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6 stunningly beautiful drives to see Ireland in the autumn

Fall for our country’s charms and leave your troubles behind on one of these autumnal road trips.

Image: Shutterstock/Adrian Pluskota

AUTUMN IS THE best season of the year. Fact. ‘Tis the season to dig out the warm, cosy clothes and indulge in all things pumpkin spiced. The mornings are crisp and dewy and there is such joy to be had from strolling down a multicoloured street kicking the leaves as you go.

Autumn is also the perfect time to take a road trip to see the vibrant fall foliage and believe it or not, you don’t have to travel to the east coast of the US to see some glorious displays of nature. There are plenty of places right here in Ireland to get your fall fix.

So make like a tree and leave for one of these colourful road trips around Ireland this autumn.

The Wicklow Valley

Source: Shutterstock/VanderWolf Images

The Wicklow Valley has many deciduous broad-leaved trees that are between 150 to 200 years old and in autumn their foliage turns into a tremulous arrangement of fiery reds and shimmering golds.

Take the 80km Braveheart Drive, which takes you through many areas where the Mel Gibson movie was made including Hollywood, Lacken, Manor Kilbride, Blessington, Sally Gap, the Glenmacnass Waterfall, Glendalough and the Wicklow Gap.

Killarney National Park, Kerry

Source: Shutterstock/gabriel12

The 10,236 hectare (26,000 acres) Killarney National Park in Kerry has the most extensive covering of native forest remaining in Ireland. Throughout your drive here you’ll be accompanied by a picturesque backdrop of various coniferous and deciduous trees as well as an impressive autumn light show and ever changing sky that reflects off the lakes. At this time of year you can even see Kerry’s red deer rutting.

The N71 road which runs between Killarney town and Molls Gap offers superb views of the lakes and Killarney Valley.

Lismore and The Vee Drive, Waterford and Tipperary

Source: Shutterstock/morrison

This route through the south east of Ireland starts in Lismore and takes in The Vee, Clogheen, Goatenbridge, Newcastle, Mount Melleray and Cappoquin.

The undulating route takes you through some spectacular scenery with an impressive autumnal landscape of ever changing textures and deep, warm colours. The road takes you through wooded countryside, and runs along a river valley, passes peatlands, rocky headlands, beautiful rhododendron groves and heather-covered banks.

Lough Gill, Sligo and Leitrim

Source: Shutterstock/Mark Carthy

Lough Gill is beautiful any time of year but it bursts into bright bold colour in the autumn when the oak, rowan, willow, Rock Whitebeam and rare Bird Cherry trees turn brilliant shades of red, russet, gold and orange.

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There’s a great 35km loop you can drive, starting in Sligo, that takes you through Hazelwood, Parkes Castle, Dromahair, Slish Wood, Dooney Rock and back to Sligo.

Gougane Barra National Park, Cork 

Source: By Richard Fensome, CC BY-SA 2.0

This forest park of more than 1,000 acres is surrounded by three mountain ranges and has a lake from which the River Lee rises. On this lake is St Finbarr’s Oratory, a beautiful stone church.

The hills sounding this area are a composed of old red sandstone which contrasts beautifully with the high forests comprised of Sitka spruce, lodgepole pine and Japanese larch. On early morning autumn road trips you can be greeted with the sight of mist rising from the lake with the pink tinge of the morning sun-drenched mountains reflected in the mirror-like water. Magical.

The Dark Hedges, Antrim

Source: Shutterstock/Adrian Pluskota

Contrary to its moniker, the Dark Hedges are actually a very romantic and pretty tunnel of intertwined beech trees along the Bregagh Road in County Antrim. The trees were planted in the 18th century and have grown in spectacular formation and the leaves turn a beautiful bronze colour come autumn.

The lower trees and shrubs provide a brilliant burst of yellow and red. This is one of Ireland’s most photographed natural phenomena and it is also a Game of Thrones tourist attraction. However, motoring fans will know that it was the Dunlops and the Armoy Armada that made this road so famous.

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About the author:

Melanie May  / https://www.melaniemay.com

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