The Leenane to Louisburgh / Louisburgh to Leenane drive is one of the best drives in Ireland.
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.
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
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
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!
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
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
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)
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)
2. Islands galore (5 minutes from ferry point)
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).
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.