For a relatively small island, Ireland is framed by a wide variety of coastal road trips. In Northern Ireland, the Causeway Coastal Route journeys past golden beaches and sprawling glens. On the Wild Atlantic Way, the Ring of Beara loops around wild landscapes and colourful villages. We could go on!
Of course, exploring world-famous cities such as Dublin and Belfast is a must on a visit here. But, if you fancy getting off the beaten track, then taking to the open road is one of the best ways to do so. You'll discover quaint seaside towns, jaw-dropping natural beauty, and if you get lost along the way, there'll always be a friendly local face to help out with directions.
So, start your engine, it's time to get all revved up for five of the best coastal drives on the island of Ireland...
1. Ring of Beara, County Cork
The Ring of Beara is a 140 km route that loops around the remote Beara Peninsula in West Cork. While it's less well-known than the nearby Ring of Kerry in County Kerry, this beautiful drive is no less spectacular.
This is a world of giant seascapes and endless skies. Nestled in these vast landscapes are the unmissable villages of Allihies and Eyeries. With brightly painted buildings, friendly locals, and lots of places to eat and drink, they're ideal pit stops on this drive.
If you fancy ditching the car for a bit, the Beara Way is a great trail for walkers and cyclists alike. Other highlights? Garnish Island in Glengarriff is a garden island of rare beauty. While Bere Island in Bantry Bay is a picturesque spot for walking, cycling, and birdwatching.
2. Mourne Coastal Route, County Down
Welcome to the giant landscapes of Northern Ireland. Starting off in the city of Newry, the Mourne Coastal Route takes you from the picturesque shores of Carlingford Lough, up along the coastline towards Belfast. Stunning views of the Mourne Mountains and the Irish Sea abound on what must surely be one of the most scenic road journeys on the island of Ireland.
The route meanders by some of County Down's top sights, such as Kilbroney Park and Rostrevor Forest, both excellent places to venture into the great outdoors. Charming towns and villages are dotted along the way, too, of course, chief among them Annalong and Kilkeel – the latter of which is known as the "seafood capital of the Mournes".
Golfers should make a beeline for Royal County Down Golf Club, one of the most famous links courses in the world. Whereas hikers can take on a peak or two in the Mournes. Slieve Donard is an imposing but enjoyable challenge.
3. The Burren Loop, County Clare
The Burren is one of the most otherworldly regions on the island of Ireland. A rocky limestone landscape that has formed over hundreds of millions of years, this vast, moon-like area in County Clare is home to many hidden treasures.
The Burren Loop itself hugs the craggy coastline by the North Atlantic Ocean, as it weaves past the cute village of Doolin and the surfing hotspot of Lahinch, before heading inland and around the Burren National Park.
Nature lovers should be on the lookout for flora and fauna of the Burren, such as falcons, badgers, and orchids, all of which somehow thrive in this seemingly harsh, stony landscape.
4. Causeway Coastal Route, Northern Ireland
Highlights? How long have you got?! Thrill-seekers should head to the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, suspended high above the ocean waves. History buffs will love Dunluce Castle, which is dramatically perched on a County Antrim cliffside. And EVERYONE has to experience the Giant's Causeway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and geological wonder.
5. Copper Coast Drive, County Waterford
The Copper Coast Drive in County Waterford is home to some of the most spectacular scenery on the island of Ireland. Cliffs, beaches, coves, and bays are all ready and waiting to be explored, just a short hop from Waterford city. In fact, such is the beauty of this stretch of coastline, that it has been deemed a UNESCO Global Geopark.
Tramore is a top hub to hit along this route. The seaside town has a vast sandy beach which is always popular with holidaymakers. The harbour town of Dungarvan is also a worthwhile stop. Cyclists can embark on the Waterford Greenway from here. While foodies should make a booking for The Tannery, an award-winning restaurant run by chef Paul Flynn.
For an off-the-beaten-track adventure, head inland to Dunhill Castle. These impressive castle ruins have been standing tall for some 800 years.