A South-West of Ireland Road Trip
The Emerald Isle is known for its rich cultural and historical heritage. And for boasting some of the most dramatic coastal landscapes in Europe. Coupled with THE Irish hospitality and the laid back way of life – it makes for an ideal destination for roadtrippers. The following circular journey between Limerick and Tarbet is a fantastic introduction to the island’s cultural and natural landscapes.
Culture and nature combine to perfection in Limerick. Located on the mouth of the Shannon river and estuary. And only a few miles from the Atlantic Ocean, Limerick can certainly boast about its privileged natural environment. Ancient castles, cathedrals, and old markets co-exist with ultra-modern bridges and other examples of cutting-edge architectural design. Museums and art galleries complete the cultural offer in Limerick.
The city is well-connected to the British Isles and Europe thanks to Shannon airport (28 minutes away) which handles more than 1.8 million passengers every year. And if you don’t have your own wheels fear not; car hire in Ireland is not hard to arrange. It may actually prove a cost-effective way of going on a road trip.
Blarney & Cork
The stretch of road between Limerick and Blarney covers approximately 57 miles or 91 Km. It offers roadtrippers the opportunity to discover the contrasts that Ireland’s South and South-West are known for. The drive south on the N20 takes you through the peaceful Irish countryside, where you will feel a world away from Limerick’s urban scene. Once in Blarney, (approximately 1hr 20 mins away) – take your time to visit its impressive 13th Century Blarney Castle, an Irish heritage gem.
Blarney is on the outskirts of Cork, Ireland’s second largest city. It’s worth stopping here to observe how the city went from being a remote monastic settlement to becoming a vibrant and culturally diverse urban centre. Park your car and stroll along the pedestrian alleys that surround St Patrick’s Street. Cork is a great place to stop for lunch and for more inspiration see our Five Fabulous Reasons to Visit Cork City.
Kinsale & Skibbereen
Kinsale lies on the shores of the Celtic Sea, 18 miles west of Cork. Kinsale’s brightly coloured shop-fronts have been photographed hundreds of times. And the town’s yacht club and marina are a hive of activity during the summer season. At other times of the year, Kinsale regains its traditional fishing village charm.
As you continue driving along the N71 on your circular journey back to Limerick visit the West Cork town of Skibbereen. Skibbereen is thought to mean ‘little boat harbour’ and named after a type of boat called a ‘skiff’. And as the town sits on the banks of the Ilen River it’s easy to imagine these small boats crossing over it.
Although much has changed since the town was founded back in the 1600’s – Skibbereen remains a good representative of rural Ireland. And a perfect place to watch life go by amid the verdant Irish valleys.
Our last stop in this loop around Ireland’s west coast is Tarbert. In Gaelic, ‘tarbert’ is used to refer to places located on a narrow stretch of land. And Ireland’s Tarbert certainly fits the description.
Once you leave the beautiful Killarney National Park behind – take the N69 to reach this small harbour town. Bordered by woodlands and by the calm waters of the Shannon estuary, Tarbert’s picturesque setting provides the ideal backdrop for the last stage of this road trip.
Ferry boats shuttle travellers and their cars between Tarbert and Killimer in Co. Clare. From here you can easily reach Limerick after a pleasant and scenic boat ride. With Limerick City a little over one hour away by car.
Written by Guest Blogger, Oliver Harper – a passionate travel writer. It was first published on March 3rd 2014 and has since been updated and refreshed including images and links for further reading.