Taster tour: Ireland by caravan (1 week)

Dunluce Castle, County Antrim
Driving Driving
696 Kilometres
7 Days

For one week the Emerald Isle is yours: the Irish north and Northern Ireland invite you to their most beautiful regions: along the Mourne Mountains Drive and the Causeway Coastal Route to the Wild Atlantic Way and back through Ireland's Ancient East to Dublin, after a detour to the northern Irish lakelands around Lough Erne.

Our compact tour shows you a wonderful cross-section of Ireland: Northern Ireland and the Republic, its mighty mountains and lonely glens, its tranquil lakes and vast beaches. In only one week, you will see the Irish Sea, the North Channel and the wild Atlantic: a bit of everything and always the best bits! From the Mourne Mountains in the north-east, you travel along the Antrim coast and west into the solitude of Donegal. From the lakelands in Fermanagh, you return to Dublin: taking in the splendid history of the Boyne Valley and Ireland's Ancient East.

Discover Ireland on a one-week caravanning tour

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Day 1

A driving 65 km
Mourne Mountains

The grandeur of the Mourne Mountains

On the way to Northern Ireland, it is worth making a detour to Monasterboice: a monastic site that dates back to the Early Middle Ages. The car park is situated right opposite the splendid old cemetery. The monastery ruins from the 6th century have preserved their wonderful round tower. Three famous high crosses from the 9th century bear witness to the Celtic spirituality of the religious art of that time. It is just under 40 km now to Northern Ireland. Imperceptibly the route crosses the open internal Irish border, where miles and the British pound are used, and the M1 becomes the A1. From Newry the tour follows Carlingford Lough and the Mourne Coast Scenic Drive [A2] in sweeping bends along the coastline of the North Channel. At Kilbroney Park you will immediately become aware of the majestic mountain landscape of the Mourne Mountains, an area of tranquillity, vastness and grandeur.

Tollymore Forest Park

Heading east to the magic of "Westeros"

Through the most south-easterly point of County Down, the route follows the curve of the coast, then continues up to Newcastle. A nice detour inland from Kilkeel is the reservoir in Silent Valley via the Whitewater Scenic Loop, overlooked by Slieve Donard, which, at 849 metres, is the highest mountain in Northern Ireland. Ahead lie Newcastle and one of the largest scenic attractions in Northern Ireland: Tollymore Forest Park. The unspoiled woodland provided an unforgettable natural stage and superbly eerie film locations for the Game of Thrones. Here you are in the middle of the Seven Kingdoms of this fantasy saga. You will find a less eerie night's lodging at Annalong Holiday Park, south of Newcastle, right on the North Channel, on the Mourne Coast.

Day 2

C driving 50 km
Strangford Lough

From Newcastle through St. Patrick's Country

Today's leg starts from Newcastle on Murlough National Nature Reserve and continues along Dundrum Bay into St. Patrick's Country. It is full of history and stories, and Downpatrick, at its centre, is a place which was settled as early as the Neolithic period. Its cathedral is said to house the tomb of Saint Patrick. On the anniversary of his death, 17th March, St. Patrick´s Day, it is the destination for pious pilgrims. The less pious make a pilgrimage to Irish pubs around the world on this day! The nearby visitor centre recounts the story of the national saint of Ireland and of Irish missionary work in Europe. Castle Ward is no less exciting, situated not far to the east at the mouth of Strangford Lough. It provided the Game of Thrones series with the backdrop for "Winterfell Castle", the ancestral home of House Stark. Many scenes of the epic fantasy series were filmed in the most beautiful regions in Northern Ireland. So you have nowhere near left the "Seven Kingdoms".

Belfast city

To Ards Peninsula via Strangford Lough

From the fantastic viewpoint over the straits of Strangford Lough – whose natural harbour once offered the Vikings' ships protection – the tour heads northeast. From Strangford, small ferries shuttle passengers to Portaferry. They operate all year round, from the early hours of the morning until late at night: over to the Ards Peninsula. You will pass small towns along the route, such as Portavogie and Ballywalter. Between them is the most easterly point of Ireland: Burr Point. Take your time and follow the coastal road to Groomsport through the rural regions of the east. Not far from the urban bustle of Belfast, the seaside resort of Bangor combines souvenir stalls and carousels for an entertaining summer retreat. It becomes quieter on the sweeping sands of Helen's Bay. The overnight destination of Dundonald is quickly reached, so close to Belfast that it is often mistaken for a suburb of Northern Ireland's capital. In the evening, the city of Belfast can be very quickly reached from the campsite by bus, train or taxi.

Day 3

E driving 55 km
caravan and camping
The Gobbins

Causeway Coastal Route, Northern Ireland's dream road

Head into town towards Belfast, then take the M2 and M5 motorways from Dundonald to the southerly entrance to the Causeway Coastal Route. The signposts keep you on track: "The North". From Carrickfergus and its mighty castle, Northern Ireland's dream road winds along the magnificent Antrim coast in a northwesterly direction, the open sea to your right. From now on, the brown signposts for The Causeway Coastal Route will guide your route. Today's destination is Bushmills, and the nicest route there is via Larne and Ballycastle. Several attractions are to be found along the route: Gobbins Cliff Path, for instance, or Glenarm Castle and Gardens. Amazing views open up beyond almost every bend. You may come across coastal parking places, but be wary about height barriers that would make them inaccessible for motorhomes. 

Antrim Coast

Antrim's coast and glens

Before Cushendall, it is worth taking a detour to Glenariff Forest Park, to the wonderful Glens of Antrim and then inland to Ballycastle. The coastal A2, however, provides you with a great panorama of the North Channel. In the distance on the horizon you can see the coast of Scotland. Take the turning after Bushmills along the coastal route from Ballycastle to Ballintoy – in Game of Thrones® it is the fictitious ports of the Iron Islands – and enjoy the view of offshore Rathlin Island with a visit to the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, book tickets in advance. Soon you reach the basalt coastline of the Giant’s Causeway, the famous UNESCO World Heritage Site. The nearby coastal trails are fantastic, with panoramic views to match. The pitch for the night is at Bushmills, one of the tourist centres of the Antrim Coast with a wide array of nice pubs and restaurants.

Day 4

G driving 70 km
Dunluce Castle

Visit the Walled City on the River Foyle

Along the wonderful Antrim coast – with a stop at Dunluce Castle – today's route snakes to the west. The seaside resorts of Portrush and Portstewart might entice you into the water, even if it's only for a short walk along the shore with your trousers rolled up, paddling in the surf. The route takes you from Coleraine along a country road to Derry~Londonderry. It starts on the A2 and crosses the large bridge over the River Foyle. Northern Ireland's second largest city was founded in 1613, and today the Walled City greets its guests as a modern, vibrant city full of history. In 1968, however, it was a hotspot of conflict in what's known as The Troubles in Northern Ireland. A guided tour from the Visitor Information Centre takes you around the 400-year-old city walls, to the 'Free Derry' wall murals that explore the legacy of its turbulent past, and through a city whose people come together with a strong sense of community.  

Glenveagh National Park

From Northern Ireland to Glenveagh National Park

After a stroll around the town, the route takes you from Northern Ireland back to the Republic in the direction of Letterkenny and Downings. You have reached the north-eastern starting point of the Wild Atlantic Way. You will now be accompanied by its blue wave symbols. Today's destination is the far north of Ireland, the headland of Melmore Head in County Donegal. Off the route, near Malin Head, the northernmost point of the island, is the setting for a completely different world: a filming location for the Star Wars movie "The Last Jedi". However, if you prefer to devote your time to the real beauty of the present day, take a detour [signposted N56] to the magnificent Glenveagh National Park. Hikes (including short hikes) set off from the Visitor Centre and take in the melancholic lake scenery of Donegal. The Wild Atlantic Way now takes you northwards, through remote regions to Melmore Head. There is a place to spend the night at Rosguill.

Day 5

I driving 115 km
Slieve League

In Donegal's far north

Melmore Head delights visitors at its tip, with two blissful beaches: Tra Na Rosann Beach in the west faces the sunset and Mulroy Bay in the east is perfect for a morning dip. Then you will have to tear yourself away to set off again. From Rosguill the Wild Atlantic Way heads further and further west. If you didn't have time during the outward journey for a trip to Glenveagh National Park, you can make up for it at the start of the onward journey along the southbound route towards Gweedore (N56 – R251 – N56). It's worth it. Otherwise, the northern loop of the Wild Atlantic Way takes you on the N56 back up into the Gaeltacht – the Irish speaking regions of the far north of Donegal – and its remote coast. There are beautiful beaches north of the N56 at Sheephaven and Dunfanaghy Bay. After heading strictly west initially, the Wild Atlantic Way turns southwards at Gortahork and crosses the vastness and solitude of the most northerly Irish county towards Gweedore. Both of our alternative routes are beautifully scenic and meet each other again here.

Killybegs, County Donegal

The Northern Headlands

Now you head to the nice little town of Dungloe, which is known for its lively Mary of Dungloe Festival in the summer. Maghery Beach, a white sandy beach with a car park large enough to accommodate caravans, is situated 5 km to the west. After a picnic – and possibly a swim – our tour takes you south, to spend the night in Killybegs. We recommend stopping in the small towns of Ardara and Glenties. Whether it is for a spot of shopping or for a short stroll. If you wish, you can still venture on the narrow roads leading to Slieve League. The highest cliffs in Donegal offer a fantastic view of the Atlantic. The top car park is indeed accessible for motorhomes, however it fills up quickly and could pose problems for larger vehicles when turning. In any case, it is healthier and more invigorating to go on foot. An ice cream van at the top next to the cliff edge promises an extra reward! 

Day 6

K driving 60 km
Glencolumbkille, Co. Donegal

From southern Donegal back to Northern Ireland

Today we go back for the day to Northern Ireland. The old fortress town of Enniskillen, with its imposing castle on Lough Erne, is today's destination. If you would still like to take a detour to the Slieve League Cliffs, you will have to add on an extra 20 km to go there and back, and factor in an additional 3 hours. A nice alternative is a circuit of the small peninsula on beautifully scenic, yet very narrow roads heading towards Malin More Head. You will go past the beautiful beach of Glencolumbkille. The local history museum with its nice café is a good spot to stop for lunch. It is located in the thatched houses of the old fishing village. From Killybegs the tour heads to Donegal, near the bay beneath the Bluestack Mountains.

caravan and camping
Fermanagh Lakelands

Fermanagh Lakelands

The tour will leave the Wild Atlantic Way, after Ballyshannon and close to Belleek, when it goes over the open border again into County Fermanagh and Northern Ireland. At its southern end, the road winds towards Enniskillen, which was built in the middle of the upper and lower lakes. In the early afternoon, boat tours depart from here to cross Lower Lough Erne to Devenish Island. The monks' island is famous for its magnificent round tower. It preserves the spirituality of the old Irish monastery. Secure your tickets before taking a stroll round the town. The Fermanagh Lakelands are among the most beautiful landscapes in Northern Ireland. From Enniskillen it is barely 25 km to Lough Macnean on the border with the Republic. There is a wonderful place to spend the night at Belcoo, with magnificent views of the tranquil lake.

Day 7

M driving 200 km

From Northern Ireland to the Republic

Today's route goes back over the border into the Republic of Ireland. The last driving day has a splendid finale ready for you as a farewell gift: taking in both Northern Ireland and the Republic. You should set off early. A visit to Marble Arch Caves in the nearby Geopark is strongly encouraged: it is situated just under 15 km and approximately 15 minutes away from the campsite in Belcoo. A guided walk through the magical caves and a subterranean boat trip are the perfect prelude to the onward journey. You then drive south-east in the general direction of Dublin, through County Cavan. The country road [N3] goes straight, with a turn off after Virginia towards Loughcrew Megalithic Centre, smack in the middle of the Stone Age, 5000 years back in time.

The megalithic period of the Ancient East 

 You are back in Ireland's Ancient East, in County Meath. Loughcrew Cairns is one of the largest Irish passage tomb sites. Here at Slieve na Calliagh, the "Hill of the Witch", the County's highest mountain range, the remains of 25  of the former 32 graves are preserved, including megalithic sites with engravings, similar to the well-known ones found at Newgrange and Knowth. The sites rank among the most magnificent monuments of the Boyne Valley, a region that has preserved the myths and history of Ireland for centuries. The Loughcrew Megalithic Centre offers a range of tours. If you do not have to be in Dublin until tomorrow, the site's beautiful campsite is recommended. Otherwise, take the M3 to the Irish capital approx. 90 km or 1.5 hours away. 

This short trip was long enough to take you through the beautiful landscapes of the north, through Northern Ireland and the Republic, and back through ancient history. You will have found out why Ireland never lets its visitors go. Come back again and discover the the Emerald Isle's many wonderful sites, in Northern Ireland and the Republic: You are a hundred thousand times welcome! Céad míle fáilte. 


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