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Monday 11 December 2023 Dublin: 8°C
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rally roads

5 of the most challenging driving roads around Ireland

Test your mettle on these stretches of tarmac.

FANCY YOURSELF AS the next Sébastien Loeb or Craig Breen? Just because you don’t have a rally car doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the same incredible roads.

These undulating roads, with their twists, turns and crests, will make you feel like a rally driver even if you’re just going to fetch milk from the shop.

Of course, we’re not suggesting you actually drive like a rally driver. But you can still feel like you are taking part in a rally by having your passengers call out random phrases like “100 metres, kink right severity 2, flat (maximum speed) into crest into kink left severity four”.

Just to be clear, you’ll still need to obey the rules of the road and speed limits. Take extreme care when driving these roads – they are challenging even for professionals.

Lough Gill, Sligo and Leitrim

By Kenneth Allen, CC BY-SA 2.0 By Kenneth Allen, CC BY-SA 2.0

Location: Along R286 on the northern shore of Lough Gill.

Length: 13.5km

This is a very picturesque route that sweeps and snakes around Lough Gill. It is perfect for rallying as it happens to have some fast roads which are great fun in the wet, especially the long right-hander that leads to a viewpoint over Lough Gill. No wonder this road is part of the Rally of Ireland route.

Moll’s Gap, Kerry

redrumac / YouTube

Location: N71 from Killarney to Kenmare.

Length: 10.15km

Moll’s Gap is one of the most iconic climbs in Ireland and is part of the Killarney Rally of the Lakes circuit. This 10.15km climb reaches a summit of 262 metres and the summit offers a fantastic view of the Black Valley.

The drive is fast, challenging, bumpy and narrow – and sometimes quite terrifying, especially if you are in a wide car. In slippery conditions this drive is not an easy feat but there’s nothing like the feeling of adrenaline rushing through your body as you reach top, unscathed.

Knockalla, Donegal

oskibaz / YouTube

Location: R628 Stocker Strand to Oughterlin.

Length: 19km

This is a famous piece of rally tarmac and has been part of the Joule Donegal International Rally for years. The route starts off at Stocker Strand then heads for the famous Wilhare’s left-hander.

From here you tackle loads of hairpins and a hillclimb then racing along along the Wild Atlantic Way and Lough Swilly. As you can imagine, it is pretty scenic.

Once you pass Glenvar Village you are on to some of the toughest sections in Irish Rallying with plenty of hairpin turns to negotiate and a nice fast section too.

According to Donegal rally driver, James Cullen: “It is a fantastic road to drive and if there’s a driver in you it’s magical”.

Healy Pass, Cork and Kerry

Stavros969 / YouTube

Location: R572 at Adrigole in Cork to the R571 near Lauragh in Kerry.

Length: 13.7km

The Healy Pass is another stunning scenic drive that will test your skills as a driver thanks to its 12km worth of hairpin turns. It is also part of the International Rally of the Lakes circuit and is carved in the annals of Irish rallying history.

The road climbs to a 330-metre summit from which you can look down over Glanmore Lake and Kenmare Bay and can take in the splendour of the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks, Ireland’s highest mountain range.

Vale of Clara, Wicklow

Google Maps Google Maps

Location: R755 Laragh to Rathdrum.

Length: 11km

This isn’t a rally stage but this road has got it all; it’s narrow, has plenty of tight twists and turns, it undulates like a rollercoaster and it has a really good surface too.

Driving this road takes a lot out of you but thankfully the road isn’t too long at all. But once you have finished driving it you’ll want to turn around and go back and do it all again.

Best thing is that the road is pretty quiet midweek so you won’t have to worry about getting stuck behind a Sunday driver, although you may get stuck behind me as this is the road where I test-drive most of my cars.

READ: Review – Ford Mondeo ST-Line is sporty looking but still sensible >

READ: 6 of the most romantic driving roads across Ireland and Europe >

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