If you like the idea of taking to the open road without a set itinerary, enjoying early morning swims and watching sunsets on headlands before falling asleep to the sound of waves or under the stars, then a road trip in a campervan is the ideal holiday. Best of all, you get everything – transport, accommodation, cooking and washing facilities – all in one.
Wild camping is not allowed in Ireland unless you have permission from the landowner, but most areas have designated camping grounds and there are usually plenty of rest stops and viewing points along the way. To find local legal camping places for you to spend the night, check blogs and websites such as Total Camping, Safe Nights Ireland or the Campercontact app.
Driving is on the left in Ireland and larger campervans might want to keep to motorways (prefixed with an M, such as M1), national roads (prefixed with N in the Republic of Ireland, A in Northern Ireland) and regional roads (prefixed with R in ROI and B in NI) and avoid roads which are smaller than these. In high season during the summer months (July and August or local festival times), book your overnight parking spots in advance.
So where should you go? Here is our campervan itinerary for Ireland for some great road trips:
Five Fingers Strand, County Donegal
For a more remote drive, the Inishowen Peninsula in Donegal will bring you to Ireland’s most northerly point at Malin Head. Start by visiting the hilltop fort of Grianán of Aileach for scenic views in all directions, before taking the road north to the town of Buncrana, to stock up on supplies.
Smaller campervans can take the road to Dunree Head, to explore the fort and beaches before driving onwards through the stunning Gap of Mamore (with some twisty roads) for views over Inishowen and Lough Swilly, while larger campers might prefer the main road to Clonmany.
Stop at the Isle of Doagh for the Doagh Famine Village and views of Five Fingers Strand. The small Binion Bay Caravan Park in Clonmany is a handy overnight spot – walk to a nearby beach for a morning dip. At Malin Head – a Star Wars filming location – enjoy Atlantic views and scenic walks along the north west headland. Travel back along the coast for the beach at Stroove and the Inishowen Maritime Museum & Planetarium at Greencastle – which might give you more knowledge for stargazing at night from the campervan.
Causeway Coastal Route
Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coastal Route is one of the world’s most scenic drives, with this north coast full of castles and glens on one side and dramatic cliffs and bays on the other. Soak up the sea air on The Gobbins path on Islandmagee, with rocky caves and bridges. Spend a few hours at Glenarm to visit the forest, river and Glenarm Castle and make your overnight stop the campground at Glenariff Forest Park, to enjoy woodland walking trails and waterfalls.
Don’t miss the scenic fishing villages of Cushendun and Cushendall, plus the campground at Cushendall Holiday Park. Further north you will come to some of most dramatic features of this drive, with the rope bridge across a gorge at Carrick-A-Rede and the 40,000 basalt columns at the Giant’s Causeway itself. Lookout for the cliff-side ruins of Dunluce Castle and Game of Thrones filming locations such as Ballintoy Harbour and Downhill Strand.
Connemara, County Galway
A coastal trip through Connemara from Galway will bring you past a jagged coastline filled with beaches, inlets and villages, with plenty of scenic picnic stops. Driving inland, you will see blanket bog, miles of stone walls and the Mamturk and Twelve Bens Mountain Ranges. Take the coast road all the way from Galway to Clifden, visiting the village of Roundstone for seafood chowder or to pick up a bodhrán drum at Roundstone Musical Instruments for some evening entertainment.
Clifden is a good town for supplies – fall asleep to the sounds of the waves at Clifden Eco Beach Camping, a carbon-neutral campground with a magnificent setting on a beach with sand dunes near Claddaghduff, or Renvyle Beach Caravan and Camping park further north.
Spend a day in Connemara National Park for walks, mountain hiking trails and to see wildlife and birdlife. Driving back towards Galway, take the turn at Maam Cross for Oughterard to stop at the shores of Lough Corrib, before ending at Galway city for live traditional Irish music.
White Island, County Fermanagh
The Fermanagh Lakelands are a relaxed area to explore by campervan any time of the year, with scenic drives and viewpoints around the waterways of Lower and Upper Lough Erne, as well as natural wonders, forest parks and stately homes. Visit the Marble Arch Caves for an underground boat trip through limestone caves formed 330 million years ago, stroll the grounds or take an interior tour of stately home Florence Court or take a boat trip from the town of Enniskillen to Devenish Island to see the monastic ruins.
Stop overnight stays at Castle Archdale Caravan Park on Lower Lough Erne, where you can enjoy evening walks on the forest trails, or Riverside Farm, Marina and Caravan Park two miles outside the town of Enniskillen.
Slea Head Drive, County Kerry
To enjoy some of Ireland’s rugged Atlantic coastal scenery and the culture and traditions of an Irish-speaking Gaeltacht area, the Dingle peninsula in County Kerry is the place to go. Your first stop might be at Inch beach, which stretches 5km out into Dingle Bay with views of the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks mountain range.
It’s an ideal spot for walks or surfing. Stock up on supplies in Dingle town itself, also a good base for a whale-watching or dolphin-watching safari. Drive the peninsula clockwise, to Ventry and then Slea Head.
Take your time on the Slea Head drive, enjoying the views of the uninhabited Blasket Islands as you sweep around past Dunquin, stopping at the Blasket Centre to learn more. For an overnight stop, book your camping spot at Campail Teach an Aragail (Oratory House Camping) near Ballyferriter. Don’t miss the beaches at Castlegregory and Brandon Bay for golden sands, surfing and sunsets.