Need for speed: rally racing on the island of Ireland

Need for speed: rallying on the island of Ireland

There’s excitement in store for the island of Ireland in 2014… and we couldn’t be happier.

If you missed the memo, 2014 is Northern Ireland’s road racing year. The Wild Atlantic Way promises the kind of epic itineraries that make driving a pleasure and the Causeway Coastal route has been sprinkled with some Game of Thrones magic.

So far, so exciting. But we’ve left something out: rallying.

The Races

Leading the pack (and featuring an exciting new 'Bronte Stage') is the Circuit of Ireland international Rally (April). There's a blast from the past, too, with the Downpatrick district leg reviving stages once rallyed by the likes of Jimmy McRae and Billy Coleman. Fancy a peek of the action? Make your way to the race's host city, Belfast, Titanic’s hometown.

Next, sneak south into Fermanagh’s Lakelands for a date with the Ulster International Rally (August).

The northwest has form in the shape of the Donegal International Rally (June) while Galway (February), Killarney (May) and Cork (October) will be serving up epic racing with landscapes to match.

Sound like fun? It is.

Start planning today. You won’t regret it.

Be sure to check out Nutt Travel's excellent array of racing offers and packages to save a bundle on your trip.

The Races

Circuit of Ireland International Rally

Like a fine wine, quality rally races improve with age. Entering its 73rd year, the Circuit of Ireland International Rally is ripening nicely. One of Europe’s oldest rallies and referenced as the third oldest in the world (the first took place in 1931) this is a rally with pedigree. Echoing the Monte Carlo rally by beginning at multiple starting points, this year’s ceremonial start will take place in Titanic’s hometown of Belfast. Recent winners include Juho Hanninen and Derek McGarrity.

Image: Mark Breen

Where: Belfast City, Northern Ireland

When: 17-21 April, 2014

Website: circuitofireland.net

Killarney Rally of the Lakes

Where lakes and mountains meet you can safely assume that epic scenery will follow. The above is most certainly the case in Killarney, County Kerry. Home to the Killarney Rally of the Lakes, this is a landscape designed for drama. Considered to host some of the finest rallying roads in Europe (the snaking road slicing through Moll’s Gap is a favourite viewing point for spectators) the event’s winners list includes renowned names such as Bertie Fisher, Austin McHale and Eugene Donnelly.

Image: Mark Breen

Where: Killarney, County Kerry

When: 2-4 May, 2014

Website: rallyofthelakes.com

Donegal International Rally

The Donegal International Rally may be entering middle age (this northwest of Ireland event turns 40 this year) but it shows no signs of slowing down. Organisers claim the event (the only three-day rally in the Republic of Ireland) hosts up to 50,000 plus spectators. To cut a long story short: this isn’t a race lacking in atmosphere. Previous winners include Gareth McHale and Eugene Donnelly, and this year’s race will be based in Letterkenny, along the Wild Atlantic Way.

Image: Mark Breen

Where: 20-22 June, 2014

When: Letterkenny, County Donegal

Website: donegalrally.ie

Ulster International Rally

Northern Ireland’s road racing and rallying pedigree is the envy of many a petrol-headed nation. It’s races like the Ulster International Rally that add serious spice to what is already a tasty calendar of rallying events. Featuring the mouthwatering inclusion of nighttime stages, the Ulster International Rally is counted by connoisseurs as one of the toughest events on the circuit. Calling Enniskillen, County Fermanagh home for this year’s event, the race is now entering its 28th year.

Image: Trevor Foster

When: 15-16 August, 2014

Where: Enniskillen, County Fermanagh

Website: ulsterrally.com

Cork 20 International Rally

Counting itself as one of the oldest rallies in the world, the Cork 20 International Rally is not exactly what it seems: the race first began life as an endurance event before eventually becoming a stage rally. Millstreet, home to Irish and European rallying legend Billy Coleman, will host this year’s event over two days.

Image: Kevin O'Driscoll

Where: Millstreet, County Cork

When: 4-5 October, 2014

Website: cork20internationalrally.com