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The Leenane To Louisburgh Drive: One Of The Best Drives In Ireland

The Leenane To Louisburgh Drive: One Of The Best Drives In Ireland

The 30.5km Leenane to Louisburgh / Louisburgh to Leenane drive is one of the best drives in Ireland.

You can start the spin in either Leenane (Galway) or Louisburgh (Mayo) and the route will take you through the magnificent Doolough Valley.

If you’re not familiar with Doolough, it’s here that you’ll find some of the wildest and most unspoiled scenery the Wild Atlantic Way has to offer.

Some quick need-to-knows about the Louisburgh to Leenane Drive


Although a Louisburgh to Leenaun drive is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.

1. Where to start it

You can start this drive from either side. I’ve heard the drive from Louisburgh to Leenane is the more scenic way to do it, but I’ve always started it in Leenane, and it’s incredible from this side, too!

2. How long it takes

The distance from Leenaun to Louisburg is roughly 30.5km and it would take you 35 minutes to drive it without stopping (allow at least an hour). If you’re cycling, it’ll take you around 1 hours and 45 minutes, depending on pace.

3. Viewpoints 

Although there are glorious mountain views throughout this drive, there’s a couple of nice viewpoints: the first is on the Louisburgh side, either just before you come down the hill or just after you come up the hill from the Leenaun side (look out for the big bronze Wild Atlantic Way pole).


An overview of the Leenaun to Louisburgh drive

Doolough Valley

Photos via Shutterstock

Right – I’ll give you a good overview of what to expect if you do the drive from the Leenaun side. If you’ve never done this before / heard of it, you’re in for a treat.

Ever inch of this stretch of road and the scenery that envelopes it just hugs the soul.

You’ll want to kick the drive off from Leenaun village

When you arrive, park up (see photo above) in the big parking spot just past the pubs (you’ll find Gaynors, the pub from The Field, here) and soak up the views out over the Killary Fjord.


Heading on to Aasleagh Falls

Aasleagh Falls

Photos via Shutterstock

When you’ve had your fill of the Fjord, hop back in the car and drive for around 5 minutes until you see the sign for Aasleagh Falls about 4 minutes or so outside of the village (you’ll need to take a left turn).

There are few sounds that rival the soft ‘plops’ that emit from a waterfall the size of Aasleagh Falls.

You can park the car at a lay-by close to the falls and there’s a pathway that allows visitors to make the short stroll to the waterfall.

Stretch the legs and gulp down lungfuls of fresh air. The car park can be dodgy here when it comes to reversing out, so take care!


Keep on drivin’ and get ready for your eyes to pop!

Doolough Valley

Photos via Shutterstock

It’s from here that the Leenane to Louisburgh drive really packs a punch.

The scenery varies from icy lakes to rugged mountains to open country.

As you make your way along the road, you’ll pass Doolough, a long dark freshwater lake.

As you drive make sure to keep an eye out for a plain stone cross – it stands as a memorial to the Doolough Tragedy which took place in 1849.


The viewpoint on the Louisburgh side

the doolough discover point

Photo courtesy Joseph Carr Photography via Failte Ireland’s Content Pool

You’ll see the view point from a good bit back, as it’s situated on top of a little hill.

There’s very little parking here, and it’s right on a bend, so be careful.

If you can, park up and hop out. You’ll see the mountains fold in on top of the inky black waters of Doolough.


Things to do after the Louisburgh to Leenane drive

best things to do in mayo Ireland

One of the beauties of the Louisburgh to Leenane drive is that it’s a short spin away from some of the best things to do in Mayo and some of the best places to visit in Galway.

Below, you’ll find everything from beaches and islands to one of the most unique attractions in Ireland and more (the times given are from the Louisburgh side).


1. Beaches galore (between 4 and 20 minutes away)

Silver Strand Louisburgh

Photo left and top right: Kelvin Gillmor. Other: Google Maps

On the Louisburgh side, you’ve the incredible Old Head Beach and the often-missed Silver Strand Beach in Mayo, both of which are well worth visiting.


2. The Lost Valley (between 25 minutes away)

the lost valley

Photos via the Lost Valley

The Lost Valley is one of the most unique attractions in Ireland. You can explore it by foot on a guided tour. Info here.


2. Islands galore (5 minutes from ferry point)

different locations on inishturk island

Photos via Shutterstock

Louisburgh is a short spin from Roonagh Pier and it’s from here that you get the ferry to Inishturk Island and Clare Island.


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Fergal O'Reilly

Friday 15th of January 2021

Agreed...I've done this drive twice - both times from Westport out past the amazing Clew Bay and Croch Patrick and into Louisberg. Then left through the amazing Delhi Valley and into Leenaun and finally onwards to Clifden. It's pure jaw dropping and the most beautiful drive in Ireland. Can't wait to do it again after lockdown.

claire vernell

Thursday 16th of April 2020

Have you toured around Ennistymon, Co Clare, where my great grandparents, the SHEIDAN'S lived in 1850's?

Marie Devine

Monday 10th of February 2020

Most beautiful place I've ever been ,stayed in the Leenaun hotel with stunning views over Killary Harbour. Can't wait to return.

Sandra Garvey

Monday 10th of February 2020

Stumbled on this road last year and was blown away with the sheer beauty isolation and mystical feel to this place.

Colin Brett

Friday 7th of February 2020

Certainly one of the best drives in Irelandbut I reckon the Louisburgh to Leenane drive is even better. The road from Doolough up passed Tawnyard Lake also takes some beating. The whole area is just a masterpiece of nature, love it

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