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Strap yourself in for three of the best road trips in the world... Experience the Wild Atlantic Way, a rugged, enchanting, and culturally rich coastal touring route. Wander through more than 5,000 years of history along Ireland's Ancient East. Then discover the myths and wonder of the Causeway Coastal Route, in Northern Ireland. All three driving routes are within easy reach of one another and have the added promise of making local friends along the way.
Wild Atlantic Way
Wrapping around the west coast of Ireland, The Wild Atlantic Way is one of the world's longest coastal driving routes. It runs across the tops of romantic soaring cliffs that look out across the deep blue sea. It cuts through buzzing seaside towns and cities. And it curves around beautiful secluded beaches and dazzling bays.
The route starts in the remote northwest of Ireland, in County Donegal. It's called a Gaeltacht region, because many people speak the Irish language around here, just like in other parts of Ireland. Don't worry though. They will happily switch to English to ensure you feel welcome.
Heading south you pass by castaway lighthouses perched on top of precipitous headlands and majestic cliffs that are pounded by the churning Atlantic. It looks like the edge of the world.
Further south, in County Sligo, the road dives into an area known for its big wave surfing, and ancient ruins of castles and monasteries. Take a break to canter along a deserted beach on horseback.
The route sweeps past rolling mountains towards Clew Bay, in County Mayo, where hundreds of islets and islands are scattered across the horizon. Eat lobsters and mussels from the rugged fjords, and listen to traditional Irish music in cosy pubs.
The shoreline rises as the route continues south, until you reach the staggering rock faces of the Cliffs of Moher, the home to thousands of puffins and razorbills. Feel the wind on your face as you walk across the cliff tops on a coastal path edged with sparkling wildflowers, before spending the night in a colourful fishing village.
Next it's the Dingle Peninsula and Skellig Michael, in County Kerry. This island crag is home to the haunting remains of a 6th-century monastery, which once suffered from Viking raids. It featured in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Boats run tours around nearby Little Skellig, an island inhabited by a riot of seabirds.
Eat delicious seafood in pretty Kinsale, in County Cork, before finishing your journey in the laidback city of Cork itself. It's home to plenty of locals who are keen on conversation.
Ireland's Ancient East
Wander through 5,000 years of history in Ireland's Ancient East, and be captivated by stories of Stone Age Ireland, Viking invaders, and age-old kings and heroes.
You can choose from several multi-day routes through this touring region, which meanders through Ireland's Midlands and along the east coast.
For example, you could spend an epic week exploring from the vibrant southern city of Cork, to Cavan in the north.
You'll find the largest standing Neolithic stone circle in Ireland in County Limerick. While in County Tipperary, legend has it that St Patrick converted the King of Munster to Christianity on the Rock of Cashel in the 5th century.
Evidence of Viking invaders is crystal clear in the city of Waterford, where you can discover artefacts from the dark ages, and from later times too, at a trio of museums called The Waterford Treasures.
Meanwhile, ancient kings are buried outside the ruined monastery of Clonmacnoise. The largest collection of early Christian grave slabs in Europe is located here.
Want more? How about the giant fissured limestone boulder on the Hill of Uisneach. Legend has it that the goddess Ériu, who gave her name to Ireland, is buried underneath it.
Or the Hill of Tara – a complex of circular mounds and barrow graves, and the seat of ancient Irish kings. Or the 5,000-year old prehistoric passage tombs of Newgrange. They are older than the famous stone circle at Stonehenge, and the Egyptian pyramids too!
Causeway Coastal Route
Expect striking views of the sea, a road that clings to the edge of rugged cliffs, incredible beaches, and some of Northern Ireland's premier attractions on this spectacular coastal journey from Belfast to Derry~Londonderry.
The 212km-long route might be short, but you could easily spend days, or even weeks, exploring this dramatic area.
You will receive a warm welcome the minute you arrive in Belfast, the start of your seaside journey. But, before leaving this vibrant city, drop into Titanic Belfast. This interactive museum celebrates the ill-fated ship that was built here.
Not far out of Belfast is The Gobbins Cliff Path. This arduous but rewarding trek hugs the cliff face, and has plenty of steps carved out of the rock. Look out for dolphins, nesting puffins, and caves once used by smugglers.
Further along the route you come to the Cushendun Caves, where the 'shadow baby' birth scene was filmed as part of the Game of Thrones drama series.
You could overnight in a refurbished medieval castle, before taking a boat trip to Rathlin Island to see seals, seabirds and one of the Great Lighthouses of Ireland.
Then, prepare for an exciting walk along the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge back on the mainland. The bridge sways 30 metres above the ocean!
For a calmer interlude make tracks to the remarkable Giant's Causeway. The intriguing, interlinked hexagonal rocks here are the legendary stepping stones for mythical battling giants.
Close by are the ruins of the 14th century Dunluce Castle. It's perched dramatically on a cliff high above the waves.
Pretty villages and sandy beaches stud the coast on the final stretch to the walled city of Derry~Londonderry, where you can celebrate your arrival among flute and fiddle players in an atmospheric pub.
Derry~Londonderry is one of the most impressive walled cities in Europe, and its filled with historic attractions as well as crowd-pleasing eateries and galleries.
For more information, visit Ireland.com.