When it comes to inspiring drives, Ireland definitely delivers. In particular, Ireland’s southwest, made up of Counties Cork and Kerry, features scenic drive after scenic drive. Since I touched down just one week ago, I have been driving, searching for roads less traveled, and ones that should be traveled more frequently. Most travelers are familiar with the iconic Ring of Kerry, the route around the Kerry Peninsula known for its coach tours aplenty, but I wanted to explore some roads in the southwest where I didn’t see giant tour buses attempting to go down paved passages the width of sidewalks. [pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]If you are considering coming down to Ireland’s southwest, one of its most visited areas, snag a rental car and head for these lesser-known drives.[/pullquote]

Healy Pass Road

Healy-Pass-Road

Just below the Kerry Peninsula, you will find the Beara Peninsula. I hardly encountered another vehicle as I traveled across this southwestern drive, especially when I decided to take Healy Pass Road. Cutting right down the middle of the peninsula, the winding mountain road runs between Lauragh and Adrigole. It was built in 1847 during the famine to help link the Kerry and Cork sides of the Beara Peninsula. Measuring just 8 miles long, Healy Pass Road doesn’t feel short. Heading from north to south, I cruised over the Caha Mountains and took in the views of Glanmore Lake on a misty rainy day. With one bend, suddenly I was on the other side of the pass, headed down what looks like a racecourse of squiggles. Healy Pass Road is also known as the R574.

The Sheep’s Head Peninsula

Sheeps-Head-Peninsula-2

Heading down the coast, I traveled to a lesser-known peninsula in County Cork, the Sheep’s Head Peninsula. As the peninsula is much smaller than Dingle, Kerry or Beara, you can easily cover take this southwest drive in a half-day. I started the drive in Bantry where you can stop at the 18th century Bantry House and tour its interior spaces and gardens with views over Bantry Bay. Next, I headed out on the peninsula where the drive builds in drama shortly after Bantry when the road narrows to extreme levels and the sheep begin to outnumber you. A word of warning, don’t attempt this drive without some strong coffee in case you meet another driver coming the other direction – this road is as narrow as they come.

Mizen Head

Mizen-Head

A day later, I mapped out one of my final drives in the southwest of Ireland, appropriately to Mizen Head. The Mizen Head Peninsula sits just below the Sheep’s Head Peninsula, ending at Mizen Head Signal Station, otherwise known as Ireland’s most southwestern point. The drive roams through the wild peninsula until reaching the big cheese, the signal station from 1910. You must walk across an arched bridge over a gorge to roam the old lighthouse keeper quarters, which were used to help ward off ships from the rocks. Mizen Head was also home to Ireland’s first radio beacon in 1931. This southwest drive showcases an Ireland you would imagine, one where the land crashes into the sea in dramatic fashion.

One of the best ways to experience Ireland is with your own set of wheels and your wits about you. While the roads may narrow and the drops will be steep, these southwestern drives in the country should make their way on to your itinerary, even if some of these paths give you a few gray hairs in the process.

Have you been to Ireland’s southwest? What’s your favorite drive in Ireland? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

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About The Author

Suzy Guese

Suzy Guese is a travel writer from Denver, Colorado. She caught the travel bug after taking her very first flight at just three months old—she was headed for Disney World—and has been a total travel junkie ever since. From family car trips across North America to stints abroad in Europe, Suzy travels the globe with her redheaded temperament in search of sarcasm, stories, and travel tips to share with anyone willing to listen. She blogs about her travels at http://suzyguese.com.