7 Spectacular Drives in Ireland This Spring
by Melanie May | 6 min read March 26th, 2019
Blue skies, milder weather, fields abloom, and a grand aul stretch in the evenings, Ireland is simply spectacular during the Spring and it is a terrific time of year to venture out and explore this beautiful island.
After being cooped up inside the house for the winter, hitting the road and heading outside is a great way to dust off the cobwebs and feel reinvigorated. Also, with the Easter holidays looming ever closer, now is the perfect time to plan a road trip to make the most of the quieter roads.
With so many beautiful places to visit around Ireland, it can be difficult deciding where to go. But don't worry, we've got you covered.
Here are seven road trips that you should consider taking this year to make the most of Ireland in the springtime.
Cliffs of Moher, Co. Clare
One of the best things about hitting the road at this time of year is that the crowds of tourists are yet to arrive. This means you can visit the big hitters whilst they are still relatively quiet. One of the biggest attractions in Ireland, and rightly so, is the Cliffs of Moher.
Located in County Clare, the Cliffs of Moher is a series of eight sheer headlands that roll off into the distance. They are spectacular and demand to be seen up close. The cliffs are so special that they form part of the Burren and Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark.
This area is home to about 1100 plant species and during the spring months, covered in a bright blanket of blooms and fragrant flora.
As an added bonus, the Cliffs of Moher are located on the Wild Atlantic Way. This 2,500km route is the longest coastal touring route in the world and road trippers are treated to a never-ending display of rugged seascapes, wild landscapes, and dramatic coastlines as they make their way from one beautiful spot to the next1.
Hang around for dusk and you’ll get to experience one of the most dramatic sunsets in Ireland. The soundtrack of the Atlantic crashing into the cliffs below just adds to the theatrical nature of it all.
Loop Head Peninsula Drive, Co Clare
The Loop Head Peninsula Drive is an 81km isolated and wind-swept route that is steeped in history. The route takes you past a 300-year old lighthouse, and you’ll drive through the last parish before America and then on to a Victorian streetscape.
As the route is a loop it can be done in either direction. You start and finish in Kilrush and drive through Carrigaholt, Kilbaha, Loop Head, Cross, and Kilkee.
The Loop Head Peninsula Drive is a wonderful road trip any time of the year but during the springtime you’ll see rare seabirds at the Bridges of Ross and you can take a dolphin watching tour. Loop Head is a special area of conservation and home to Europe’s largest group of bottlenose dolphins3. The dolphin watching tours start in April.
Not only that, but Star Wars fans will get to see where some of the filming locations for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Galley Head Lighthouse, Co Cork
Cork has the fifth most hashtagged sunrise in the world on Instagram and during the springtime, the sunrise isn’t too early compared to the summer months2. So, if you love your beauty sleep but also want to catch a spectacular sunrise, plan a dawn raid to the Galley Head Lighthouse in West Cork.
Your driving skills will be put to the test along the windy, narrow road that leads to the lighthouse, but that’s all part of the fun. Your early start and rally-like road trip will be rewarded with an uninterrupted sunrise as you perch on breathtaking cliffs 40 metres above sea level overlooking the St George's Channel.
Glengesh Pass, Co Donegal
One of my favourite drives in all of Ireland is the route from Glencolumbkille to Ardara via the Glengesh Pass in County Donegal. Glengesh (Glen of the Swans) is one of two glaciated valleys that carve the Northern edge of the Banagh Peninsula.
This route is now part of the Wild Atlantic Way but despite being part of one of the greatest driving roads in the world, it is still quiet and devoid of traffic. So it’s a great driving road where you can bask in the remoteness and solitude.
Start in Gleann Cholm Cille in the southwest Gaeltacht of Donegal and take in the breathtaking landscape which is peppered with sheep, lambs, and white, purple, yellow, and red wildflowers at this time of year. In fact, the amount of life in the valley in springtime makes it my favourite time to visit. The flora really brings the hills alive and makes this unspoilt part of the country more attractive than any other time of year.
The twisty, narrow road rises to 270 metres over the Pass and you’ll be treated to a fantastic view of Loughros Beg Bay framed by the Glengesh and Mulmosog mountains as you make your way to Ardara.
You can also reach the Sliabh Liag Cliffs (Slieve League) via the Glengesh Pass. The Sliabh Liag Cliffs are some of the highest and finest marine cliffs in Europe and in the springtime, they are covered in a carpet of pretty purple flowers which lends vibrancy to the cliffs and surrounding landscape.
A walk along the Sliabh Liag Cliffs is a great way to work off all those Easter eggs.
Moll’s Gap, Co Kerry
Springtime is lambing season and if you want to pet, feed, and snuggle with some soft baby lambs then you should plan a trip to a farm.
One of the best farms to see lambs is Kissing Sheep Farm in County Kerry. It is located between Kenmare and Killarney National Park which means that to get to the farm you have to drive one of the best and most famous driving roads in Ireland, Moll’s Gap.
Moll’s Gap actually overlooks the farm and you can see the lambs from the road. However, as fun as this road is, please drive with care. Moll’s gap is narrow and slippery when wet. Having said that, springtime is a great time to test your driving skills on this stretch as the road isn’t as busy as it is in the summer. Hurrah!
The Gordon Bennett Route, Co Carlow, Co Kildare and Co Laois
The Gordon Bennett Route takes you on a historic journey via a 166km route that was once one of the world’s greatest car races. But this route isn’t just for motoring enthusiasts. It’s for anyone who wants to see picturesque towns and villages and plenty of heritage attractions too.
In the springtime you can see the Altamont Gardens in full bloom, the pretty wildflowers lining the river banks, and the lambs frolicking in the fields. The route also takes you through the Slieve Bloom region (Ireland's only designated Environment Park) which is ablaze with bluebells in the Spring. With so much colour and flora and fauna around, the springtime is a marvelous time to drive this route.
The Yeats Country Drive, Co Leitrim and Co Sligo
The Yeats Country Drive takes you through the landscape that inspired the poetry of W.B. Yeats and the paintings of his brother John (Jack) B. Yeats.
Begin your Yeats education in Sligo Town and drive north to Drumcliffe where W.B. Yeats is buried in the graveyard of Drumcliffe Church. Look for the headstone with the inscription "cast a cold eye on life, on death, horseman, pass by."
From Drumcliffe, take the scenic route to Glencar Waterfall and Rosses Point, “Where the wandering water gushes From the hills above Glen-Car”. Inspired by this area, W. B. Yeats wrote about it in his poem The Stolen Child. In the springtime, this area is covered in pretty yellow primroses and the air is fragrant with wild garlic.
Head 1km west and you’ll come to another waterfall called “the Devil’s Chimney”, Ireland’s highest waterfall. You reach the waterfall via a woodland path that climbs 120 metres above Glencar Lake. It is best to visit after a heavy downpour, of which there are usually plenty during the Irish springtime.
From here, take the N16 and R286 to County Leitrim and Lough Gill and through the tranquil countryside back to Sligo where you’ll end your Yeats Country Drive ‘under bare Ben Bulben’s head’.
No matter what route you choose or how many detours you take there’s plenty to see and do this time of year. Hopefully these itineraries will help you spring into action by road-tripping through some of Ireland's prettiest springtime destinations.
This guidance is for general information purposes only.