Inspiration: Big Trip

Ireland coastal road

Country guide: Ireland

The best routes on the Emerald Isle

Ireland is a fantastic country to explore by motorcycle. It has hugely varied terrain – all a rich shade of green. We picked five areas around Northern Ireland and the Republic that make for the best motorcycle touring with fun places to visit as well, whether doing a round-the-country loop or visiting individually.

Mourne Mountains

This granite range is incredible. At 850 metres high, they slope steeply on one side down to the sea and the beaches of Newcastle. It’s quite an unusual thing to see as they’re not cliffs, simply mountains sat there at the edge of the sea.

Newcastle is a decent town and a perfect place to stock up on supplies or spend the night. You can take the A25 inland or the B27 through the mountains – it’s narrow but there’s a two-lane road and it’s picturesque.

Donegal

Over on the Atlantic side in the Republic is Donegal. It’s hugely varied in terms of geography, with beaches, mountains, loughs and bogland. It’s worth visiting Glenveagh National Park, which is about 35,000 acres of nature reserve with Glenveagh Castle at its centre.

A couple of the best beaches are Culdaff Bay and Stroove Beach. Culdaff is near the most northern point of the Republic and has golden sands and views across to Scotland. Stroove Beach isn’t far down the coast from Culdaff; you can get there via the R421, a narrow but beautiful road that ends at the beach.

For a more rugged and simple take on a castle, take a ride to Carrickabraghy Castle. Free to look around (there is a donation box), it’s a much more basic and military-looking building than the more Victorian-style and ornate Glenveagh Castle.

Glengesh Pass, part of the Wild Atlantic Way, is the place to go for stunning roads. Take the R230 to the coastal town of Glencolumbkille – an incredibly beautiful place perched on the dramatic and sheer cliffs.

Cork

If you find yourself in the Cork area, head out to the Sheep’s Head Peninsula. Take the L4704 from Durrus and keep going; the road narrows significantly. Park up and take a walk – it’s the start of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, a hiking route up the west coast of Ireland. Great for stretching the legs before getting back on the bike.

The town itself is packed with historic sights and things to do and is a good choice to spend a couple of nights. Blackrock Castle, Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral and even a butter museum mean you’re spoilt for choice for places to visit. As the evening closes in, Cork has a vibrant nightlife with plenty of places to enjoy live music.

Dublin

The city itself needs no introduction. Another great choice for a stop-off, Dublin really gives you an intense flavour of Ireland. Must visits include the Guinness Storehouse, the Temple Bar district and Jameson distillery.

Head from Dublin to Portlaoise via the Wicklow Mountains for some incredible roads. The Wicklow Mountains is a National Park and has plenty of lakes, loughs and peaks to explore. The roads are the usual mountain affair and some surfaces are a little rough – take it steady.

Belfast and the Antrim Coast

Anyone you speak to about the best roads in Ireland will mention the Antrim coastal route. From Belfast, stick to the coast and it’ll take you up and around the north-east corner of Northern Ireland to Giant’s Causeway.

You’ll wind in and out of loughs and get incredible views across the Irish Sea. On a clear day, you’ll see Rathlin Island and even the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland. Tight twisties married with fairly straight stretches of road make for perfect motorcycle cruising.

Using Belfast as a base, it’s easy to head right up to Giant’s Causeway and back in a day, with stops. Belfast is a vibrant town and has a history of heavy industry. RMS Titanic was built there and it’s now home to the Titanic Museum.

In terms of the best time of year – May through to September will provide the driest weather. Although ‘dry’ is a relative term, it can get very wet in Ireland! With the right rain gear and heated grips you can enjoy Ireland at pretty much any time of the year. Beautiful roads, historic buildings and vibrant towns make the island a great touring destination, don’t miss out.