deviations of the land. It came down to one of our favourite landscapes. Oh and we could find nothing to do with a castle along the way!
We camped in an abandoned houses backyard just after Dogs Bay because a friendly man came to our car window when we were parked on the side of the road looking for somewhere to sleep. He told us it would be no problem!
Dogs Bay is simply incredible. The pictures explain it enough. Two pure white beaches either side of a flat, ridiculously green headland dotted with friendly cows which follow you. We woke early again and drove over to watch the sunrise.
We then unfortunately only had time to drive through Connemara National Park and had we had more time we would have hiked some of it. Its looming mountains and surrounding lakes are as picaresque as any landscape in Ireland. The drive along will take your breath away!
Keshcorran Caves were next on our list and oddly untouched and touristic. This made them extra special, although the actual caves themselves are not overly large. The way they sit hidden into a farmers hillside and count more than 10 openings put it worth seeing on our natural sightseeing list.
Benbubin was a landmark also wonderfully strange. We simply drove past it but wanted to highlighted it because of its unusual mountains shape. It is well worth not missing!
That night we wanted some nightlife and drove to the surfy coastal town of Bundoran where we camped in a caravan park. The town itself is cool to explore and if the surf is pumping like for us it is well worth checking out.
We drove across the boarder into Northern Ireland and began ticking off the many highlights along the amazing north coast.
The Downhill Demesne and Hezlett House are old historic buildings built on a lush green grassed hillside and with vibrant surrounding gardens. From the cliff edge the view along the coast is vast and a great vantage point!
Dunluce Castle is also a great view point and wonderful medieval ruined castle. It can be explored and has an interesting cave underneath it. Our imaginations ran wild with what it may have been like centuries ago.
Looking for a location to camp for the night we stumbled across Ballintoy Harbour which is a cute yet rugged old harbour. It had some unusual land formations and in combinations with the rough ocean and vibrant coloured grasses, it made it a beautiful place to stumble across.
We parked our hippie van in a mans backyard which was advertised with a simple sign on his driveway saying camper van parking. It was just east from the Giants Causeway. For 5€ each we had a communal kitchen and bathroom except we had it entirely to ourselves!
We drove the short distance back to the Giants Causeway. It is a very well known landmark and has the infrastructure and facilities to accomodate it. We found these somewhat distorting of its beauty but still could not deny its unusual wonder. We arrived very early to capture it at sunrise. Similar to the Cliffs of Moher, we avoided all workers and therefore did not have to pay its entrance fee.
We hurried to Carrick-A-Rede. The walk to this amazing suspension bridge connecting the mainland to an island once used for launching fishing boats off was beautiful in itself and well worth the battle from strong winds. The bridge has an entrance fee and opens at 9am however we were there before its opening hours.
Dark Hedges. Our last highlight in the north was a road famous for its ancient, century old trees wrapping overhead. It is surprisingly very busy for a country road with no signage or tourist information. By 10am it was bustling with tourists and cars however we highly recommend a drive down it.
Our travel then took us south and to an ancient forrest called Tollymore Forest Park. By this stage we were running out of time to truly explore this beautiful park. A quick drive through made it obvious why it is well renown.
After countless searching for our last nights camping spot, we drove back into Ireland and to a peninsula. We camped freely and peacefully in a beach carpark.
Our last day we drove early back to Dublin and dropped our van companion back to Wicked Campers. With the afternoon free we spent it exploring the city. Our last night was spent in a hostel before we had an early flight to Iceland!
While we claimed it to be the best Ireland Road Trip, it certainly was for us! We know the country has so many more amazing places and landmarks, but given our space of time and our goals, these were what grabbed us the most.
We hope you enjoyed the reading and it was able to help!
The Limitless Ones xo