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

Day 8. Dingle to Lahinch

Today we’re going to explore one of the most beautiful corners of Ireland. Fuel up with breakfast in Pax and get ready for another eventful day.

1. The Slea Head Drive

Slea head road
Photo by Lukasz Pajor/shutterstock.com

This Drive takes roughly 1 hour and 10 minutes – we’re going to allow 4 hours. Start the drive at 9:00).

I’m excited for any of you that are doing this drive for the first time.

The Slea Head Drive is a circular route that begins and ends in Dingle. It takes in an abundance of attractions and fabulous views on the western end of the peninsula.

My only piece of advice for this drive is to stop and wander wherever and whenever the feeling takes you.

The best parts of this drive aren’t the stops, they’re the ever-changing landscape that engulfs it.

2. The magnificent Coumeenoole Beach

Annual leave Ireland 2020
Photo via Tourism Ireland (by Kim Leuenberger)

Our first stop is at Coumeenoole Beach, a place I’ve been to many times before. This is a fantastic little beach that’s surrounded by jagged cliffs and spectacular coastal scenery.

For any fans of the movie ‘Ryan’s Daughter’, you may recognise Coumeenoole Beach as it was one of the locations used in the film. This place really is wild.

Park the car and explore the area. The beach is to the left, down the little winding hill, and then to the right, you have a path that, if you take it, will offer spectacular views of the surrounding area.

3. Admiring the view of Dunmore Head

Ireland in June
Photo by Chris Hill

You’ll find the lookout point for Dunmore Head a short distance from Coumeenoole Beach, so make sure you keep an eye out for it.

This is another one of those places that tends to rock you a little bit (the best places to visit in Ireland generally do).

When you step out of your car and gaze out, the sound of wind and wave combined with the view that you’ll be treated to is immensely special.

Spend time here. Who cares how long. Soak up the sights and sounds. Put down the phone and the camera and focusing on capturing this little chunk of bliss in your mind forever.

4. Dun Chaoin Pier

Dun chaoin pier kerry
@ Tourism Ireland photographed by Tom Archer

Dun Chaoin Pier is the departure point for the Blasket Island Ferry, and you’ll find it at the northern end of a small secluded bay enveloped by rocky cliffs.

You can take a stroll down the pier itself or admire the view from above (be careful – the cliff is unguarded).

When gawked at from above, the narrow, winding road that leads up to the pier can only be described as a charming little slice of architectural madness.

The quirky road combined with the gorgeous rocky peaks that jut out from the water in front of the pier make for a wonderfully unique scene on County Kerry’s dramatic coastline.

5. The stop that isn’t a stop

gallarus oratory in kerry
By Chris Hill

I tried to emphasise this earlier, but I really believe that you need to go with your gut on this drive.

Take your time and just enjoy the scenery that envelopes you from start to finish. Here are some other things you can do along the drive, if you’d like a bit more guidance:

6. Dingle for lunch and ice cream or coffee

Bean in Dingle
Photo via the lads at Bean Dingle

The Slea Head Loop will get you back to Dingle for around 13:00 if you take 4 hours to drive it. We’re going to fuel up in Dingle for a long afternoon and evening on the road.

Head to Ashe’s Bar for a bite to eat and then tip on over to Murphy’s Ice Cream for a bit of a #TreatYoSelf buzz.

The Caramelised Brown Bread and the Dingle Sea Salt are both ammmmmmmmmmazing!

7. The absolutely mental road at Conor Pass

conor pass dingle
Photo via Shutterstock

Dingle to Conor Pass – 8-minute drive (leave Dingle at 14:00, arrive for 14:08). It’s rare that a road bothers me in any way.

Conor Pass runs from Dingle out towards Brandon Bay and Castlegregory, and is one of the highest mountain passes in Ireland, standing a whopping 410 m above the sea level.

The tight, narrow road snakes alongside the mountain and weaves its way along sharp cliff faces on one side and an enormous drop to the other. Driving the Conor Pass was one of my highlights from my last trip to Kerry.

Yes, had a semi oh-shit moment when I met a van coming towards me with no intention of stopping and I had to reverse back around the mountain on a road barely wider than the car, but it was amazing.

You can pull in at the side of the road before the pass and admire the views around you. On a busy day, this’ll be a nervous drivers nightmare, but just take your time and drive carefully.

8. The ferry to Clare

kilbaha cliffs loop head
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

Now, the drive from Conor Pass to Kilbaha would take 3 long hours… THANKFULLY, there’s a 20-minute ferry that you can take that’ll make this journey a lot easier.

Drive from Conor Pass to Tarbert (1 hour and 15-minute drive). You can get a ferry from here to Killimer in Clare. 

The ferry leaves from Tarbert every hour on the half-hour during the high season when there are two ferries in operation (more info here).

Our first stop is to Kilbaha (40 minutes from Killimer) to check out the cliffs at Loop Head Lighthouse. I’ve visited here a handful of times in the past and am always blown away by the sheer lack of people that you meet.

Park the car at the lighthouse and walk along the grass to the right of the wall that surrounds it. You’ll find a gorgeous sea stack and a wonderful view of the surrounding cliffs.

Warning: the cliffs are unguarded, so please be careful.

This is another place where you’ll feel the full force of Mother nature. The wind crashes against you from every angle and the thunder of the waves smashing against jagged cliff is like music to the ears.

9. Lahinch for the night

Lahinch village
Photo by shutterupeire/shutterstock.com

Kilbaha to Lahinch – 1 hour and 5-minute drive (leave at 18:10, arrive to Lahinch for 19:05). That was a pretty long day, so we’re going to head to our base for the night and then out for food.

I’m going to recommend you stay at the Atlantic Hotel. Check-in and then take a stroll to Danny Mac’s for dinner.

Get an early night, tonight, as we’ve another busy day tomorrow (we’ll factor in a lie-in, of sorts, for the morning of day 10… promise)

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.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.