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Dublin: 8°C Thursday 21 October 2021

5 of the most spectacular driving routes through the landscape of the South West

From the Port of Cork to the Dingle Peninsula.

The Healy Pass
The Healy Pass
Image: Shutterstock

THE JUNE BANK Holiday is on the way and the weather is looking sunny and dry from Thursday to Tuesday! Hallelujah!

To make the most of the good weather and the time off, why not take a road trip around the scenic south west of Ireland?

We are spoiled for choice here in Ireland when it comes to great road trip routes but I happen to think the south west is a perfect place to enjoy a bank holiday drive. Whether you are travelling with the whole family, pets and all, out for a romantic weekend or if it is just you and your mates getting away from it all – there are plenty of things to do.

Need a little inspiration on destinations? Here are some of our favourite routes.

1. The Healy Pass – Adrigole, Co Cork to Lauragh, Co Kerry (14km)

Source: Shutterstock/RR Photo

The Healy Pass was created in 1847 as part of the famine relief in the Beara region and was the first road link between the Kerry and Cork sides of the Beara Peninsula.

It is a nerve-wrecking scenic road that will test your skills as a driver thanks to 12km worth of hairpin turns through the desolate landscape of the Caha mountain range.

But like most of the recommended routes on this list, the challenging drive is worth it thanks to the views from the top of the 330-metre summit from where you can look down over Glanmore Lake and Kenmare Bay and take in the splendour of the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks, Ireland’s highest mountain range.

2. Port of Cork to Clonakilty, Co Cork (64km)

Source: Shutterstock

Cork has the second largest natural harbour in the world and it just so happens that the Cork Harbour Festival runs over the June bank holiday so this is a perfect time to get down and enjoy the water.

If you go on the Saturday 2nd June, you’ll be able to watch An Rás Mór which is Ireland’s biggest rowing event. From Cork Harbour, you can then take a 64km road trip to Clonakilty along the R600 via the towns of Kinsale, Ballinspittle and Timoleague.

This scenic route touches the coast at various points. If you can time it right the area around Timoleague, perched on the edge of a long sea inlet, is at its best when the tide is in. Enjoy driving the twisty coast road but make sure you get out and explore each of the colourful towns and sample some of the best seafood that Ireland has to offer.

3. Baltimore to Mizen Head, Co Cork (58km)

Source: Shutterstock/Lucky Team Studio

Want to know why it’s called the ‘Wild’ Atlantic Way? Just get in the car and drive the 58km stretch of road from Baltimore to Mizen Head and you’ll get the idea.

This route may feel like the longest road in the world, but it is totally worth it. This is a rugged and windswept part of Ireland that bursts with colour in the summer when purple heather and a blanket of gorse covers the hills. The best part about driving this route is that the road is usually free from tourist traffic making for a very pleasant and driving experience… well, apart from the rough terrain that you have to navigate.

Start off in Baltimore harbour and make sure you have a pit stop in pretty Schull before heading to Mizen Head. When you are there, stretch your legs with an exhilarating walk down the cliffs.

4. Moll’s Gap to Waterville via Castlecove, Co Kerry (58km)

Source: Shutterstock/Greg Fellmann

I can’t not include Moll’s Gap in a motor magazine now, can I? If you are in this neck of the woods and you haven’t driven Moll’s Gap yet, you really should take this opportunity to drive this 10.15km climb that reaches a summit of 262 metres.

The summit offers a fantastic view of the Black Valley. From Moll’s Gap head to Castlecove via the narrow R568 and enjoy the spectacular views of Derrynane Bay.

Then drive to the top of Coomakista where there is a car park so you can get out and take plenty of photos of the magnificent view of the Atlantic Ocean and Beara Peninsula. Then make your way to Waterville where you can get your photo taken with Charlie Chaplin and have a picnic on the beach.

5. Slea Head Drive, Co Kerry

Source: Shutterstock/grafxart

Test your nerve along this narrow route that starts and ends in Dingle. The drive takes you past famine cottages and into a Gaeltacht village as well as through, you guessed it, even more magnificent scenery.

This road is tricky to drive, especially if you are in a wide car, but that’s what makes it fun, right? Your passengers may not agree, but it is worth it especially when you get to Dunquin where you’ll get Insta-worthy photographs of the Blasket Islands and you can visit the most westerly pub in Europe as well as the school house used in the film Ryan’s Daughter.

READ: How to cope with a motorway breakdown >

READ: 9 simple things you can do today to save money while driving >

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About the author:

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

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