Split off from the rest of Europe are the grand island countries of the United Kingdom and Ireland. Known for the rugged and wild landscape, these two countries offer some of the most scenic and natural road trips in the world.
This is part three of our ultimate list of the best summer road trips in Europe. If you’re looking for suggestions in France or Spain, part one of this series covers some awesome journeys there. If you’re looking for suggestions in Germany or Italy, head over to part two.
Plymouth – Tintagel – Falmouth – Penzance – St. Ives
Distance: 129 miles (207 km)
Cornwall is a peninsula in southwest England full of beaches, fishing villages, and lots of history on the seas.
Plymouth is a port city with a rich maritime history. Remember the Plymouth Pilgrims? The Pilgrim Fathers on the Mayflower sailed to America in 1620 from here. Plymouth was also a key naval base during World War II.
The village Tintagel is associated with the legend of King Arthur, said to be the site of the mythical king's castle. The ruins of Tintagel Castle are perched on a rocky headland overlooking the sea and are a popular attraction for visitors to the area.
Port town Falmouth in southern Cornwall also has a great maritime heritage. Visit the National Maritime Museum Cornwall, explore the historic Pendennis Castle, and take a boat trip around the picturesque Fal Estuary.
In the far west is Penzance, which has the most amount of attractions in Cornwall, including St. Michael's Mount, the Minack Theatre, Land's End, and the famous fishing village of Mousehole.
Finally, St. Ives is Cornwall’s famous seaside town with the best beaches and art galleries. You can also take a boat trip from the harbor to see seals and dolphins in the bay.
Edinburg – Inverness – Isle of Skye – Fort William
Distance: 318 miles (511 km)
The Scottish Highlands are a blissful, mountainous, taiga region of wilderness and wonder that make a road trip here an unforgettable nature dive.
The capital city of Scotland, Edinburgh, is a great place to start your exploration of anywhere in Scotland. It has plenty of tourist spots for itself, including the Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Mile, the National Museum of Scotland, the Palace of Holyroodhouse, and the Edinburgh Dungeon.
Up north by the River Ness is Inverness, which lies in close proximity to the Loch Ness, home of the legendary Loch Ness monster. A stroll along the banks of the river takes you to Inverness Castle and the Ness Islands.
On its own island formation in the west, the Isle of Skye boasts some of the most unique geological formations and nature in Scotland. There’s the Old Man of Storr on the Trotternish Peninsula, the Quiraing cliffs, the crystal-clear Fairy Pools and waterfalls, and, honestly, the entire stunning island!
Finally, Fort William has access to some of the best outdoor recreational activities. It is the starting point for the West Highland Way, a popular long-distance hiking trail that runs 96 miles from Fort William to Milngavie, near Glasgow. It also hosts Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles.
Pembrokeshire – Snowdonia – Brecon – Cardiff
Distance: 206 miles (332 km)
The dragon-country Wales might be small but it has its fair share of mountainous national parks and Celtic Welsh language.
Pembrokeshire county houses the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park that covers over 240 square miles of rugged coastline full of opportunities for hiking, cycling, and wildlife watching. It has the smallest city in Britain, St. Davids, and the beautiful seaside resort town of Tenby.
The highest peak in Wales, Snowdon, is located in mountainous Snowdonia National Park. Traveling further north through the park will get you to the medieval walled market town of Conwy that holds the Conwy Castle and sits on the Conwy River that flows into the Conwy Bay. That’s a lot of Conwy!
Sitting in Brecon National Park is none other than the Brecon Beacons, a mountain range that includes Wales’ highest mountain of Pen y Fan. The town of Brecon within the park houses the ruins of Brecon Castle and the Brecon Mountain Railway, which offers scenic train rides through the mountains.
Finally, you can’t leave Wales without seeing its capital city Cardiff. Cardiff Castle and the Victorian shopping arcades, as well as modern attractions like the Millennium Stadium and the Wales Millennium Centre, are all in the largest city of Wales.
Ring of Kerry
Killarney – Kenmare – Sneem – Waterville – Glenbeigh – Killorglin
Distance: 93 miles (150 km)
The Ring of Kerry brings out the best of the Iveragh Peninsula in County Kerry, Ireland.
One of the two most popular towns in the Ring of Kerry is Killarney. Its location right outside Killarney National Park gives it special access to Ross Castle, the Muckross House and Gardens, Torc Waterfall, and the Gap of Dunloe.
The other most popular town in the Ring of Kerry is Kenmare. It’s small but a popular tourist destination known for its Kenmare Stone Circle and Kenmare Heritage Centre. Some visitors choose to start here when exploring the Ring of Kerry as well.
“Heritage Town” Sneem sits on the Sneem River (fun fact: its Irish name translates to “the knot” because of the swirls of the river when it meets Kenmare Bay). Be sure to visit the nearby Staigue stone fort, which dates back to the Iron Age.
Coastal town Waterville is famous for being a favorite holiday spot for the late Charlie Chaplin, who used to spend his summers there with his family. There’s even a Charlie Chaplin statue, along with quality golf links for some seaside golfing.
Glenbeigh is known for a unique collection of coastal rock art like the Coomasaharn Scribed Stones and boasts the popular swimming beach Rossbeigh Beach. Oh, and you can ride horses on the beach there!
Finally, if you’re exploring the Ring in August, stop by the town of Killorglin’s annual Puck Fair festival, celebrating the crowning of a special goat King Puck and featuring a Puck Fair Monument of a goat. The town is also built on fishing for salmon in the River Laune so look out for some fresh seafood cuisine.
Wild Atlantic Way
West Cork – Dingle – Cliffs of Moher – Galway
Distance: 280 miles (450 km)
The Wild Atlantic Way traces the wild west coast of Ireland that’s all about rugged landscapes, winding roads, and Atlantic Ocean views. It actually ends all the way up north in Donegal and is considered one of the longest defined coastal driving routes in the world.
West Cork is a southwest region of Cork County and dotted with countless beautiful towns of old Ireland. Kinsale, Baltimore, and Glengarriff are just some of a long list of picturesque places to visit, along with the Beara Peninsula.
Small town Dingle on the Dingle Peninsula looks out on the Dingle Bay. It’s the best place for dolphin-watching, whether at the Dingle Aquarium or on a bout tour. Be sure to try the seafood cuisine there because Dingle is home to a number of spectacular seafood restaurants.
The Cliffs of Moher are a famous series of cliffs that sport a wide range of flora and fauna, specifically many species of birds. It’s been featured in many movies and is a highlight destination for Ireland.
About halfway through the Wild Atlantic Way is Galway, the "Cultural Heart of Ireland" due to its vibrant arts and music scenes like the Galway Arts Festival and the Galway International Oyster Festival. It isn’t short on sight-seeing either; they’ve got the Spanish Arch, Galway Cathedral, the Galway City Museum, and proximity to the Aran Islands and Connemara National Park.
Ennistymon – Doolin – Lisdoonvarna – Burren National Park
Distance: 26 miles (43 km)
The Burren Loop takes you on a scenic drive through Ireland’s County Clare. It’s a karst landscape characterized by its limestone pavement, which is made up of flat slabs of rock that have been eroded over time by rainwater.
Market town Ennistymon is located on the River Inagh and is very close to the Cliffs of Moher and the Burrens. The Ennistymon bridge overlooks tranquil waterfalls in the town and just 4 minutes away is Lahinch Beach.
Even closer to the Cliffs of Moher, the Burren, and the Aran Islands is the small village of Doolin. It’s known for its traditional Irish music scene, with many pubs hosting live music sessions throughout the year.
Spa town Lisdoonvarna was put on the map by its natural mineral springs, quite literally healing water. But its greatest event is the annual Matchmaking Festival, where an official Matchmaker matches thousands of couples each September.
Finally, the Burren National Park highlights the limestone pavements, rock formations, and rare wildlife of County Clare. There are several walking trails within the park, ranging from easy strolls to challenging hikes. The park is also home to many historical and archaeological sites, including megalithic tombs and ancient stone forts.
Fellow GlobeSisters, that is a wrap for our ultimate list of the best road trips to take in Europe this summer. Be sure to read up on parts one and two if you missed those!
If you’re already pumped for this grand trip across the sea, be sure to figure out what you should be packing first and this article if you’re a first-time solo traveler. Consider different types of accommodations – hostels, homestays, or couchsurfing – that fit your budget. Most importantly, GlobeSisters values safety above all else. We hope you’ll embark on one or even more of these incredible road trips; it’s now or never, sisters!