“Ooo wooo woooooo wooo woooo…..Barbra Streisand!” blasts over the terrible Gallway radio station as our little Skoda Fabia car goes flying over the next bump in the road.  It was 10am and I was on my second or third coffee of the morning, wired and having the time of my life.  Nobody was around for miles, or if they were we didn’t know it.  The world was wide open around us, although not quite as green as it would have been a couple months before, and around the next bend was yet another farmer’s field.  There were no other cars on the road, you only really needed to watch out for cows.  We were on our way from Galway on the west coast of Ireland up to Connemara National Park and were probably more lost than we cared to admit, but we didn’t care.  This is why we were here – to see the real Ireland.

Car and road in the middle of nowhere, western Ireland

To me, this looks like paradise

I had been traveling the Island of Ireland with Marc for a couple weeks and we had some really incredible adventures so far. Nothing compared with what was to come.  We knew that the western counties of Ireland were going going to be gorgeous.  Anyone with 5 minutes and a guide book could have told you that.  But we really weren’t sure how we were going to  see the coast until a very friendly B&B host informed us that there is no better way than to rent a car and drive it yourself.

Day 1 – The Cliffs of Moher

Our first day of the road trip took us from Gallway through the rugged landscape of The Burren to the world-famous Cliffs of Moher.  Without much of a fixed plan other than to drive all day, we set out to see the beautiful Irish countryside.

The Burren landscape in Ireland

Our Cliffs of Moher Route – View Larger Map

Small castles and ruins decorated the countryside.  The scenic drive was a refreshing surprise.

Castle in Ireland

As we gained elevation only a few kilometers from the cliffs the fog began to thicken.  It was so bad by the time we arrived that you could hardly see 10 feet in front of you.  So much for the most beautiful cliffs in Ireland, all that we managed to see was a grey blur and the majestic Cows of Moher.  Let me tell you, the cows are overrated.

Fog at the cliffs of Moher

The very foggy Cliffs of Moher

However, the day was far from a waste.  This was one of those not-so-rare cases where the journey was, in fact, more enjoyable than the destination.

Ruins of an Irish castle

Day 2 – Connemara

Taking the long way around, we made our way toward Connemara.  There’s a major road that beelines it from Galway up to the National Park, but what’s a road trip without some impulse decisions and adventures?  Take the coast road that runs in the same direction and you’ll discover dozens of side roads leading to beautiful beaches, harbours and hundreds of cows.

A beach on the west coast of Ireland

Our Connemara Route – View Larger Map

One road that you absolutely cannot miss is the Sky Road.  It’s a great drive even when foggy.

Sky road on the west coast of Ireland

Connemara Park is worth a short hike if you have the time.  We managed to spend an hour or two there, but really I could have stayed for weeks.

Connemara Park

Day 3 – The Dingle Peninsula

After a couple days of other adventures we continued our drive along the Dingle Peninsula, starting in Tralee and around to Killarny, with its’ miles of stunning coastline and mountain roads.  Of course, we couldn’t just stay on the main road (too many tour buses!) and had to branch out and explore a bit.  I’m sure that we left more than a few farmers wondering why we were doing a three-point turn on their property at the end of a dead-end road in the middle of nowhere.

Our rental car, lost on the Dingle Peninsula

Our Dingle Route – View Larger Map

If you head down to the coast you’ll find dozens of hidden harbors.

A boat in a harbour on the Dingle Peninsula

Of course the quaint town of Dingle is worth a stop for lunch.

The town of Dingle

Our first nail-biting drive through Connor Pass and climb to the top of the mountain left us with fog and disappointment.

A disappointing foggy view on Connor Pass

But we were ecstatic to come back once the fog had cleared for this marvelous view. It’s one of the best that we saw in all of Ireland.

Beautiful view of Connor Pass

No road trip to Dingle would be complete without driving a few miles along Inch Beach at sunset – just don’t tell the rental company!

Driving on Inch Beach on the Dingle Peninsula

Day 4 – Ring of Kerry

The Ring of Kerry on the final day of our 4 days traveling the west coast of Ireland created a nice contrast to the previous day’s Dingle Peninsula.  The ring is very different from Dingle, but still a beautiful drive in its’ own right.  Where Dingle was coastal cliffs and mountains, Kerry was much more rugged inland terrain.  Starting with Killarney National Park, we made our way clockwise around the ring in an attempt to avoid tour buses and the crowds that come along with them.

Killarney National Park landscape

Our Ring of Kerry Route – View Larger Map

 There are a few routes that cross the peninsula, revealing endless landscapes

Landscape on the Ring of Kerry

A mountain pass through the Ring of Kerry

You can do all of Kerry in a day, but a more leisurely road trip could take two.  Be sure to take your time and soak it all in, including the stunning Gap of Dunloe.

Gap of Dunloe in Kerry, Ireland

Where have you done your favorite road trips? Comment below!