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Explore Ireland This Christmas: Here’s 9 Adventure-Packed 2-Day Irish Road Trips You Can Do This December

Explore Ireland This Christmas: Here’s 9 Adventure-Packed 2-Day Irish Road Trips You Can Do This December

I love Christmas.

I love everything about it… well, nearly everything.

The one thing that gets to me is the amount of time that I spend inside towards the tail-end of December; whether it’s at home, over with friends of family or in pubs and restaurants.

Don’t get me wrong it’s amazing and I’m grateful, but I always get a little dash of cabin fever.

So, about 4 years ago I started to make a point of heading away for a couple of days each Christmas, to clear the head and to get out and into the fresh air.

In the guide below you’ll find 9 tried and tested mini road trips 

Pick one that tickles your fancy. Text your mates, Mam or whoever, and just go.

Here’s where’s covered:

  • Kerry
  • Donegal
  • Waterford
  • Antrim
  • Clare
  • Sligo
  • Mayo
  • Wicklow
  • West Cork

Let’s get cracking!

Road Trip 1 – Cruising Around Kerry

the skellig ring in kerry

Photo by Tom Archer

The where

County Kerry (no shit, I know).

The Why

If you haven’t driven around Kerry before, then you’re missing out big style.

I promise you, it’s a route that is absolutely guaranteed to enrich your mind and soul (you can hold me to that).

Packed to the brim with countless areas of unparalleled natural beauty, you’ll ram a silly amount of adventure into two days.

Places to check out during your time in Kerry

• Ladies View
• Inch Beach (try to get here for sunset – here’s why)
• The Slea Head Drive
• Valentia Island (my favourite place in Ireland)
• Killarney National Park
• Dun Chaoin pier (the departure point for the Blaskets – more here)
• The Gap of Dunloe

Road Trip 2 – Dive into Donegal

Grianan of Aileach donegal

Photo by Tom Archer

The where

County Donegal.

We’ve gone into this road trip in detail in a previous post – check out our detailed 3-day Donegal itinerary for a full breakdown of thing to do and where to eat, sleep and drink.

The Why

Donegal is one of those places that can just change your perspective on life.

Immense natural beauty’s just the beginning; the fact that many places you visit in Donegal (in the winter months especially) have so few tourists milling about means you can enjoy the scenery without the crowds.

mamore gap in donegal

Photo via Failte Ireland

Places to check out during your time in Donegal

Here’s a taste of some of spots to check out:

  • Slieve League (one of the highest sea cliffs in Europe – see them here)
  • The wild, rugged and gorgeous island of Arranmore (more on this hidden gem here)
  • Malin Beg and Silver Strand Beach
  • Glencolmcille Folk Village and/or beach
  • Glengesh Pass
  • Assaranca Waterfall
  • The Caves of Maghera and Maghera Strand
  • Mount Errigal
  • Glenveagh National Park
  • Horn Head
  • Killahoey Beach
  • Ards Forest Park
  • Doe Castle
  • The Loop around Tra Na Rossan
  • Lough Salt
  • Fanad Head Lighthouse
  • Ballymastocker Bay
  • Grianan of Aileach
  • Dunree Head
  • Mamore Gap
  • Glenevin Waterfall
  • Malin Head
  • Kinnagoe Bay

Road Trip 3 – Whip Around Waterford

Bunmahon beach waterford

Photo by Copper Coast Geopark via Failte Ireland

The Where

Waterford City and the Copper Coast.

Take a nosy at our 2-day road trip guide that’s packed with some of the best things to do in Waterford over 48 hours.

The Why

Waterford boasts the perfect mix of gorgeous coastline and historical city all rolled into one.

It’s perfect for those looking for a chilled city break with some light exploring (Waterford City is wedged with rich history), and it’s even better for those that fancy hiking, walking and cycling their way around the county.

the copper coast waterford

Photo via Failte Ireland

Places to check out during your time in Waterford

  • Ramble around Waterford City on Jack Burtchaell’s Walking Tour
  • Stroll along the city walls
  • Visit the Reginald’s Tower
  • Head off on the Waterford Crystal tour
  • Drop into the Medieval Museum
  • Spin along the Copper Coast
  • Check out Dunmore East
  • Stop by Dunhill Castle
  • Take a stroll on Kilmurrin Beach
  • See Bunmahon Beach (another magnificent beach)
  • Embark upon the Coumshingaun Lake Walk
  • The Magic (yes, magic) Road (watch the video)
  • Have a gander at Mahon Falls

Road Trip 4 – The Marvelous Causeway Coastal Route

The where

The County Antrim coastline.

The why

Rated one of the top five road trips in the world, the Causeway Coastal route offers the perfect combination of rugged coastline, dramatic towering cliffs and gorgeous little villages and towns.

For those of you looking to give it a bash over Christmas, two days is a perfect amount of time to soak up a good dollop of adventure.

Here’s a detailed 2-day Causeway Coastal Route itinerary that covers what to do and where to sleep, eat and drink.

causeway coastal route

The Causeway Costal Route: By Chris Hill

Places to visit as you cruise along the Causeway Coast

• The Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge (here’s a little guide to get the wanderlust flowing)
• The Dark Hedges (one for Game of Thrones fans)
• The Giants Causeway
• Dunluce Castle (a castle that hugs a cliff and that has a quirky history)
• The Gobbins Cliff Path Walk – the most dramatic walk in Europe (here’s why)

Road Trip 5 – The Cracking County Clare Route

inis oirr island

Photo © The Irish Road Trip

The where

County Clare – the mainland and then across to Inis Oirr Island.

The why

The County Clare route is one that I’ve done quite recently and it’s been my go-to Irish escape for a good while for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, it’s easy to pack in an absolute tonne of stuff as everything is within reasonable driving distance to where I live and secondly, because you can perch yourself in the charming little town of Doolin.

Book into a hostel in Doolin, and you’ve got yourself a base camp with a heap of cosy little pubs to return home to after a busy day exploring.

father ted's house county clare

Father Ted’s House, County Clare: Photo by Ben Riordan

Places to add to your road trip itinerary

  • The Doolin cliff walk
  • The Doolin Cave
  • Take ferry ride to the wonderful island of Inis Oirr
  • Sail below the Cliffs of Moher
  • Grab pints and food in Doolin while listening to some trad music
  • Visit Father Ted’s house (here’s how to find it without getting lost!)
  • Head off on the magnificent drive from Doolin to Kinvarra
  • Spend time exploring the Burren

Here’s a little gander at a trip that I took with a friend last October that’ll hopefully give you a bit of inspiration.

Road Trip 6 – Have a snoop around Sligo

Benbulben county sligo

Benbulben: Photo by Chris Hill

The where

Sliiiiigoooooooooooo-ho-ho… I’ve had a shit load of coffee…

The why

I have many fond memories from the handful of times that I visited Sligo over the years with friends and my parents.

It’s another quiet county that tends to often get skipped on road trip itineraries, despite being home to some of the islands best scenery (and buzzy pubs).

For those in search of an active break, you’ve several great hikes to choose from, and more surfing than you’ll be able to stomach.

gleniff horseshoe sligo

Photo by Hugh Sweeny via Failte Ireland

Places to add to your road trip itinerary

  • Hike the Knocknarea Queen Maeve Trail
  • Visit Glencar Waterfall
  • Spin along the Gleniff Horseshoe Drive
  • Check out the surf haven of Mullaghmore
  • Drop by Lissadell House (the childhood home of Constance Markievicz)
  • Stroll along the golden strand at Streedagh
  • Watch surfers go head-to-head with enormous waves at Mullaghmore and Strandhill
  • Take a trip over to Coney Island
  • Admire the unique, tabletop-like mountain of Benbulben

Road Trip 7 – Get Merry in Mayo

downpatrick head walk

Photo by Alison Crummy via Failte Ireland

The Where

Mainland Mayo and across to Achill Island.

The Why

Mayo’s another county that never fails to delight and amaze, regardless of how many times you’ve traveled around it.

For those looking for a solid combo of adventure and craic, here’s what you should do:

  • Arrive to Croagh Patrick early on the Saturday morning and spend the rest of the morning and early afternoon (will depend on fitness levels and weather) climbing it
  • Head for Westport and grab some post-hike food
  • Spin across to Achill and explore the island (aim to arrive to Keem Bay around sunset – there’s nothing like it on earth)
  • Head back to Westport for the night and have a ramble around some of the pubs
  • Get up on Sunday and head for the Ceide Fields and then on to Downpatrick Head
the Céide Fields county mayo

Photo by Peter McCabe via Tourism Ireland

Places to add to your road trip itinerary

  • Climb Croagh Patrick if the weather permits
  • Nip across to Achill island
  • Visit Downpatrick Head and check out Dun Briste (big ass sea stack)
  • Spend a night in Westport and kick-back in some of the town’s savage little pubs
  • Check out the ancient Ceide Fields
  • Drop by Ballycroy National Park

Road Trip 8 – Have an Aul Wander in Wicklow

The where


The why

Wicklow is a county that I’ve been visiting (and loving) for a long long time.

A stone’s throw from Dublin, Wicklow offers ample adventure opportunities to anyone that’s looking to escape from the city and dive head-first into a wild, mountainous landscape.

lough tay in wicklow

Photo by Chris Hill

Things to do around Wicklow

  • Walk the Glendalough Spinc Loop
  • Check out Lough Tay (aka Guinness Lake)
  • Saunter along the sand at Silver Strand Beach
  • Visit Wicklow Gaol (prison)
  • Have a gander at Powerscourt Waterfall
  • Climb the great Sugar Loaf
  • Spin along the Sally Gap Drive
  • Nip into the Wicklow Brewery

Road Trip 9 – Explore West Cork

The where

The only deadly West Cork.

The why

West Cork is one of those corners of Ireland that makes me question why I live in the city.

There’s an almost endless number of adventure opportunities scattered around a place that’s packed with seemingly endless natural beauty.

Now, 2 days isn’t nearly enough time to explore everything that this chunk of Cork has to offer, which is why we created a 4-day guide to the best things to do in West Cork.

You can, however, pick and choose what you’d like to squeeze into the two days.

brow head in west cork

Photo © The Irish Road Trip

Thing you can do in West Cork if you only have 2 days

If you only have two days, here’s some of the things you can add to your itinerary:

  • Drop into Kinsale for coffee and a stroll
  • Head off on the Old Head of Kinsale walk
  • Stroll along Inchydoney beach
  • Have a snoop at Drombeg Stone Circle
  • Spin through the gorgeous villages of Glandore and Union Hall
  • Walk up Knockomagh Hill
  • Take a drive up Brow Head (the wildest place I’ve ever set foot – watch the video)
  • Ramble around Mizen Head
  • Drive along Healy Pass
  • Take Ireland’s only cable car to Dursey Island
  • Buzz around the lovely little villages of Allihies and Eyeries)

Have more time and fancy exploring Ireland? 

Our most popular road trip guide is our detailed 18-day Irish coastal guide that covers hundreds of things to do.

If you have more time to play with, check it out.

And that's a wrap!
Have you given any of these road trips a shot before? Or are you planning on giving them a crack sometime soon? Let me know in the comments below. I’m happy to help with any questions!

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