Part 1 of 5
I had been planning to visit Ireland for over a year but Covid put those plans on the back burner until finally, in September 2021, my dream came true. My original plan was to travel solo to Ireland but, almost at the last minute, was joined by three fantastic ladies for a truly memorable one-week road trip around the Emerald Isle.
The term “The Emerald Isle” is synonymous with Ireland and its rolling hills and vales of green – at least forty shades, or so the famous Johnny Cash song goes. You’ll love its friendly people; laid-back attitude; often tragic yet fascinating history; and its rugged, romantic landscapes.
Even though I had made sure we had booked a large enough car, we were lucky enough to be given a free upgrade – the reason given was that we had so many bags! Driving in Ireland is easy and safe but make sure you give yourself plenty of time to drive from one place to another. Always consider driving in Ireland, especially in the west of the country.
After spending the first night in the heart of Ireland’s capital city Dublin, we were soon off early the next day on a truly unforgettable one-week road trip. We headed roughly south on our first day and made sure we got to see the main sights on the way to Cork, including Ireland’s tallest waterfall and the incredible Rock of Cashel.
My disappointment at the fact that the management at the tavern we were staying at in Cork decided to place me in a tiny room reminiscent of the 1970s with a very old-fashioned bathroom and no desk and chair in the room (not that there was any space for them anyway!) quickly turned to sheer joy and amazement during our visit the next morning to Blarney Castle and Gardens, one of Ireland’s top attractions.
We climbed up the sheer steps to the top of the castle and wandered around the grounds for about three hours but could have easily spent twice that much time. There was so much to see and so much exploring to do; we had a great time there!
Our third day led us to Kinsale, the first part of Ireland’s magical Wild Atlantic Way. It’s 1600 miles (2600 km) of pure bliss and is one of the longest defined coastal routes in the world. It winds its way all along the Irish west coast from the picturesque town of Kinsale in the south to the Inishowen Peninsula in the north.
This route from start to finish unfolds the wonders of nature, the power of the ocean and its imprint on the west coast of Ireland, and the stunning countryside in all its diversity. Enchanting villages are nestled along the coast as well as ancient monuments. Behind every bend on this magical coastal road a new delight awaits.
Up until our fourth full day in Ireland, we were blessed with warm sunshine for most of the time but our luck changed when we headed towards the Ring of Kerry as we were treated to the more ‘normal’ Irish weather of rain, fog and poor visibility! Unfortunately, this meant that we could not enjoy most of the views along this route.
Thankfully, the weather improved somewhat the following day as we drove around the spectacular Ring of Dingle before heading to the famous Cliffs of Moher, a must-see and one of Ireland’s most popular tourist destinations.
Our last full day was spent in Galway, a vibrant Irish city rich in history. It’s also especially beautiful, with cobblestone streets, medieval buildings, and a rapid river running through it, that spills out into the Irish Sea. It really is as charming and enticing as it sounds.
The best time for a road trip around Ireland is the summer: long daylight hours and low rainfall makes it the driest season and the safest in terms of driving conditions. It’s good to know that the driest months are usually August and September and these are a lovely time to visit the country also because of the long hours of daylight.
If you are interested in scenery, as I am, the best area to explore is the West. However, if you are interested in dynamic city life and museums, plan extra time in Dublin and Galway instead. When packing for Ireland, layers is the name of the game. In summer, you can usually spend the warmest hours of the day in a t-shirt but may need a light cardigan and possibly a light jacket early in the morning or at night, or if the weather turns.
Motorways are few but well kept and allow for fast movement between cities. Smaller roads (National and Regional) are slow and winding but often very scenic. They are slow and narrow so you must allocate enough time and be prepared to slow down for oncoming traffic. However, these are the roads that will give you that Irish country experience you are most likely looking for in your trip.
Without a doubt, Ireland has some of the most impressive scenery in the world, let alone Europe! Ireland is an ancient land of mysticism and history with stunning nature, scenery, flora and fauna all in arms reach. Prepare to be amazed!