With its quaint rural lanes, rolling green hills, stunning mountain vistas and dramatic coastlines, there can few countries as rewarding for road tripping as Ireland. Lonely Planet’s Ireland’s Best Trips presents 35 amazing road trips that highlight Ireland’s best sights and experiences…and the road trips that will take you there.
Here are Ireland’s highlights…and the trips in the book that cover them.
It’s likely that your Irish visit will begin and end in Dublin, Ireland’s capital and largest city by far. On Trip 1: Iconic Ireland, you can visit some of the city’s best-known attractions, while Stretch Your Legs: Dublin gives you a chance to explore the city in greater depth, especially its rich Georgian heritage.
A kaleidoscope of rusty bogs, lonely valleys and enticing hamlets laid across a patchwork of narrow country roads punctuated by the odd inviting country pub; welcome to Connemara, yours to discover on Trip 24: Mountains & Moors. Connemara evokes the very best of Irish scenery and the country itself, unsullied by centuries of history and transformation.
Storied, sung-about and snug, Galway is one of Ireland’s great pleasures. Wander the tuneful streets and refuel in any of the city’s great pubs on Trip 23: Musical Landscapes – it could keep you busy for a whole month of nights out.
There’s far more to Belfast than its troubled past, as you can discover for yourself on Trip 29: The North in a Nutshell. But you can learn about Northern Ireland’s recent history on the walking tour, Stretch Your Legs: Belfast, on which you’ll explore the political murals and peace lines of West Belfast’s divided neighbourhoods of the Falls and the Shankill.
An appealing waterfront location, some of the best food you’ll find anywhere in the country, lively craic and a liberal, youthful and cosmopolitan dynamic make Ireland’s second city, Cork, hard to resist. Foodies can taste the best of the city’s (and county’s) eateries and markets on Trip 18: Southwestern Pantry, and take in the key sites on the walking tour.
Once one of Ireland’s most dynamic universities, the monastic ruins of Glendalough, founded by St Kevin as a spiritual retreat, are now among the country’s most beautiful ruined sites. They’re easily visited from Dublin on Trip 4: A Long Weekend Around Dublin. The remains of the settlement (including an intact round tower), coupled with the stunning scenery, are unforgettable, and are the perfect spot for a mountain hike.
It seems that everybody wants to go to Dingle – join them on Trip 16: Dingle Peninsula. Luckily, this is one place that transcends the crowds with its allure. Sure you may be stuck behind a bus, but this rocky, striated land has a history as compelling as its beauty, not to mention prehistoric monuments, scenic spots and fabulous pubs.
The vast Neolithic necropolis of Brú na Bóinne County Meath is 600 years older than the pyramids, 1000 years older than Stonehenge, and designed with a mathematical precision that would have confounded the ancient Greeks. You can visit on Trip 7: Ancient Ireland, especially to see the simulated winter sunrise that illuminates the main burial chamber.
The Rock of Cashel, a highlight of Trip 21: The Holy Glen, never ceases to startle when you first see it rising from the otherwise mundane plains of Tipperary. And this ancient fortified home of kinds is just the tip of the iceberg; moody ruins are hidden in the surrounding green expanse, set neatly atop a rock overlooking pretty Cashel town.
Yes, it’s popular. And yes, it’s always choked with bus traffic, especially in summer. But there are about 1000 reasons why the Ring of Kerry is the tourist charm bracelet it is – and gets its own designated itinerary (Trip 15: Ring of Kerry). You’ll find most of the reasons around the Iveragh Peninsula just west of Killarney; do it anti-clockwise unless you want to get stuck behind a caravan of tour buses!
The grand geological flourish of the Giant’s Causeway is Northern Ireland’s most popular attraction and one of the world’s iconic natural wonders. Clamber across the 40,000 unique hexagonal basalt columns on Trip 34: The Antrim Coast, then decide whether you prefer the scientific explanation or the far more colourful legend that explains them.
Bathed in the golden glow of the late afternoon sun, the iconic Cliffs of Moher are one of the west coast’s splendours. Witnessed from a boat bobbing below or from dry land as you would on Trip 1: Iconic Ireland, the towering stone faces have a jaw-dropping, dramatic beauty that’s enlivened by scores of sea birds, including cute little puffins.
Edited excerpt from Ireland’s Best Trips. Get 10% off by entering the code IRELANDTRIP in checkout.