Hello and welcome to a road trip guide that my fingers will never forgive me for writing.
In the guide below you’ll find a chonker of an 18-day coastal road trip that’s planned for you from start to finish.
Now, this route isn’t for the faint-hearted or for those looking to spend several nights in one place – there’s a lot of moving about and you’ll be staying in different places each night.
If you’re looking for ‘slower’ or shorter road trips, drop into our road trip hub. Scroll down to see the full 18-day route.
The 18-Day Road Trip
The image above shows a rough outline of the route taken over the course of this road trip. Is it perfect? Absolutely not!
So, if there’s somewhere that you want to see that hasn’t been included, just alter the route to suit you! Here’s a breakdown of the different days:
- Day 1: Wicklow
- Day 2: Wexford
- Day 3: Waterford
- Day 4: Cork
- Day 5: West Cork
- Day 6: Kerry
- Day 7: Kerry Part 2
- Day 8: Kerry and Clare
- Day 9: Clare
- Day 10: Clare and Galway
- Day 11: Galway and Mayo
- Day 12: Mayo and Sligo
- Day 13: Donegal
- Day 14: Donegal
- Day 15: Donegal and Derry
- Day 16: Antrim
- Day 17: Antrim
- Day 18: Louth
Day 1. Wicklow
To make the most of our first day on the road, get out of the bed and into the car for 8:00. Our first day sees us take a nice and handy spin from Dublin to Wicklow.
1. Gallivanting Around Glendalough (start 09:00)
We’re going to kick the day off with a moderate hike that I’ve done many times. The Glendalough Spinc Route is a hike that I can’t recommend enough.
It’s challenging enough to give you a good workout, but not too strenuous in that you can still chat away and have a laugh with friends as you climb.
The walk begins at the Upper Lake car park and follows the Poulanass Waterfall before entering the Lugduff Valley. You’ll find a full guide to this walk in our guide to the best walks in Wicklow.
2. Roundwood for lunch (arrive around
At this stage, you’ll be in need of a post-hike feed. Head for the Coach House in Roundwood, fuel up and rest the legs.
If you’re here in the winter you’ll be able to warm yourself by an enormous open fire. The drive from Glendalough to Roundwood takes 14 minutes (if it took 4 hours to complete the hike, you should arrive in Roundwood by 14:15).
3. Lough Tay
Roundwood to Lough Tay – 11-minute drive (if you spend 90 minutes eating and chilling, you’ll arrive at Lough Tay for 16:00).
Lough Tay is easily one of my favourite places in Ireland.
Mainly because it’s a such short drive from Dublin (where I live) but also due to the fact that you’ll have the whole place to yourself if you arrive at sunset (basing this on the past 3 times I’ve visited at sunset).
Keep driving until you come to a little makeshift car park on the right.
Cross the road and walk down the grassy hill until you’re treated to the incredible view above.
4. The Sally Gap Drive
So, this is a looped drive rather than a stop. Start it at around 16:30 and head in the direction of Glenmacnass Waterfall.
I did this drive several times over the past 12 months, and many times over the years, and it never fails to disappoint.
The vast, quiet landscape that engulfs you as you chug along the Sally Gap Drive has the knack of making you feel like you’re the only person left on earth.
You’re driving along smooth bendy roads that hug the side of mountains one minute and passing along tarmac surrounded by towering trees (keep an eye out for trees donning Christmas decorations) the next.
Take your time with this drive. Jump out of the car when the feeling takes you. And gulp down as much of that fresh mountain air that your lungs allow.
5. A Nest for the Night
Glenmacnass Waterfall to The Glendalough Hotel, – 11-minute drive (take 45 minutes to do the Sally Gap Drive and arrive at the hotel for 17:30).
So, where you stay in Wicklow is totally up to you.
Check into the hotel, grab a bite to eat in the hotel’s Glendassan River Restaurant and kick back with a couple of drinks.
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.