At the end of March, I headed off on a solo 5-day road trip around Ireland.
If you follow me on Instagram, you may remember me buying and making absolute shit of a drone on this trip…
#DroneGate aside, it was an amazing 5 days that took me from Dublin to Cork, on to Kerry, and then up to Galway before finishing in Mayo.
Over the course of the trip, thousands of people mailed, commented and sent messages about sharing the itinerary so, here it is for you to steal.
Note: I had to squeeze a whole lot into 5 days. More time would have been amazing, but I planned my trip around what I wanted to see. You could just as easily squeeze in time along Ireland’s east coast or extend the trip and take in Clare or Donegal, too.
Here’s the route I took.
From looking at the weather (I use yr.no as it’s insanely accurate) I knew that the first day of my road trip would likely be the only one that’d be dry and sunny all day.
With that in mind, I left my home in Dublin at 6 a.m. (I should have left earlier) and pointed my car in the direction of Cobh.
To give you an idea of the route I took for day-1, here’s a Google map with the entire day laid out.
If I had arrived in Cobh an hour later, the picture below would look one hundred times different, as the sun hid behind a dense layer of cloud.
I swung the car into St. Coleman’s Cathedral’s car park (free parking #Yeooow) and hopped out to stretch the legs after a long first leg of the trip.
On that particular morning, there was only one real reason for my visit to Cobh: food, coffee and colourful gaffs.
Where to eat in Cobh
I’m not a vegan and to be honest, I’m the pickiest f****r when it comes to food in general, but Cafe Vega in Cobh is class. I ordered a chicken and cheese toastie (must be just vegan-friendly) and it was insanely tasty!
After the bite to eat and about a litre of coffee, I headed off in search of the view below – the Deck of Cards in Cobh.
Now, if you want to see the St. Coleman’s Cathedral and the colourful houses from the view above, you’ll need to head for ‘Spy Hill’.
Pop it into Google maps and you’ll find it handy enough.
From here, it can be a little tricky based on your height, as you’ll need to peer over/climb up onto a wall which obstructs the view.
If you climb it, be careful!The view above is what awaits!
There’s a lot more to Cobh than these houses, it was only when I visited the town again over the summer that I realised what a gem it actually is!
The last time I was in #Cobh I just went off in search of St. Coleman’s Cathedral and the colourful little triangular houses, without even bothering to have a snoop around the village and the harbour. ☘ That’s what social media does to you – searching for photos rather than experiences. Today, the sun was hopping down and the place was buzzing with people and buskers – a savage little spot that I only actually appreciated on my third visit. ☘ My only gripe was that we had the car and couldn’t kick back outside one of the pubs with a pint and watch the world go by! @keith_ohara #wildathlanticway #Ireland #instaireland
Stop 2: More colour in Kinsale
My second stop of the day was the gorgeous little fishing town of Kinsale.
During the 50 minute or so drive from Cobh, the sun reared its head and started to blaze, making the already colourful streets even more vibrant.
I’ve been here a handful of times before, but it’s always a lovely little town to have a ramble around.
The early start was still causing me a bit of pain, so I went in search of another coffee.
After walking around the charming little streets for a while, I nipped into the Lemon Leaf Cafe and grabbed a cup to-go.
Stop 3: Walking along Inchydoney Beach and only raging that I didn’t have swim gear
On the last three occasions that I visited Cork, the weather was beyond crap, and beaches were a bit of a no-go.
So, as soon as I knew the weather was going to be decent, I factored a stop-off at Inchydoney Beach into my road trip itinerary.
At this stage, I’d racked up around 6 hours in the car, so the promise of a stroll on the beach in the sun was beyond enticing.
Now, I parked in the hotel car park as I wanted to use the bathroom, but there are signs up specifically stating that the car park is for customers use only.
Use it at your own risk or grab a coffee or a bite to eat in the hotel.
Looking for places to stay in Cork? Check out our map of places to stay for every county (and every budget) in Ireland here!
It’s been a long time since I swam in the sea in Ireland, but I would have given my left foot to hop into the water here.
Well worth dropping by.
Stop 4: soaking up the wilderness and isolation at Brow Head
Stop 4 was a solid hour and a half spin from Inchydoney Beach, and even though it was slightly off-the-beaten-track, I knew that it’d be worth it.
I’ve raved about Brow Head before, but the last time I was there it was during stormy weather (check out this video to see why it’s called the Wild Atlantic Way), so I was keen to check it out when the weather the sun was shining.
To say I wasn’t disappointed would be the understatement of the century.
In my mind, this is what exploring Ireland is all about; experiencing the beauty of our island in its rawest form.
No fancy visitor centers. No crowds. Just nature, as it was intended.
In my opinion, these are the types of places that you just can’t miss – for me, it’s the off-the-beaten-track adventures that take a trip from brilliant to out-of-this-world.
Stop 5 – Hitting up Healy Pass – one of Ireland’s craziest roads
At this point, I was getting seriously fatigued from driving, but after having a couple of glances at the weather app over the afternoon, I knew the following day was going to be a washout, so I wanted to make the most of the sunny weather.
So, I hopped back into the car and pointed it in the direction of Healy Pass.
Healy Pass is hands down one of the craziest roads I’ve ever driven on in Ireland.
The road, which was constructed in 1847 during the years of the famine, looks like a giant snake from above, slithering its way through the two highest summits in the Caha mountain range.
Here’s how it looks from the sky.
Experiencing Ireland is all about places like Healy Pass.
Cafe aside, it’s a corner of Ireland that looks like time passed it by and forgot all about it, leaving it untouched and unspoiled – magic.
On the day that I visited, I met 2 or 3 other cars, max, and from talking to people who’ve explore the area recently, it’s easily missed.
Check it out if you give this 5-day Ireland trip a crack – you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Stop 6 – the resting point (thankfully) for the night – Allihies in West Cork
The next stop was the final stop for the evening, and after driving for in excess of 10 hours at that stage, I was fit for the bed.
I’ve wanted to stay in Allihies for many years, but it has always seemed a little bit too far out of the way.
It was a crazy way to think, in hindsight, as it stopped me from seeing one of the most beautiful little villages in Ireland.
This was hands-down one of the most enjoyable parts of my 5-day Irish road trip.
After leaving the Healy Pass, I made my way towards the village of Adrigole, and from there I continued on to the R572 towards Allihies, and I recommend you do the same.
If you take this route, you’ll be treated to an absolute peach of a view out over the town.
This view shook off the fatigue from the long day in a second.
After driving into Allihies, I checked into the Seaview Guest House (super value for money and lovely clean and comfortable rooms #NotAnAd).
After dumping my bags I strolled the short distance to O’Neill’s bar and grabbed some food and a pint.
A cracking end to a long, eventful day.
Day 1 wrap 1 – driving, driving, and more driving
So, as you can imagine, by the time I hit the pillow I was physically drained from the colossal amount of driving that took place on the first day.
I was, however, beyond happy with how it went.
When you get a bit of good weather in Ireland, you need to get out of bed early and seize every waking hour.
Day 2 – Getting Lost in the rain in West Cork before tipping on to Kerry
I didn’t need to peer out of the window to see what the weather was like on day 2; it kept me awake for most of the night.
West Cork had transformed from a sun-soaked paradise to a village getting pelted out of it by buckets of rain in the space of five hours.
I peeled myself out of bed and looked out of the window – rain and gales.
After making my way down to breakfast, I whipped out my phone and started planning out the day.
This map we created has well over 560 things you can do across every county in Ireland. When you’re planning a trip, open it up, zoom in on where you are and pick from things to do nearby that come highly recommended.
The weather app showed no signs of the rain easing up, so I decided that the best course of action would be to explore as much of the Beara Peninsula as possible in the rain before heading up to Kenmare for the night.
Stop 1 – floating around Allihies
I wasn’t finished with Allihies.
I had spent an hour or so driving around it before sunset the previous night, but I was itching to see what else it had to offer.
So, with no real plan, I set off in the car to see what I could stumble upon.
I took the roads up a nearby hill (or was it a mountain 🤔) and came across the lads above, stood out in the lashing rain, baaaaaaing away like mad.
The view above was back where I had entered the town the night before.
Rain or sun, it’s still pretty damn special.
Stop 2 – Cahermore… I think
I’m 99.9% sure my next couple of stops were in an area called Cahermore.
I was driving in the direction of Castletownbere to get diesel and food, and just happened to see a right turn down a narrow little road that looked interesting.
Should I turn down it or keep going…
I drove on past but a little voice in my head told me to do a U-Turn and investigate.
Which I did – welcome to the Beara Peninsula.
I spent the next hour or so just driving around this area, parking up, and gazing around me.
The Beara Peninsula is to-be-continued in my head. There’s no way I’ll be able to restrain myself from coming back here in the next 4 or 5 months.
Stop 3 – the best breakfast in West Cork
I was in need of fuel, both for the car and for myself, so I headed into Castletownbere.
As I was paying for the diesel, I asked the aul lad serving where he’d recommend for a decent feed.
Without any hesitation, he pointed me in the direction of Fuschia Cafe, and recommended that I give the full Irish a lash.
A solid recommendation.
Any meal that involves Clonakilty White Pudding is a winner in my eyes.
I spent the next 40 minutes eating, drinking coffee and debating what my next move would be as the rain hammered the window behind me.
Stop 4 – the road to Kenmare in Kerry
It was only around 2 in the afternoon at that stage but the weather had put a serious dampener on the day.
This was a holiday, after all, so after a bit of Googling, I decided to book into the highly recommended Kenmare Bay Hotel and chill for the evening.
Now, the price for a nights kip and breakfast was €120.
Was it worth it? No.
For €120 I expected the room to be better than average, so to say I was disappointed would be a colossal understatement.
Based on my experience, I’d recommend you book in somewhere else that’d give you better value for money.
After dropping my bags off I headed down to the bar and ordered some food and a pint.
The evening was arguably the most enjoyable of the road trip as I spent the next 4 hours nursing pints of Guinness and working my way through a book as a lad played away on a guitar.
Day 3 – Sun (yes, really) and a whole lot of exploring in Kerry
As I was climbing into bed at the end of day 2, I decided to log on to yr.no one final time and check out the weather in Kerry the following day.
To my surprise (I had checked it about 8 hours previous) there was a window of sun between 9 and 12 the following morning.
I set the alarm for 8 and nodded off in minutes.
Stop 1 – Sneem for coffee and a stretch
After waking up and rejoicing at the clear morning, I quickly dressed, checked out, and pointed my car in the direction of Sneem.
Sneem is a little village on the Iveragh Peninsula in Kerry and is always worth a visit.
There’s something incredibly special about the view that greets you as you drive into the town.
I grabbed a cup of coffee and went for a stroll.
Stop 2 – a random corner of Kerry
My favourite part of any Irish road trip is the unexpected delights that you never plan, but that act as the secret sauce to every great adventure.
They’re the places that you never knew existed, and never imagined visiting.
After leaving Sneem, I hopped on the N70, and just happened upon the place below.
The sun had been swallowed by a big, grey cloud, but that just seemed to make the scene even more perfect.
I’m not sure where this is, but I spent a good 25 minutes sat here, admiring the view, and grabbing pictures.
Stop 3 – the sandy shores of Derrynane Beach
My next stop was a beach that I’d heard people ranting and raving about for as long as I can remember.
You’ll find Derrynane Beach just two miles north of Caherdaniel on the Ring of Kerry.
The minute I stepped out of the car and started to soak up the view, I could see why so many people had recommended that it be added to the 5-day Ireland itinerary.
Derrynane Beach is beautiful.
It’s reasonably sheltered and boasts a natural harbor, and there’s a lifeguarded on duty during the summer months.
On the day that I was there, there were only three other people walking along the beach.
A great little spot to clear the head.
Stop 4 – Waterville
I never need to plan a visit to Waterville.
It’s like my subconscious arranges every trip to Kerry so that one way or another, I just end up there.
An amazing friend who is unfortunately no longer with us took me here many years ago and the place holds an abundance of happy and sad memories for me.
I’m drawn to it constantly. And always will be.
Whenever I visit Waterville I always nip into An Coran for a bite to eat (the steak sandwich is unreal).
It’s a pokey little cafe/restaurant and the people working there are beyond warm and friendly.
Stop 5 – Valentia Island
Ah, Valentia Island – easily one of my favorite places in Ireland.
Connected to the little town of Portmagee by the Maurice O’Neill Memorial Bridge, Valentia Island is one of Ireland’s most westerly points.
Here’s a guide, and a tonne of photos, of Valentia Island – visit it, it’s deadly!
My first stop-off was the car park near Bray Head.
I was highly aware that rain was en route, so I didn’t attempt to squeeze in the Bray Head Loop Walk (definitely something you should consider).
I kicked back and admired the view out towards the Skellig Islands.
I didn’t manage to take a photo here on this visit, but here’s a shot from this time last year.
From here, I made my way up to the Geokaun Mountain and Cliffs, and after paying a €5 entry fee, I made the steep ascent (it’s insanely steep – keep the car in first gear the entire way up) towards one of the best views in Ireland.
I’ve done a reasonable amount of travelling outside of Ireland, and there are very few places that I’ve been to that offer a view as spectacular as the Geokaun Mountain and Cliffs.
Kick-back, relax and just soak up what lies before you.
One of the things that I’ve always wanted to do out this direction is take a ferry over to Skellig Michael – it wasn’t to be on this trip.
If you’re interested in learning more about Skellig Michael, it’s history, the Star Wars connection and the tours you can take of the island, click here.
Stop 6 – Dingle for sunset
I left Valentia Island at around 5:30 p.m. on the evening of day two and was faced with a lengthy hour and 45-minute drive to reach my destination for the night – Dingle.
It was just after 7 by the time I arrived in the town, so I checked into my B&B, dropped off my bags, and headed out into Dingle.
I strolled down towards the harbor area and arrived just as the sun was beginning to set.
After admiring the sunset for a bit, I made my way to John Benny’s Pub for food and chilled after what was a long aul day of driving.
Day 4 – Soaking up (literally #DamnRain) the many wonders of Slea Head
I woke up bright and early on day 4 to the sounds of rain hopping off my window.
In the hope that I was hearing things, I whipped out the weather app and saw that we were due for rain from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. but that we’d get clear weather from then on.
Now, I was in a unique enough position in that I was traveling on my own and had nowhere booked to stay for the night, so I was happy to play the waiting game with the weather and see what happened later in the day.
Here’s my route for day 4.
Stop 1 – The absolutely mental road at Conor Pass
It’s rare that a road bothers me in any way.
I love the narrow country roads that you encounter across Ireland, and I’m never (normally) in any way apprehensive about driving along them.
Conor Pass was different.
Conor Pass runs from Dingle out towards Brandon Bay and Castlegregory, and is one of the highest mountain passes in Ireland, standing a whopping 410 m above the sea level.
The tight, narrow road snakes alongside the mountain and weaves its way along sharp cliff faces on one side and an enormous drop to the other.
Driving the Conor Pass was one of my highlights from the trip.
Yes, had a semi oh-shit moment when I met a van coming towards me with no intention of stopping and I had to reverse back around the mountain on a road barely wider than the car, but it was amazing.
Stop 2 – a soaked Slead Head Drive
In hindsight, I should have left Conor Pass until later in the day, as I ended up driving through it twice, but I was in no rush so it didn’t really bother me.
I pointed my car in the direction of Slea Head and went off on my (momentarily) merry way.
When I arrived at the beginning of the Slea Head Drive the weather was beyond horrendous.
I decided to drive part of it but then thought better and nipped into the Blasket Island Centre for something to eat and a bit of shelter.
Stop 3 – Playing the waiting game at Dun Chaoin Pier paid off
After an hour or so of reading, gulping down coffee and eating (I ordered the meat lovers baked potato – 1/5…) I had itchy feet and decided to head on down towards Dun Chaoin Pier.
I threw on the rain gear and attempted to make my way out to the pier.
It was covered in mist…
At a time like that, you can either give up and head on, or you can wait it out – I grabbed a book and sat for an hour and a half reading and hoping the mist and rain would clear.
Dun Chaoin Pier is the departure point for the Blasket Island Ferry, and you’ll find it at the northern end of a small secluded bay enveloped by rocky cliffs.
You can take a stroll down the pier itself or admire the view from above (be careful – the cliff side is unguarded).
Stop 4 – battling the wind at the magnificent Coumeenoole Beach
After leaving Dun Chaoin Pier I headed back towards Coumeenoole Beach, a place I’d been to many times before.
If you’re planning your Irish Road Trip, please add this to the itinerary – it’s a fantastic little beach that’s surrounded by jagged cliffs and spectacular coastal scenery.
For any fans of the movie ‘Ryan’s Daughter’, you may recognise Coumeenoole Beach as it was one of the locations used in the film.
What you won’t get from the images above and below is the power of the wind that was gushing over me constantly, rocking me from side-to-side and making holding a camera virtually impossible.
Stop 5 – Chilling in the sun and admiring the view of Dunmore Head
You’ll find the lookout point for Dunmore Head a short distance from Coumeenoole Beach, so make sure you keep an eye out for it.
This is clear proof that Irish weather is mental; from rain and galeforce winds, to dull and cloudy weather to this… in minutes…
When I arrived at Dunmore Head the sky just opened up and cleared completely.
After a day spent hanging around in the car as the rain bounced off the roof, this had an almost double-shot-of-espresso effect on me.
What a view… honestly
I’d decided to spend 20 minutes kicking back here and taking it all in.
Stop 6 – in search of a bed
I ended up completely forgetting to book a room for the night, and the battery in my phone was about to KO, so I headed back to Dingle to get a bite to eat and a charge.
I stopped off at John Benny’s near the Harbour and ordered a stew to heat the body after the day that was in it.
After charging up, I decided that I wanted to head towards Galway for Day 4, and Tralee would be a handy place to kick off from the following morning.
I finished my dinner and hit the road again.
I used this interactive map here to find a place to stay in Kerry – I went for the Ballyroe Heights Hotel.
If you’re in search of a place to stay in Tralee, consider staying here – the value for money was just incredible, and the view from the room (obviously this will depend on where your room faces) was sensational.
Day 5 – Connemara, Achill and loads more
In hindsight, I made a number of mistakes when planning (or not planning) day 5.
I decided to skip County Clare as I’d been there recently, but I should have just taken it easy and not put myself under the immense pressure that I did to get up to Achill that evening.
If you’re debating visiting Clare, please do it – it’s a fantastic county.
Here’s a video from a recent 2-day road trip around the county.
OK, so here’s the route that I actually took – the amount of driving that took place over the course of the day was insane.
It was a long day, but amazing nonetheless.
Stop 1 – Connemara National Park
My first stop was a lengthy 3 hours and 48 minutes from Tralee, but it was worth the long, slog of a drive.
I’ll never get tired of Connemara National Park.
Situated in the West of Ireland in County Galway, the park covers around 2,957 hectares of mountains, bogs, grasslands, and woodlands, making it an immensely scenic part of the island to drive through.
Some of the Park’s mountains, namely Benbaun, Bencullagh, Benbrack and Muckanaght, are part of the famous Twelve Bens or Beanna Beola range.
I was happy to just drive through and hop out of the car whenever something caught my eye but if you’re looking to explore the area, here are some of the things you can do.
Stop 2 – one of the best towns in Ireland – Leenaun
You’ll find the gorgeous little town of Leenaun on the southern shore of the Killary Harbour, at the northern edge of Connemara.
Please stop here – it’s deadly.
One of the reasons I’m so fond of the place, aside from the fact that the views that surround you are just out of this world, is that Gaynor’s Pub, which you’ll find in the town, is the place that they filmed the bar scenes from the movie ‘The Field’.
That’s a whole load of nostalgia right there.
I parked up the car and headed into the cafe inside the visitor center/gift shop for a bite to eat.
If you drop by, go for the vegetable soup with homemade brown bread – it’s fantastic.
While I was happy to wander through Leenaun, there are lots of other things I could have done. Here some more activities to help you plan your trip.
Stop 3 – the other-worldly Leenaun to Louisberg Drive
This drive deserves a road trip guide dedicated to it as it’s one of those stretches of road that just completely shock the system.
I’ve driven this route many times and on every occoasion, I’ve been taken aback by the sheer lack of people driving along it.
The scenery varies from icy lakes to rugged mountains to open country.
As you make your way along the road, you’ll pass Doo Lough, a long dark freshwater lake on the Murrisk peninsula.
Keep an eye out for a plain stone cross – it stands as a memorial to the Doolough Tragedy which took place in 1849.
The only advice I can give you during this drive is to take your time and stop and stretch your legs as often as possible.
As you make your way towards Louisburg, you’ll drive alongside the Sheaffry Hills and the Mweelrea Mountains, which make your final stretch of the journey an absolute treat.
Stop 4 – Onwards to Achill
After arriving in Louisburg I pointed the car in the direction of Achill, with the intention of arriving on the island just before the sun started to set.
By this stage, the driving was taking its toll, and I was longing for some food and a seat in a pub to take in everything I’d seen that day.
Achill never ceases to amaze.
Achill Island lies off County Mayo on Ireland’s west coast and is connected to the mainland (thankfully) by The Michael Davitt Bridge.
The island is scattered with peat bogs, rugged mountains, towering sea cliffs and beautiful clean beaches and bays.
I skipped Keel beach on this occasion, but here’s a picture I took on a different trip to give you a sense of what it’s like.
From the get-go, the final destination I had set in my head from when I left Tralee many hours previously was Keem Bay.
So, I popped it into Google maps and made my way there.
This was my first time on Achill as the sun was starting to set, and it was an experience that I’ll remember for a long time to come.
If you take the road that hugs the coast, you’ll be guided along narrow roads that, at times, meander through the island and are an absolute joy to cruise along.
This was my third time on Achill, and I’d thoroughly recommend that you give yourself a decent chunk of time to explore the island as you tend to find yourself stopping constantly and just gazing around the place in awe.
As I reached the final stretch of the island the sun was beginning to drop fast.
Moments like this are why I love exploring Ireland.
They’re unpredictable, you can’t plan them and they make you feel like the earth has momentarily slipped off its axis, causing time to stand still.
This was a special moment – sunset on Keem with the whole beach to myself. Literally.
I spent some time on the beach admiring the view before climbing a little way up the hill that sits to the right of Keem.
From here, the view was just out of this world.
I knocked off the camera, put the phone away and just sAt back and tried to soak in what lay before me.
A special moment.
Step 5 – Newport for the final night
With all the excitement (and driving), I totally forgot to book a room for the night – yes, again.
The nearest available place was a B&B called Brannens in Newport.
I rang ahead and got a nights bed and breakfast for €55 – bargain.
I arrived at Brannen’s tired and with a thirst on me for a couple of pints, so I checked into my room (clean, modern and incredibly comfortable) and made my way to the pub connected to it.
Brannen’s pub in Newport is one of those places that I imagine hasn’t changed a whole lot in 40 years – it’s what I’d call a traditional Irish pub.
No frills, pictures of local GAA teams on the wall, and locals sat up at the bar having a chat.
I took a seat next to them and ordered up a pint of Guinness.
Over the course of three hours, many different people came and went; each of them pulling up a seat by the bar, ordering a drink, nodding me a hello and chatting away to the barman and the locals.
As I sat back in my stool nursing my pint, people watching, and chatting away to some of those in the pub, I got a genuine appreciation for what a pub can do for a community.
A good pub brings locals together.
This really was the perfect way to finish off my 5-day Ireland trip.
I drained the end of my 5th pint and hit the nest.
Wrapping it all up
If you have 5 days to exploring Ireland and fancy taking in a tonne of sights, absolutely do this road trip route.
It’s packed with amazing things to see from the get-go and takes in a good chunk of Ireland.
Obviously, there are things I would have done differently, but for the most part, I was pretty happy with how it went.
If you’ve yet to embark upon an Irish road trip of your own, now’s the time to do it.
You just need to decided you’re going to do it.