Ireland is full of places to explore, offering lengthy road systems and a plentiful amount of stop-off points on the way.
Naturally, when driving across Ireland there are many routes you can choose to take, but how long would it take to drive from the Northernmost to the Southernmost point of Ireland without stopping?
The distance between Malin Head (the Northernmost); and Mizen Head (the Southernmost) point of Ireland is approximately 373 miles (600 km). Driving between the two destinations nonstop takes roughly 8 hours to complete, but driving between other locations takes considerably less time.
If you’re planning to visit local destinations along the way, you could spend a week or more driving across Ireland.
Driving from Malin to Mizen
One of the most well-known travel routes in Ireland, driving from Malin to Mizen, has a travel distance of between 600 miles (272 km) to 411 miles (662 km), depending on the route taken.
This journey is often made by walkers, runners, and cyclists whose goal is to raise money for charity.
The current world record for cycling this route is 19 hours and 3 minutes!
As can be expected, motorists can drive between the two destinations. Without rest stops, it’s going to take you roughly 8-8.5 hours to drive between the two points. This doesn’t factor in traffic and hazards, which may affect your journey time.
Additionally, other key locations can take much less time to drive between, such as from the East and West. For example, driving from Dublin to Galway has a distance of 129 miles (208 km) and a 2 hour 27 minute driving time.
Driving across the Irish border
There is a national land border separating Northern Ireland (UK) from The Republic of Ireland (EU). Currently, this border crossing doesn’t include tolls or a border control, and you’ll most likely not even notice it as you freely travel across between the two countries!
How long does it take to drive around Ireland?
There are 32 counties in Ireland, each distinct in appearance and rich in history. You’ll find national parks and lush landscapes, castles, pubs and their homemade brews, mountains, and maybe even leprechauns!
In theory, you could comfortably spend a day in each location, exploring the many attractions on offer. In other words, if you plan to fully explore the island, then driving from top to bottom and everywhere else in between could comfortably take a month of traveling.
Additionally, when considering driving around Ireland, it’s important to calculate the distance and driving times of the locations you’re traveling between, as these can greatly vary.
For instance, popular drives such as from Newry to Dublin take around 2 hours, but from Belfast to Cork can take up to 5 hours, and with longer driving times, visiting your target destination may or may not include an overnight stay.
Getting to Ireland by car
Unless you’re planning to rent a car in Ireland, then to drive there, you’re going to need to take a car ferry from either the UK or Europe.
Car ferries are available via companies such as Irish Ferries and P&O Ferries. Docking ports are located in England, Wales, and Scotland in the UK and France, Spain, Belgium, Holland, and the Netherlands in Europe.
Travel times greatly vary, as does the cost, so it’s best to weigh up your options before deciding whether to drive there or rent a car on the island.
Renting a car in Ireland
If you’re looking to rent a car to drive across Ireland, and you hold a valid ID and driver’s license from the EU, EEA, or the list of recognized states, you’ll be able to drive freely in both Ireland and Northern Ireland.
For those carrying licenses from other countries, you’ll need your national driving license and an international driver’s permit to be able to drive in Ireland for up to 12 months.
When driving, it’s also best to carry your passport with you for backup verification purposes.
Other things to be aware of:
- The Republic of Ireland uses euros, and Northern Ireland uses pounds sterling.
- Including insurance and various other fees, you can expect to spend at least $50 per day while renting a car.
- Age-wise, in general, Ireland is fairly strict and won’t rent to anyone under 21, often requiring you to be at least 25. There is also a cut-off point of age 75.
- Many companies won’t accept debit cards and only accept credit cards.
- Car rental insurance can be tricky to understand, so take the time to read up on this before traveling to avoid unnecessary costs.
- Rental companies usually allow drivers to freely cross the Irish border, although you’ll most likely have to pay a cross-border fee to enable third-party protection when driving on the other side.
Additional driving info
- Speed limits in Ireland vary as follows:
- Motorways 75 mph (120 km/h)
- National roads 62 mph (100 km/h)
- Regional roads 50 mph (80 km/h)
- Towns or cities 31 mph (50 km/h)
- Special areas such as with schools 18.5 mph (30 km/h)
- You’ll be driving on the left-hand side of the road throughout Ireland, meaning that if you’re not used to this, you’ll need time to adjust to your surroundings and get used to the roads.
- Ireland is full of roundabouts, and drivers who aren’t used to entering in a clockwise direction will need to take the time to get used to this.
- In the Republic of Ireland, signs showing travel distance and speed limits are shown in kilometers, and in Northern Ireland, this is shown in miles.
- There are a lot of narrow twists and turns in the Irish Countryside, and this is often combined with a lack of lighting at night, so it might be best to avoid these areas if you’re not a confident driver.
5 popular drives spread across Ireland
If you’re planning to drive across Ireland, then you might be interested in including some popular driving routes along the way. Let’s take a look at some popular driving routes located around Ireland.
Ring of Beara
The Ring of Beara covers a distance of 80 miles (129 km) and runs through County Cork and County Kerry. This route is known for its untamed landscapes and coastal views.
The drive itself takes around 3-4 hours, but you’re going to want to stop along the way and visit the vibrant town of Kenmare, the stunning Healy Pass, and take in the mesmerizing views on offer!
The Wild Atlantic Way
The Wild Atlantic Way is the longest uninterrupted coastal drive in the world! With a distance of 1500 miles (2414 km), it covers the entire west coast of the island nation.
Experience the journey of a lifetime, open the window to feel the sea breeze, and enjoy the scenic views of the coastal mountains, empty beaches, and sea life, such as dolphins and whales.
The Causeway Coast
Cruise along the ancient Causeway coastline, which stretches 195 miles (313 km) between Belfast and Londonderry, taking roughly 4-5 hours.
Experience stunning scenery, including vast natural cliff formations, so captivating that they became the spot of Game of Thrones filming locations!
To fully experience what this drive has to offer can take days, with many locations to visit along the way, such as Gobbins cliff face, caves, bridges, castles, and gardens.
The Ring of Kerry
One of the most popular drives in Ireland, the Ring of Kerry, is located in County Kerry, and is 111 miles (179n km) in length, taking around 3.5-4 hours to circle when driving nonstop.
Rich in history, along the way you’ll find interests such as the scenic panorama of Ladies View, Staigue Stone Fort, lookout points, beaches, and a statue of Charlie Chaplin! As you can imagine, to truly experience what this drive has to offer, an overnight stay is recommended.
The Sky Road (Clifden)
This looped drive is located just outside Clifden and runs 7 miles (11km), taking you through stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean and Clifden Bay, with car parking available at the peak, offering views of the surrounding coastline.
In the surrounding area, you’ll find Clifden Castle, an old coast guard station, a quarry, and other stopping points of interest.
The time it takes to drive across Ireland depends on which part you’re driving across, alongside additional factors such as traffic and weather conditions. If you’re planning to drive across Ireland from the Northernmost to the Southernmost point, this can take you around 8 hours, but other point-to-point drives take considerably less time.