So you like driving and you LOVE Ireland? This is a long shot, but does that mean that you enjoy driving around Ireland Lucky you, here’s two unforgettable routes from guest blogger Steven Forsyth.
Ireland is one of the smaller countries in the world and one would be forgiven for thinking that it’s possible to drive all around it in a couple of days, a mere blink of an eye. That attitude quickly changes when tourists get behind the wheel and they see the extraordinary range of scenic delight ranging from the majesty of the Cliffs of Moher to the rugged beauty of the Wicklow Mountains. In such places, time almost stands still as the issues of life seem almost insignificant compared to the astonishing, sublime sights that appear before you. Driving in Ireland is a rare privilege and we uncover just two of the amazing routes one can take while in the Emerald Isle.
ROUTE ONE: Glendalough to Kilkenny Castle
What better place to begin than the valley of the two lakes, otherwise known as Glendalough, a place that is said to ‘fill your soul, inspire your heart and still your mind’. It was founded in the 6th century as a monastic settlement and is known for its 30 metre high Round Tower, Our Lady’s Church and a host of other medieval buildings along with the lakes which are clear and postcard perfect! Drive through the Wicklow Mountains National Park to gaze upon hundreds of millions of years of geological change while taking in the granite summit of War Hill and twin corrie lakes of Lough Bray.
You may be dreaming of Kilkenny Castle as you leave the Wicklow Mountains but this would be to ignore the stream of wonderful little towns you pass through. Take a pit stop in Laragh and relax at the splendid Wicklow Heather Restaurant which is known for its top notch customer service and amazing traditional Irish leg of lamb. Rathdrum is close by and is the site of Avondale House which was home of the ‘uncrowned King of Ireland’ Charles Stewart Parnell. The small town of Avoca is just a short drive away and you can stop in for a pint of Guinness at Fitzgerald’s bar while taking a brief tour around the town famous for being the site of TV show Ballykissangel starring Colin Farrell.
While on the way to Kilkenny, it would be a crime to simply speed through Carlow without enjoying its glorious countryside, river valleys and mountains. Altamont Gardens in Tullow is known as one of the jewels in the crown of Irish gardens and covers 40 acres while featuring pristine lawns and ancient oaks. Eventually, you will make your way to Kilkenny Castle, an astonishing structure that was completed in 1213.
ROUTE TWO: Killarney to Cliffs of Moher
The trip takes in the best of the West as you begin in the beautiful town of Killarney in Kerry, a place that was named as Ireland’s tidiest town in 2011. Attractions include Ross Castle, a 15th century tower and Killarney National Park, a nature reserve which has Ireland’s only native herd of Red Deer. While you could spend a week in Killarney, it’s time to travel north where you will pass through the small town of Castleisland, famously known as the Gateway to Kerry and home to Crag Cave, one of the nation’s largest open cave systems.
You will drive through the city of Limerick and into County Clare to the small village of Bunratty which is famous for its medieval castle built in 1425. Explore the ancient structure and get to the top with your camera to snap a picture of the famous Shannon estuary and catch a glimpse of Shannon Airport. If you’re feeling hungry after the drive and fancy staying the night in Bunratty, you simply must sample the legendary Bunratty Medieval Banquet which is a four course meal with good wine and mead, an ancient Irish drink. The feast is followed by traditional Irish music with violin and harp professionals giving you a taste of a great medieval night in.
Drive through the towns of Sixmilebridge, Clarecastle and Ennis before your journey concludes with the Cliffs of Moher in Doolin. It is Ireland’s most visited tourist attraction with well over 1 million visitors per year. The magnificent cliffs rise to over 200 metres and when you visit, you must go to the top of O’Brien’s Tower where you can see the Aran Islands, Galway Bay and Loop Head on a clear day. This is a photo opportunity that simply can’t be missed.
Still think driving around Ireland will be short and sweet? We have outlined just two out of dozens of journeys that can be taken around the country. Clear your calendar, fill up your tank and get ready to see more scenery packed into a relatively small area than almost anywhere else in the world.