Ireland’s home to many a lovely, albeit mental, road.
From narrow stretches of tarmac that hug cliffs, to bendy ones that snake through mountains, our little island has its fair share of unique roads.
These roads can cause mayhem for people driving in Ireland for the first time, but they’re an absolute joy for those that are comfortable behind the wheel.
Below, you’ll find a guide to 13 of the craziest and bendiest roads that you’ll encounter as you road trip around Ireland.
13. Mamore Gap (Donegal)
If you explore the magnificent Inishowen Peninsula in Donegal the chances are that you’ll find yourself at Mamore Gap at one point or another.
The road here is bendy, but it shouldn’t be too much of a challenge for most. At 250m above sea level, Mamore Gap offers stunning views of the Fanad Peninsula, Lough Swilly and a good chunk of North Inishowen.
The road here is pretty narrow so hopefully it goes without saying that you should slow down and take it nice and handy.
12. The Slea Head Drive (Kerry)
The Slea Head Drive in Kerry is a beautiful stretch of road that’s up there with the most scenic drives in Ireland.
Now, personally I’ve never found this road in any way troublesome, but I’ve talked to many tourists that have lost their shi*t (slang for freaked out) while driving it.
Sure, there are sections of Slea Head that are pretty narrow and you’ll need to pull in and let a car pass you but, for the most part, it’s grand.
The real fun begins if you meet a tour bus head on at a section of road like the one in the photo above…
11. The Sheep’s Head Drive (Cork)
The Sheep’s Head Peninsula near Bantry is arguably one of the most underexplored corners of Ireland.
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of walkers that bask in the brilliance of the peninsulas unspoiled scenery and landscape, but many people visiting Ireland Cork tend to pass it by.
If you can, get your arse to Sheep’s Head on your next visit. As you spin around the peninsula you’ll encounter many a narrow bendy road.
Don’t let this put you off, however – you’ll be treated to mighty views throughout your drive or cycle.
10. The Torr Head Scenic Route (Antrim)
For those among us that like taking ‘alternative routes’ and that aren’t scared of driving along a very narrow road, this one’s for you.
The ‘alternative route’ to Ballycastle in Antrim is called the Torr Head Scenic Drive. It clings to the coast and takes you along narrow roads and up steep hills way above the sea.
The route will take you to Torr Head (you can see Scotland from here on a clear day), on to Murlough Bay and along many a narrow and bendy road towards Ballycastle.
I drove this route 2 years ago on a foggy day and it was a disaster. Visibility was terrible and I could barely see a foot in front of me. One to avoid when visibility is poor!
9. The Sally Gap (mainly the stretch that climbs to Lough Tay)
Sure, the road is narrow at times and you have to drive at a steep incline for a bit, but if you take it at a steady pace you’ll be grand.
This road is dangerous for other reasons – it tends to be one of the go-to drives for people visiting Ireland that have just rented a car… many of whom will have never driven here before…
I’ve driven this route 20+ times over the years and I’ve seen my fair share of rentals with scrapes and missing wing mirrors. A road to avoid if there’s ice or snow.
8. Corkscrew Hill (Clare)
Roads don’t get much bendier than Corkscrew Hill (it’s all in the name), a stretch of road between Ballyvaughan and Lisdoonvarna in Clare.
The road, similar to Healy Pass below, was designed as part of a famine relief scheme many moons ago.
You won’t have much hassle driving along this one, although I can’t imagine how you’d get around it during ice or snow.
7. Ballaghbeama Gap (Kerry)
Ah, Ballaghbeama Gap – one of my favourite stretches of road in Ireland. Ballaghbeama Gap is a narrow and bendy road in Kerry, a stone’s throw from Kenmare.
Ballaghbeama is one of those places that has the ability to make you feel like you’re the last person left on earth.
I’ve done this drive three times over the years and the max number of cars that I’ve met was 4.
In fact, you’ll probably meet more sheep than people. The road here is narrow (very, in places) but it’s handy enough to find places to pull in when required.
6. The Glengesh Pass (Donegal)
The road at the Glengesh Pass meanders through the almost endless sloping mountainous terrain that connects Glencolmcille to Ardara.
The road here is easy to drive but, as you can see above, it has its fair share of twists and turns.
As you’re approaching Glengesh from the Glencolmcille side, you’ll come across a little van selling coffee, with a bench close by. Stop off here and you’ll get some great views of the valley.
5. The Road From Horn Head to Dunfanaghy (Donegal)
If you read our guide to 19 of the best hikes in Ireland, you’ll be familiar with Horn Head. It’s here that you’ll find a brilliant walk that offers stunning coastal views.
There’s a lovely stretch of road that leads from Horn Head down to the village of Dunfanaghy in County Donegal.
As you can see from the grainy photo above, the road here is pretty damn narrow in places. It’d be no more ideal to meet someone head-on on the stretch of road above.
Don’t let this put you off visiting, however. I’ve been here many times and it’s a brilliant scenic drive with plenty of incredible coastal views throughout.
4. Brow Head (Cork)
The road up to Brow Head in West Cork is one of the narrowest and most beautiful stretches of road that I’ve ever driven on.
I’ve driven it in horrendous weather (above) and I’ve driven it when the sun was beaming down, and it’s just incredible.
The road here is as narrow as it looks in the photo above. Drive this one nice and slowly and be prepared to reverse all the way back up or down, if needed, as there’s nowhere to pull in.
At the top of the hill, you’ll find a little bit of parking (enough for 3 to 4 cars) and some amazing views to soak up.
3. The Healy Pass (Cork)
The road at Healy Pass was constructed in 1847 during the famine as part of a relief scheme and it’s easily the bendiest in Ireland.
It looks like a bit like a giant snake from above, slithering its way through the two highest summits in the Caha mountain range.
Healy Pass is a corner of Ireland that looks like time passed it by and forgot all about it, leaving it untouched and unspoiled – magic.
Although the road here is narrow, you don’t tend to meet many other people driving along it, so you shouldn’t have too much hassle.
2. The Atlantic Drive (Achill Island)
As far as I know (don’t quote me on this) the road to Keem Bay is known as the Atlantic Drive.
This is a mighty drive that offers endless views along with plenty of places to stop to stretch the legs and head for a ramble.
It’s not hard to see from the photo above why we’ve included this drive… the road here is insanely windy at one point.
I’ve driven this road many times over the years. It might look a bit mental from above, but it’s grand once you take your time and drive slowly.
1. Conor Pass (Kerry)
Conor Pass runs from Dingle out towards Brandon Bay and Castlegregory and is one of the highest mountain passes in Ireland, standing at a whopping 410 m above sea level.
The tight, narrow road here snakes alongside the mountain and weaves its way along sharp cliff faces on one side and an enormous drop to the other.
The road at Conor Pass can be intimidating for even the most experienced driver. Especially when the weather is bad and there are several cars trying to get through.
What roads have we missed?
Have you encountered another crazy road during your time in Ireland?
Let me know in the comments below!
Keith O’Hara has lived in Ireland for 34 years and has spent most of the last 10 years creating what is now The Irish Road Trip guide. Over the years, the website has published thousands of meticulously researched Ireland travel guides, welcoming 30 million+ visitors along the way. In 2022, the Irish Road Trip team published the world’s largest collection of Irish Road Trip itineraries. Keith lives in Dublin with his dog Toby and finds writing in the 3rd person minus craic altogether.