Caravanning in the North of Ireland (2 weeks)

Bloody Foreland, County Donegal
Driving Driving
1,341 Kilometres
14 Days

We suggest a few ideas for your next caravanning holiday.

Heading strictly in a westerly direction, our 14-day Northern tour crosses the Emerald Isle at its narrowest central point: to Galway Bay. On the Wild Atlantic Way North, it leads you through Connemara to Achill Island and through Mayo to Sligo. After a detour to the Northern Irish lakelands around Lough Erne, you reach the north of Donegal.

Discover Ireland by caravan

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Week 1

Starting and finishing in Dublin, all our recommended tour routes for caravans, motorhomes and campervans begin here in Ireland's Ancient East. A thrilling journey back through the centuries awaits you.

A driving 210 km
Clonmacnoise

Day 1

The spirituality of the early Irish monks

The first leg of our 14-day northern tour whisks you away to one of Ireland's most historic sites: Clonmacnoise. To get there, cross the Emerald Isle on the M6, which runs from the Irish Sea to the Atlantic: At the heart of the country you will enter County Offaly. Head straight to the famous monastery ruins, which date back to the 6th century and the beginning of the Irish conversion to Christianity. The missionary movement that originated here influenced the whole of Europe. Returning to the present, shortly before, there is a turn off to Tullamore – adds on about 10 km. The historic town is famous today for Tullamore Dew, a world-class Irish whiskey. (A visit to the distillery should be booked online in advance.) Return via Shannonbridge to the M6, the quickest route west. The destination for the first rest day is Salthill, on the Galway coast.

A lively town on Galway Bay

An afternoon or evening in the lively university town on the River Corrib is a must. By bus, you can reach the city from Salthill in half an hour. However, the walk past the city-owned lido and along the seafront promenade into the city also has definite appeal. What do people eat in Galway? Well, seafood. The maritime cuisine in the Irish Latin Quarter is famous; the oysters are all the rage. The last bus back is at 10.30 pm; but you can find taxis all through the night.

B driving 115 km
Connemara

Day 2

Through quiet Connemara

After an overnight stay in Salthill, with your bumper practically touching Galway Bay, today's drive leads to the Renvyle Peninsula, past the entrance to the visitor centre of Connemara National Park in Letterfrack, for a wonderful hike. This leg takes you north of Galway, preferably on the N59. The route is the destination, at least during the driving day, taking you into the barren moorlands of Connemara and Mayo. A detour takes you along a scenically beautiful route to Ashford Castle in Cong on Lough Corrib. Enjoy the melancholy and remote vastness of nature here. A stop at Connemara National Park is a must, to enjoy a short walk or a longer hike. Moors, heaths and special vegetation characterise the National Park, which was founded in 1980 on the farmland of Kylemore Abbey. On the summit of Diamond Hill – 400 metres above sea level – you will get a spectacular view of the magnificent coast and the Twelve Pins mountain range.

Hiking in Connemara National Park

To the campsite on the Renvyle peninsula it is a mere 10 kilometres. With its own sandy beach on its doorstep, this site on the Bay Coast is a particular treat. And the peninsula is the perfect place to appreciate the allure of this oceanic cosmos. The view of the sea, the shoreline scenery of the islands and peninsulas, and the Connemara Mountains, which in this coastal stretch seem to want to come closer to the water, is full of grandeur. In the distance Croagh Patrick, Ireland's holy mountain, can be seen. And when the sun is low in the west, the white chapel on its summit glows.

C driving 115 km
Westport

Day 3

Leaving the tranquillity of Connemara

Departing from Renvyle Peninsula, today's leg heads to Achill Island, preferably via the quickest route, the N59. If you would like to see Kylemore Abbey, you can stop there as a side trip. It is the oldest Irish Benedictine Abbey in Ireland, founded in 1665, and it is definitely worth a visit. Via the N59 and after Clifden, it is a good 80km to the Delphi and Dhulough Pass junction. Those not shying away from small roads can follow the R335 from here, instead of the N59: the route is great, although mostly "barely 2 lanes" and, in places, it is very narrow, particularly at the lakeside. Therefore, be careful, particularly at the start, where there are potholes at the edge of the road. Between the Mweelrea Mountains and Sheeffry Hills, follow the R335 through this amazing landscape. After Louisburgh, you drive along the coast towards Westport. The R335 offers a view of the pilgrims' mountain, Croagh Patrick. Those who have followed the N59 can see it too by leaving this road briefly, taking the R335 and then driving back. A side trip to the "mountain of all mountains" in Ireland is a must for tourists.

In the expanse of Mayo

It is not far from here to Westport. An opportunity to enjoy a stroll through this picturesque town or visit Westport House. Children particularly love it for the adventure park on the scenic campsite. From here the N59 soon becomes a large coastal road, which passes through the town of Newport to the north, directly next to the Great Western Greenway. The old railway line is now one of the nicest cycle paths. From Newport, the N59 continues northbound. You're getting closer to today's destination of Achill Island. In Mullranny (also called Mallaranny on the map), you turn left on the R319 and cross the bridge to Achill Island. There is only another small stretch to cover before you reach dramatic Keel beach and the open water of the Atlantic. This is where you will spend your first rest day.

D driving 150km
caravan and camping
Achill Island

Day 4

On Achill Island

After a long drive, a rest day in Keel at the surfers' beach is great fun. The bay, with its gorgeous sandy beach and the huge shingle dunes, absolutely demands a long walk. If you're feeling brave, join the surfers and jump into the cool water for a swim, or kayak along the Blueway, which is the watery trail beneath Achill's seacliffs. If you no longer want to rest and are eager to look around, take the Achill Drive. It has become part of the Wild Atlantic Way and leads to the spectacular spots on this uniquely beautiful island, including Dugort Beach perhaps or Keem Bay, where Croaghaun Mountain (688m), the highest mountain on Achill, rises to form one of Ireland's highest seacliffs. From the divine beach, a steep trail leads through solitary moors uphill to a ridge.

 

E driving 150 km
Strandhill

Day 5

To Ballycroy National Park

From the German to the Irish winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, from Heinrich Böll to William Butler Yeats, today's long drive takes you through Mayo to Sligo. All routes from the island lead back to the 'mainland' over the Achill Sound bridge. This leg also remains mainly on the N59 heading north. Shortly after Mallaranny/An Mhala, your first stop beckons: the Claggan Mountain Coastal Trail runs along the coast via a wooden walkway along the waterfront. The second good opportunity to stretch your legs is just a few kilometres further on: also on the N59 in the Ballycroy National Park you will find one of the largest moors in Ireland, and indeed in Europe. A stop here is certainly an experience: the exhibition in the Visitor Centre? Worth seeing! Coffee, snacks and cakes? Delicious! A small circular trail offers a stunning view of the hills of these extensive moorlands.

Experience Mayo – see Sligo

Once again on the N59, continue towards Bangor Erris – and straight to Ballina. Unless you decide to wind northwards via a small road, the R314, on the WAW (North), to the megalithic site of Céide Fields, the largest neolithic field systems in the world, an astonishing archaeological mega project – with a panorama of the coast. The main route goes straight through the melancholic moorlands of lonely County Mayo northeastwards to Sligo. The capital of County Sligo, which is tranquilly situated on the Garavogue River, offers you a warm welcome. You can find a good spot for the night on the Surf Coast. At the foot of the Knocknarea Mountains lies Strandhill beach, a meeting point for surfers from all over the world.

F driving 70 km
Ben Bulben

Day 6

From the Surf Coast through Yeats Country

As the home of poet William Butler Yeats, Sligo has erected a statue in memory of his work. You will find his grave at Drumcliff next to the renowned Table Mountain, Ben Bulben, where the Irish winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature grew up. It is well worth a visit before today's onward journey. Near the idyllically situated church in the small cemetery, there is a wonderful high cross, not far away from the ruins of an abbey from the end of the 6th century, which is attributed to Saint Columbkille. In Drumcliff Visitor Centre, you can have a great breakfast. And if you want to pay a morning visit to Sligo, it is not far. Afterwards, you head over the green border: from the Republic of Ireland into Northern Ireland. Forests, tranquil lakes and mighty green table mountains accompany you through "Yeats Country" eastwards.

From County Sligo to Northern Ireland

Imperceptibly, the road crosses the internal Irish border. Now miles and British pounds are used, as can be seen right away from a glance at the signposts and petrol station signs. A visit to Marble Arch Caves is a popular excursion: these lie barely 15 km from the Belcoo campsite, where you might like to check in for the night. It takes a good 15 minutes to reach the Visitor Centre of the UNESCO Global Geopark. The island of Ireland has three of them: the Copper Coast Geopark in Waterford, the Burren & Cliffs of Moher Geopark in County Clare and the Marble Arch Caves Geopark here in Fermanagh. A guided walk through the magical caves and a subterranean boat trip are unforgettable experiences. The evening should be spent at the wonderful campsite in Belcoo, with its stunning view of the tranquil lake, Lough MacNean.

G
Enniskillen

Day 7

The lakes of Fermanagh

From Belcoo on Lough MacNean, it is 25 km to Upper Lough Erne. The first destination for today is the old fortress town of Enniskillen, with its imposing castle on Lough Erne. Boat tours start here, crossing the upper lake to Devenish Island. The monks' island is famous for its magnificent round tower. Secure your tickets before taking a stroll round the town. The lake area of County Fermanagh is one of the most beautiful landscapes in Northern Ireland. Devenish Island preserves the spirituality of the old Irish monastery. In the afternoon, head back into the Republic, towards Killybegs in Donegal.

From Northern Ireland to South Donegal

At Belleek you again cross the open border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Switch from miles to km/h, otherwise you will drive too fast. You have the Wild Atlantic Way under your feet and wheels again. Today's destination is the capital of County Donegal. If you want to take a detour to the Slieve League Cliffs, you will have to add on an extra 40 km, to go there and back to the campsite, and factor in an additional 3 hours. A nice alternative is Malin More Head, and a circuit of the small peninsula on narrow roads is almost on the way. You will go past the beautiful beach of Glencolumbkille. The local history museum with its nice café is a good spot for coffee and cake. It is located in the thatched houses of the old fishing village. For a place to stay overnight, head to Killybegs.

Week 2

H driving
Slieve League

From Killybegs through Dungloe to Glenveagh

It is worth departing early. You will find many attractions along the way on today's drive for the first leg of our second week. The destination is the far north of Ireland, the headland of Melmore Head in County Donegal. If you would 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.

Useful information

The highest cliffs in Donegal offer a fantastic view of the Atlantic. The top car park is indeed accessible for caravans, 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.

I driving 115 km
Malin Head

From Killybegs, you head via Ardara and Glenties firstly to the pleasant little town of Dungloe, which is known for its lively Mary of Dungloe Festival in the summer. 5 km to the west is Maghery Beach, a stretch of white sand that makes a refreshing dip in the sea seem very inviting. From there, the tour leads you north-eastwards. Those who would like to fit in a trip to Glenveagh National Park can opt for the drive from Gweedore [N56 – R251 – N56]. It's worth it. Hikes (including short hikes) set off from the Visitor Centre and take in the melancholic lake scenery of Donegal. Otherwise, take a northern loop of the Wild Atlantic Way up the N56 into upper Donegal and along its rather isolated coastline as far as The Ross headland. From there the Wild Atlantic Way winds back south-eastwards, turns back via the R245 towards Downings and then snakes up to Melmore Head.

To Rosguill on Melmore Head

Travelling along the Northern Headlands coast on the other side of Lough Foyle, you soon reach Northern Ireland. The neighbouring Malin Head is still in Republic territory and is the most northerly point on the Emerald Isle. This is the setting for a completely different, fictitious world: a film location for "The Last Jedi" from the Star Wars film series. However, if you prefer to save more time for the real beauty of the present day, take the road to Melmore Head. The headland delights visitors at its tip, with two blissful beaches: Tra Na Rosann Beach in the west facing the sunset and Mulroy Bay in the east facing the sunrise. There today's overnight stay is in Rosguill, its wonderful bay perfect for a long walk.

J driving 140 km
Derry~Londonderry

Day 9

From Rosguill to a city tour of Derry~Londonderry

A morning dip in Mulroy Bay; start early and then tear yourself away! The destination of today's leg is Bushmills along the fantastic Causeway Coast. The route from Rosguill takes you via Letterkenny. If you found no time yesterday to visit Glenveagh National Park, you can make up for it on the route to Derry~Londonderry [right turn signposted from the N56]. You will cross the open Northern Irish border without noticing. Once again, miles and the British pound are used. You soon arrive at Derry~Londonderry. Northern Ireland's second largest city was founded in 1613. Today the 'Walled City' greets its guests as a modern, vibrant city full of history. In 1968 – now over 50 years ago – it was a hotspot of conflict in the Northern Ireland Troubles. A guided tour from the Visitor Information Centre takes you through the old city walls: to the 'Free Derry' wall murals, into its turbulent past, to the time of the Troubles and then back to the city of peaceful reconciliation. Bringing people together creates a sense of community. In 2013, it was the UK City of Culture.

From the River Foyle to Bushmills Causeway Coast

Bushmills awaits you. At the Northern Irish city of Derry~Londonderry, you have reached the end of the Wild Atlantic Way. From now on, the brown signposts for The Causeway Coastal Route will direct you along a coastline of singular beauty. The onward journey takes you across the large bridge over the River Foyle towards Coleraine on the A2 – and then to the sea. The seaside resorts of Portstewart and Portrush might entice you into the water, even if it is only to walk along the shore with your trousers rolled up, paddling in the surf. It is not much further to Bushmills. However, you cannot escape the wonderful viewpoints along this coastal route, which will time and again compel you to stop to take a deep breath of fresh air: the panorama is simply breathtaking. Tomorrow, you must decide which section of this coast you will enjoy exploring. Via Dunluce Castle, today's leg reaches the tranquil small town of Bushmills.

K driving Rest day
Giant's Causeway

Day 10

Outdoors and active at the Giant's Causeway

A rest day in Bushmills offers so many options: above all the basalt coastline of the Giant’s Causeway, the UNESCO world heritage site, and Carrick-a-Rede, the rope bridge to the salmon fishing island. Hiking is a must around here. The nearby coastal trails are fantastic, and the panorama is immense. And it is easy to leave your own vehicle behind. The Causeway Rambler, a local bus service, stops at the entrance to the campsite and takes you to all the attractions along this wonderful coast from May to September - via Dunluce Castle and as far as Portrush. You can buy day tickets at the reception. Climb aboard and, for very little cost, allow yourself to be driven to great adventures. Or go by bike – a rented one or your own. The cycle paths open up wonderful routes. And if you would prefer to walk, you will find that Ireland's oldest whiskey distillery, Old Bushmills, is within walking distance, just around the corner. If you would like to take a guided tour, with a tasting of the famous Irish whiskey, you should book in advance online, as early as you can.

From the giant, Finn Mac Cool, to the Game of Thrones

Fantasy fans will find the film locations of Game of Thrones not only on the coast around Ballintoy, the fictitious port of Iron Island. Inland, the fabled land of the giant Finn Mac Cool gives way to "The Seven Kingdoms". Here you will find the Dark Hedges which line the Kingsroad. In the bloodthirsty fantasy saga it leads from the north to the court of "King's Landing". Park near the hotel and stride - like thousands of avid fans before you – along the knotted beech tree avenue, via which Lord Stark's daughter Arya escaped undetected from her pursuers and into the land of the Seven Kingdoms. You can also discover for yourself (by bike if you wish) quite a number of the Game of Thrones® film locations here in Westeros.

L walking 140 km
Causeway Coastal Route

Day 11

From Bushmills to the Glens and Coast of Antrim

Today's leg takes you along Northern Ireland's dream road, the Causeway Coastal Route, and the picturesque coastline of County Antrim. Take the turn from Bushmills along the coastal route to Ballintoy and past the ruins of Kinbane Castle to Ballycastle, where you can enjoy the view out to Rathlin Island. Now you have a choice: the A44 makes a worthwhile detour to Glenarrif Forest Park and the forests of the wonderful Glens of Antrim. In Cushendall, the road comes back to the Causeway Coastal Route. The coastal A2, however, provides you with a great panorama of the North Channel. The Scottish coast on the horizon: the whisky island of Islay to the north and, further to the north-east, the Mull of Kintyre. As we know, from Campbeltown in Scotland you can see the lights of the Antrim Coast on a clear night. This is how the Ulster Scots arrived on the Emerald Isle. Scotland and Ireland are very close in so many respects. Nowadays, there are several ferry crossings daily between Larne and Belfast.


Through Carrickfergus to Dundonald near Belfast


The signposts direct you on the onward journey: The South. A number of attractions are situated just off the route, such as Glenarm Castle and Gardens, which is a great place to enjoy lunch, coffee or tea and homemade cakes before continuing. With wide curves, Northern Ireland's dream road winds southwards along the wonderful Antrim coast, with the open sea on the left. Amazing views can be found beyond almost every bend. Now and then, you will come across coastal parking places with height barriers and thus not accessible for caravans, so try the next one. Behind Larne Lough, on Islandmaggee, you can spot the Gobbins cliff path. Further south, Carrickfergus appears, with its imposing castle above the harbour. From here, the A2 turns towards the entry and exit points of the Causeway Coastal Route. Head into town towards Belfast – via the motorways M5 and M2 – to Dundonald, today's overnight destination. This lively place is situated so close to Belfast, that it is often mistaken for a suburb of Northern Ireland's capital. In the evening, Belfast can be quickly reached from the campsite by bus, train or taxi. 
 

M driving Rest day
Belfast

Day 12

In Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland

Rest day in Dundonald: Belfast is next on the itinerary, a cosmopolitan, dynamic metropolis. There are bus and tram stops on Kilmarnock Road, a short walk from the campsite. We particularly recommend the historic black taxis for travelling to the nearby capital: the famous black cabs also pick guests up directly from the campsite to take them on entertaining city tours. Or, feel the wind in your hair, and take a bike tour around the city. Belfast City Bike Tours takes you on a tour to the heart of Belfast – explore the fantastic St George's Market, and the city's historical quarters, stopping at Belfast Cathedral and City Hall in the buzzing Cathedral Quarter, with friendly tour guides entertaining you with local stories, and fascinating historical facts about the city. 

Unforgotten: at the docks of the Titanic

But Belfast offers far more grandeur today in its pulsating city centre around the City Hall, where visitors can enjoy great hospitality and a rich culture. The city dates back to the time of the Normans, who founded it. Besides the modern city, the Titanic Museum is a must-see on everyone's itinerary: at the former Belfast Docks, in the futuristic Titanic Building, the dramatically staged multi-dimensional show about the construction and the fateful journey of the luxury liner is an unforgettable experience for every visitor. In the evening, the campsite can be reached by bus, train or taxi from Belfast city.

 

 

 

 

N driving 90 km
Strangford Lough

Day 13

Along Strangford Lough to the Mourne Mountains

Start from Dundonald for a trip to the west of Strangford Lough. This leg leads us through the beautiful landscapes of County Down. It begins in the old market town of Newtownards. Take your time and cruise along the A21/22 towards Downpatrick, a place steeped in history, which was settled during 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 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 region. With a "Westeros" bicycle and digital guide, you can switch to a two-wheeler for a discovery tour.


Southwestwards through St. Patrick's Country and "Westeros"


From the fantastic view of the straits of Strangford Lough, whose huge natural harbour once offered protection to the Vikings' ships, the tour heads south: to Dundrum Bay, through St. Patrick's Country. But you don't have to leave Westeros for a long time yet. Newcastle lies ahead and, with it, 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 fantasy saga. Lose yourself under the ancient trees in the mysticism of this forest. 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. 
 

O
Newgrange

Day 14

On the Mourne Coast Scenic Drive

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. From Newcastle, the Mourne Coast Scenic Drive and Mourne Mountains Scenic Drive lead you through the coastal mountain landscapes in the extreme south-east of County Down back to Carlingford Lough (A2) until you reach the border to the Republic, in silence, vastness and grandeur. Only at Newry do the road signs and codes of the modern age bring you back to the present, on the way from Northern Ireland to the Republic: A1 becomes M1, miles become kilometres, the British pound switches to the euro. Imperceptibly the route has crossed the internal Irish border: however you are on the right course to Ireland's Ancient East, straight into the early Middle Ages, towards Monasterboice. 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.


From the early Middle Ages into the Megalithic era


It is barely another 60 km to the capital of Ireland on the M1. So take the junction at Drogheda for a worthy end to this tour: to the magic of Ireland's most historic sites: the megalithic sites of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth – to the heart of the Stone Age on the park-owned bus! (Incidentally, it is more convenient to park caravans in the back section of the narrow car park at the Visitor Centre – straight on from the entrance.)

A visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site is an impressive experience. The monumental graves are over 5,000 years old. Some of them date back to periods before the construction of the Egyptian pyramids. Meanwhile, not far away in Boyne Valley, the early Modern Age is present. The Battle of the Boyne in 1690 determined Irish history for over three hundred years, resulting in the British occupation and the subsequent division of the island, which is still in force today. Yet the people know how to meet the challenges of history and separation, time and space, residents and guests, newcomers and tourists. You will not forget Ireland.

Now you know the regions you would like to return to and which remain for you to discover. Whether it is Northern Ireland or the Republic: you are a hundred thousand times welcome! Céad míle fáilte!



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