A self-drive holiday affords you the freedom to see what you want, when you want and is a great alternative for those who find packaged-up all-inclusive holidays too restricting.
For people who prefer to take travelling into their own hands, Ireland offers some of the most stunning scenery in Europe to explore at your own pace. Dublin is a fantastic base to explore Ireland by car and is easily reached by plane or ferry. Ferries from Liverpool take roughly 8 hours whereas flights from London City Airport only take 1hr 20 minutes.
Dublin is the start of many picturesque driving routes, passing through mountain parks, lakes and charming seaside towns. Be inspired with this mini guide on Dublin road trips, with advice on where to drive from Dublin, including three recommended routes and information on Irish driving laws and regulations from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Top 3 Drives from Irish Tourist Board
Best for Film Buffs
The emotive landscapes of Ireland have persuaded many a film and TV producer to use the country as a thrilling location.
- · Start: Dublin
- · Finish: Wicklow Mountains National Park
- · Length: approx 70 miles (allow 3hrs hours driving time for round trip)
Firstly visit Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin, used in the BBC’s epic Tudors series to chillingly portray London’s Tower Green, execution place of Anne Boleyn. Drive south from Dublin, past Christ Church Cathedral (another Tudors filming location) on the N81 and onto the R115 at Rathfarnham. Continue south to reach Sally Gap, a location from the 1980’s film Excalibur. Here Arthur, played by Nigel Terry, flung the famous sword into Lough Tay, only for a ghostly hand to catch it from the depths. Head northwest up the R759 towards the Kippure Estate to take in the stirring forests and horizons that were used to depict the 13th century countryside in Mel Gibson’s Braveheart. Brad Pitt also visited Kippure to film the safe house scenes from the 1997 film, The Devils Own. Drive back to Dublin parallel to the east coast to see picturesque seaside towns Greystones and Bray.
If you’re a diehard Game of Thrones fan – check out the self-drive tour of Irish locations used in the series found here.
Best for Golfers
The spectacular coastal scenery and lakes of eastern Ireland are perfect to drive through before or after a round at one of Ireland’s beautiful golf ranges.
- · Start: Dublin
- · Finish: Coollattin Golf Club, Shillelagh
- · Length: approx 135 miles (allow 4hrs 30 mins driving time for round trip)
Heading west out of Dublin, turn south on the M4 at Junction 7, to reach one of Ireland’s premier golf clubs, the K Club. This route follows the famous River Liffey which runs through the designer courses at K Club. Host to the 2006 Ryder Cup, K Club has welcomed the likes of Tiger Woods and Colin Montgomerie and it’s the perfect course for golfers who prefer immaculate and neat greens. From K Club, head southeast through the town of Naas to reach the town of Blessington; this drive is peppered with gorgeous farms and barns and has charming lakes to stop by for lunch in Blessington. Continue driving southeast to the famous Wicklow Mountains National Park – the epic granite mountains are a magnificent backdrop to a drive that takes in all of Ireland’s rugged beauty. Drive south to Tonelagee mountain and enjoy the scenic road that will take you through Glendalough, the charming village of Avoca and follow the R747 west on to Coollattin Golf Club. If you’re short on time don’t miss the 12th hole with its impressive oak trees and gardens, or stay over at the nearby Stoops Guesthouse in Shillelagh if you want to play a full round at a leisurely pace.
Best for Foodies
Explore hidden charms and delicious local food along the minor roads on the journey from Dublin to Belfast.
- · Start: Dublin
- · Finish: Belfast
- · Length: approx 105 miles (allow 4hrs driving time for round trip)
Start the day with a hearty Irish breakfast near the River Liffey in Dublin, taking the time to admire the pretty reflections of the river-side buildings and iconic Happens Bridge. Drive north out of Dublin, taking the R roads towards the quaint fishing town of Skerries. Don’t miss the brightly painted houses along the beach or leave without sampling some of the freshest and best seafood in Europe. Head up the R132 towards Drogheda, before covering a few miles on the M1 towards Dundalk. Avoid the commute drivers between Newry and Belfast with a detour to the east, heading towards the striking Mourne Mountains. The winding roads are fantastic for drivers, taking you up and around the austere yet beautiful countryside. Take the A2 north to Dundrum – the gastronomic heart of outer Belfast. For exquisite dishes made using the freshest local ingredients enjoy lunch at the award-winning Buck’s Head or Mourne Seafood Bar. Follow the A24 up into Belfast for a relaxed dinner in one of its fine bistro restaurants and a well-deserved pint of Guinness.
Driving Regulations in Ireland
To drive in Ireland you’ll need to have a full valid national driving licence and observe the following laws:
- · Drive on the left ensuring all passengers wear seat-belts – all motorcyclists must wear helmets.
- · In both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland built up areas are restricted to 30mph and 60mph on single carriage ways. Stick to 70mph on motorways.
- · Be aware that in the Republic of Ireland, distances are given in kilometres and have bilingual sign posts (English & Gaelic).
- · Learn more about Irish driving laws with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office guide.
Useful Driving Distances from Dublin
- · Dublin to Cork: 159m (approx 3hrs, 20 min)
- · Dublin to Dingle: 214m(approx 5hrs, 15 min)
- · Dublin – Limerick: 121m (approx 2hrs, 45 min)
- · Dublin – Sligo: 129m (approx3hrs, 15 min)