Around Ireland In 18 Days: A Coastal Road Trip Of A Lifetime (Full Itinerary)

Day 12. Newport to Sligo

Today, we’ll be visiting a place that’s older than the pyramids, before driving along the gorgeous Mayo coastline that leads to Sligo.

Grab your breakfast in Brannen’s and then get on the road!

1. The Céide Fields

ceide fields mayo
Photo by draiochtanois (shutterstock)

Newport to the Céide Fields – 1 hour and 5-minute drive (leave Newport at 9:030, arrive at the Céide Fields for 10:05).

Beneath the boglands of North Mayo lies the Céide Fields – the most extensive Stone Age monument in the world. The Céide Fields consist of field systems, dwelling areas and megalithic tombs.

The magnificent stone walled fields, which extend over thousands of acres, are a whopping 6,000 years old. 6,000… mad stuff!

Enjoy the drive on the way from Newport and then drop into the Céide Fields visitor centre for a ramble around.

2. Downpatrick Head

dun briste sea stack
Photos by Wirestock Creators (Shutterstock)

Céide Fields to Downpatrick Head – 18-minute drive (spend 1 hour at the Céide Fields, arrive to Downpatrick Head for 11:25).

You’re in for another early-morning treat. This is hands-down one of my favourite places to visit in Mayo.

Jutting out of the ocean and rising roughly 40m above the wild Atlantic waves, Downpatrick Head treats visitors to unparalleled views of the enormous Sea Stack known as Dún Briste.

Dun Briste (and the surrounding cliffs) were formed around 350 million years ago when sea temperatures were higher and the coastline was a greater distance away.

There’s something incredible about stand out near the edge of the cliff (be careful!) at gazing at 350 years’ worth of exposed rock layer. Spend a bit of time having a gander.

3. Enniscrone for lunch and a walk on the beach

Enniscrone village sligo
Photo by walshphotos/shutterstock.com

Downpatrick Head to Enniscrone Beach – 48-minute drive (spend 35 minutes at Downpatrick head, arrive to the beach for 12:48)

We’re going to grab a spot of lunch in Gilroy’s Bar in Enniscrone. Get fed and then head to Enniscrone Beach for a stroll to let the food settle.

4. Walking the Knocknarea Queen Maeve Trail

Knocknarea Mountain Walk
Photo by Anthony Hall (Shutterstock)

Enniscrone Beach to Knocknarea – 47-minute drive (leave Enniscrone at 14:00, arrive at Knocknarea for 14:47)

We’re going to take the Queen Maeve Trail up Knocknarea Mountain, which should take us around 1 and a half hours to complete.

This mountain dominates the Sligo skyline from many angles, so you should get a good look at from the distance as you approach.

When you leave the car park, follow the path along the bog bridge all the way until you reach the summit. You’ll be treated to panoramic views of Sligo from the top.

5. Fish and Chips by the sea

shells cafe sligo strandhill
Photo via Go Strandhill

Knocknarea to Shell’s Cafe – 11-minute drive (leave Knocknarea at 16:40, arrive at the cafe for 16:51)

You’ll have built up an appetite after the stroll, so we’re heading to Shell’s Café for fish and chips by the sea.

Eat up, grab and coffee (and a cake, if you like) and walk outside to soak up a lungful of sea air.

6. Glencar Waterfall

glencar waterfall
Photo by David Soanes (Shutterstock)

Shell’s Cafe to Glencar Waterfall – 30-minute drive (leave Shell’s at 17:30, arrive at Glencar for 18:00)

If you’re familiar with the work of W.B. Yeats, then you may recall mention of a line in his poem ‘The Stolen Child’ that goes, ‘Where the wandering water gushes From the hills above Glen-Car’.The place he referenced was none other than Glencar Waterfall, stop #6 for today.

This is a beautiful place to spend some time listening to the music of the water as it tumbles into the water from above.

7. The Gleniff Horseshoe Drive

gleniff horseshoe sligo
Photo by Hugh Sweeny via Failte Ireland

Glencar Waterfall to the start of the Gleniff Horseshoe Drive – 35-minute drive (leave Glencar at 17:25, arrive for 18:00)

The final stretch of our day takes us on a lovely little drive that’ll take you through a part of Sligo that has graced many an Instagram feed.

Pop ‘Gleniff Horseshoe Drive’ into your phone or sat nav and start making your way there.

The Gleniff Horseshoe Drive is a roughly six-mile loop of single lane road enveloped by spectacular mountain views.

We’re going to take our time on this drive. Get out of the car at will and bask in the beauty that inspired one of Ireland’s most celebrated poets.

8. Enjoying Benbulben from your Bed

benbulben farmhouse bed and breakfast
Photo via Benbulben Farmhouse Bed & Breakfast

It’s time to check-in to our base for the night. I can’t recommend Benbulben Farmhouse B&B enough!

This place featured in our guide of the best places to stay in Ireland if you’re looking for an out-of-this-world view, and it’s not hard to see why from the photo above!

Check-in and chill for the evening. You’ll be waking up to an incredible view of Benbulben from the comfort of your b&b the following morning.

14 COMMENTS

  1. I have been using your guide for the past few months to plan my Ireland trip set for April 2019. I figured it was about time I dropped a comment!! 🙂 Your guide has helped me tremendously as it seems to encompass everything we are looking to find in Ireland…. raw natural beauty, unique experiences, good coffee, and good beer! Can’t thank you enough. I hope to comment again once we return!

    • Ah, thank you. I’m glad. Getting comments like this make it worth it.

      I hope you’re trip goes well.

      Cheers,

      Keith

  2. This is seriously the best travel guide ever. I was getting stressed because I’ll be solo traveling all of March and haven’t planned much (by design) and this gives the perfect outline of exactly the things I want to do and see. So thank you for the enormous amount of time this must have taken. So much appreciated.

    • Haha! Cheers dude.

      Glad you found it useful. This took roughly 3 weeks of research and writing… and rewriting.

      I hope the trip goes well.

      Keith

  3. We’re traveling to Ireland in November, 2019 and thank you very much for your outline and information. Question: On maps, it shows Northern Ireland almost like another country. Do you need anything to pass from Ireland to Northern Ireland and back, or is it all in the same? Seems trivial, but it could make a big difference if we plan to do things in Northern Ireland and then we could possibly not have the proper travel documents. Also, do you know if your passport is all you need or if you need a travel visa? Thanks for your time. Have a great day!. WandanTexas

    • Hi Wanda,

      You’re welcome.

      Northern Ireland is technically part of the UK, so it is regarded as a different country.

      Currently, there is no form of ‘hard’ border, but there’s been a lot of talk about the potential of one with Brexit looming.

      If you’re driving a rental car, this is where things can get tricky. I had one from Europa car recently and was told I’d be automatically charged (they have GPS devices within the rental) whenever my car passed into Northern Ireland – the max total charge was 90 euro, I believe.

      If you’re renting a car, be sure to check this in advance.

      I hope this helps.

      Keith

  4. Hi,
    This is a great guide, but if you had a few extra days…
    Three Castle Head is also stunning. You are close enough to it when you are heading for brow head. Well worth it!
    Lough Hyne in Skibbereen is also beautiful, lovely forest walk and salt water lake to swim in. Night time kayaking with the bioluminescent water a must!
    Enjoy,
    Joanne

    • Thanks for the recommendations Joanne.

      Love Lough Hyne in particular. Did the forest climb with my dad last summer on a hot day in July – great spot!

  5. Question for Keith and others. We have a wonderful opportunity to spend a month in Ireland and in previous trips we’ve enjoyed many of the same activities you do…hiking, enjoying the featured sights and geography in general, informal dining, great pubs, etc. We have never been north of Westport, county Mayo. Would it be worth it to spend a week in the Sligo / Donegal region? If yes, we would rent a house for the week. Is there a town that would be central to this region that you could recommend as a home base? We would be there in late August/early Sept 2020.
    Thanks in advance for your response (or anyone else who could add their thoughts)

    • Hi Bill.

      Abbbbbbbbbbbsolutely spend a week in Sligo and Donegal.

      There’s a tonne of things to do in both, regardless of whether you decide to do something active or just chill.

      Personally, I’d spend half in Sligo and half in Donegal.

      Here’s a guide to 48 hours in Sligo that should help, along with a 3-day guide to the best things to do in Donegal.

      In terms of where to stay – I love Strandhill and Rosses Point. For Donegal, it’s hard to beat Ardara.

      I hope this helps!

      Keith

  6. Hi Keith,
    I am planning our road trip to Ireland in october and I love your Instagram account. I like to use your suggestions for our schedule.
    On day 11 you suggest to leave Westport and Achill on the same time (16:55) ? So this is a pretty long day 😉 I prefer to stay an extra night on Achill Island. What do you think?
    Thanks
    Uli

    • Aha! OK, that’s clearly a mistake on my part. I’ll get those times updated!

      I love Achill, personally.

      There’s nothing bad that can come from a second night spent there.

  7. Hi Keith,

    I am considering travelling to Ireland this summer via road-trip and AirBnBs. While researching, I found your blog and found it very helpful and resourceful.

    I am travelling from New Delhi (India) with my extended family (infants, toddlers, siblings, wife, parents etc.). Assuming this might be our only trip to Ireland together as a family, I am interested in covering Ireland comprehensively within a limitation of 11-13 days.

    Is it possible to shorten the suggested 18-day itinerary to the above duration by bypassing some of the locations or sites. I understand this would mean we missing a few locations, but need your help.

  8. Really digging this blog!! I have the travel blog so bad and Ireland is next on the list – your recommendations are speaking to me! Thanks for taking the time to create all the wonderful road trips / ideas.

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