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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 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.

In the guide below, you’ll find out everything you need to know about the Leenane to Louisburgh drive, from how long it takes to what to see nearby.

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

If you were to do the drive from Leenaun to Louisburgh without stopping, it’d take you just under 40 minutes. However, allow 1-hour plus for stops.

3. Viewpoints 

Although there’s incredible 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).

4. Coffee with a view

When I did this drive last (June 2021), there was a funky little silver coffee truck at the centre of the valley (you can’t miss it). It’s pricey, but the coffee is solid and the bacon and cheddar toasties were the business.

An overview of the Leenaun to Louisburgh drive

Leenane to Louisburgh drive galway

Where the drive kicks off in Leenaun (via Google Maps)

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

Photo by Bernd Meissner on 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. See our Aasleagh Falls guide for more.

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

Leenane to Louisburgh drive connemara

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

doo lough valley

Photo by RR Photo on Shutterstock

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 Doo Lough.

Things to do after the Louisburgh to Leenane drive

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)

old head beach louisburgh

Photo by PJ photography (Shutterstock)

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 in mayo

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)

the view from afar

Photo via Clare Island Lighthouse

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

FAQs about the Leenaun to Louisburgh drive

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from how long the Leenaun to Louisburgh drive takes to what there is to see nearby.

In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.

Is the Leenaun to Louisburgh drive worth doing?

Yes – the scenery that this little chunk of Mayo/Galway treats you to is wild, unspoiled and impressive from beginning to end.

Is it better to start the drive in Leenaun or Louisburgh?

I’ve heard a lot of people say the the Louisburgh to Leenane drive is the more scenic route, but I’ve done it from Leenaun many times, and I can vouch for that side being incredible, too.

What is there to do near Leenaun and Louisburgh?

You’ve Silver Strand and Old Head Beach, the Lost Valley, Inishturk and Clare Island and much more (see above).

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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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