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 the gorgeous little fishing town of Cobh.
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 the 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.
Disclaimer: there’s so much more to Cobh than the Deck of Cards above. Check out the Cobh section of our 18-day Ireland guide for a look at what else Cobh has to offer.
Coffee in Cobh
On this trip, I nipped into Cafe Vega to fuel up on coffee – several cups of coffee.
After about a liter of the stuff, I headed off in search of the view below – the Deck of Cards.
Now, if you want to see the St. Coleman’s Cathedral and the colourful houses from the view above, you 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 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 itinerary 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 up
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, which is exactly what I did.
A glimpse at the route for day 2 (a bit of a disaster of a day)
Day 2 didn’t go to plan.
At all. Click the little ‘3’ below the map to check it out.