A South-West of Ireland Road Trip
Around the world, the Emerald Isle is known for its rich cultural and historical heritage and for boasting some of the most dramatic coastal landscapes in Europe. These factors, coupled with the traditional Irish hospitality and laid back way of life, turn Ireland into an ideal destination for road trippers. In particular, Ireland’s west coast is a fantastic introduction to the island’s cultural and natural landscapes, so make sure to consider the following circular journey between Limerick and Tarbet before you head off on your next road trip.
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 rest of the British Isles and Europe thanks to Shannon airport, which handles more than 1.5 million passengers every year. If you don’t have your own wheels fear not; car hire in Ireland is not that hard to arrange and it may prove a cost-effective way of going on a road trip.
Blarney & Cork
The stretch of road between Limerick and Blarney covers 57 miles and offers road trippers and opportunity to discover the contrasts that Ireland’s west coast is so well 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, take your time to visit its impressive 13th Century 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 sample typical dishes like packet and tripe.
Kinsale & Skibbereen
Kinsale lies on the shores of the Celtic Sea, 18 miles west of Cork. Kinsale’s brightly coloured shopfronts 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, you will come across this oddly named Irish town. Skibbereen is thought to mean ‘small harbour town’, which is curious enough considering that the town sits on the banks of the Ilen River and not on the sea. Although much has changed since the town was founded back in the 1600s, 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. This small harbour town can be reached by taking the N69 road once you leave Killarney National Park behind. 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, from where you can easily reach Limerick after a pleasant and scenic boat ride.
This article was written by Guest Blogger, Oliver Harper – a passionate travel writer