Last updated on November 24, 2023
This is the second part of this series of articles about the most beautiful mountain roads in Ireland.
In the first part we got an overview of Ireland’s mountain regions and got to know the most beautiful mountain roads for motorcyclists in the south-east of the country. In this second part we will look at the southwest of Ireland and the third part will be about the north.
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Where to find the best mountain routes and mountain passes for motorcyclists in Ireland:
1) Wicklow Mountains National Park, e.g. Sally Gap or Wicklow Gap.
2) The Blackstairs Mountains at Mount Leinster, e.g. Nine Stones Viewpoint.
3) The Beara Peninsula with the Healy Pass.
4) Killarney National Park, e.g. Molls Gap, Ballagbeama Gap, Ballaghisheen Pass or Gap of Dunloe.
5) The Dingle Peninsula with Connor Pass.
6) The Connemara Highlands with several beautiful mountain routes.
7) The Highlands of Mayo with several beautiful mountain routes.
8) The Benbulben with the Gleniff Horseshoe Drive.
9) The Glenveagh National Park in Donegal with several beautiful mountain routes.
10) The Mourne Mountains with the pass road over the Spelga Dam.
So let`s look at the stunning mountain roads in the Southwest:
3) The Beara Peninsula with the Healy Pass
Beara is a fabulously beautiful peninsula in the southwest of Ireland. Shaped as a ridge of hills stretching out to sea, it offers both magnificent cliffs on the coasts and beautiful mountain drives in the interior of the island.
The Healy Pass is certainly one of the most beautiful passes in Ireland. It even makes sense to drive over it twice, as it offers spectacular views in both directions.
The small R574 road leads from Lauragh on the north coast, once over the ridge to the village of Adrigole on the south coast. So when crossing, you have the sea in front of you and behind you in both directions.
The small mountain road is quite narrow, winding and not free of rolling gravel. If there is oncoming traffic, you have to make room for each other and it is best to drive carefully. However, the point here is not to “rob curves”, but to enjoy the spectacular scenery.
There is another mountain route in the north of the island, the R571. Less spectacular because it is less high than the Healy Pass, but also very beautiful to drive, it is also worth a detour.
By the way: The N71 from Glengarriff to Kenmare also offers wonderful curves with wonderful views.
4) Killarney National Park with several mountain routes and passes
The Iveragh Peninsula is right next to Beara. You may already know the coastal road under the name “Ring of Kerry”. It is very well known and also beautiful to drive. Even more beautiful are the high mountains of Killarney National Park in the interior of the Iveragh Peninsula. It is also worth spending two or three nights in the town of Killarney to explore these mountains – and the coast – intensively. Some of the most beautiful mountain routes:
a) From Kenmare via Molls Gap to Killarney.
b) From Dunloe via the Gap of Dunloe and the Black Valley to Molls Gap.
c) From Sneem via Ballaghbeama Gap to Glencar.
d) From Caherviveen via Ballaghisheen Pass to Glencar.
To a) From Kenmare via Molls Gap to Killarney
Kenmare is a nice little town by the sea. From there, the N71 climbs quickly. The mountain peaks of Killarney National Park rise majestically before you. Carrauntoohil, at 1038m, is the highest mountain in Ireland and there are several other mountains of similar height here.
It gets more barren, rocky and rugged and soon you reach the top of the pass, Molls Gap. The N71 turns right to descend slowly downhill to Killarney in many hairpin bends.
A little after Molls Gap you reach a viewpoint with a café. The stop is worthwhile, you are at the famous “Ladies View” and the view is really beautiful.
Further downhill it becomes more wooded, you follow the river, soon see lakes and reach bustling Killarney.
To b) From Dunloe via the Gap of Dunloe and the Black Valley to Molls Gap
The Gap of Dunloe is famous and for good reason. The route is absolutely worth seeing. You should not drive on the road, it is too narrow. It is better to park in Dunloe and take one of the many horse-drawn carriages to travel the picturesque valley and pass road, or hike the route.
With a slim motorbike, even narrow roads are no problem. From Dunloe, the little road winds up the mountain, past the lake, over small stone bridges to the top of the pass.
Be careful with the horse manure, it’s slippery! And carriages have the right of way, of course. You don’t make fast progress, but that doesn’t matter, because the valley and the ascent to the pass are so beautiful that you like to enjoy them for longer.
From the Gap (pass) you follow the road further and enter the Black Valley. Pass the Black Valley Hostel and follow the small road in long bends until you reach the N71 again on the left, near Molls Gap.
To c) From Sneem via Ballaghbeama Gap to Glencar
From Sneem, take the R568 in a north-easterly direction. After a while you will see the turn-off to Ballaghbeama Gap Road on your left, heading towards Glencar.
After a while, the landscape becomes more rugged, rocky and winding – you reach Ballaghbeama Gap. The road then descends again in a series of hairpin bends to Glencar.
The route is picturesque. Only a few cars cross the mountain here and most tourists don’t even know about the Gap, so you can take in the silence and solitude of this mountain landscape in peace and quiet. An absolute insider tip for motorcyclists!
To d) From Caherviveen over the Ballaghisheen Pass to Glencar
And another insider tip for motorcyclists: If the tourist buses on the Ring of Kerry get on your nerves, you can turn off at the eastern edge of Caherciveen onto the L4070 in the direction of Glencar.
For long stretches you will drive on a “single track road”. For the most part, this is not a problem for motorcyclists and if it does get tight with oncoming traffic, you can always find an alternative bay. The road leads through forest, over rocky mountains and high moorland and is very scenic.
The Ballaghisheen Pass with its numerous hairpin bends in an absolutely rugged landscape is definitely a “treat” for motorcyclists.
5) The Dingle Peninsula with the Connor Pass: Ireland’s highest pass
The Dingle Peninsula, north of Iveragh and Beara, is also a gem for motorcyclists. In addition to gorgeous sandy beaches and breathtaking coastlines, it also beckons with a wonderful mountain ride over the Connor Pass.
The lovely little (eponymous) harbour town of Dingle provides the starting point, or destination, of the ride, depending on which direction you’re heading. The route is so beautiful that you can easily drive it twice, in both directions.
From Dingle on the southwest coast of the peninsula of the same name, the R560 leads over the Connor Pass to Castlegregory on the northeast coast.
The Connor Pass, with its 436m altitude, is incidentally the highest pass in Ireland. From the vantage point of the Connor Pass, you can see the coasts ahead and behind you!
The road is well maintained and easy to drive. In summer, however, you won’t be alone up here, but that doesn’t matter because the drive is great fun in both directions and the views are truly magnificent.
To Part 3 of this series of articles
Now we have experienced the most beautiful mountain roads and passes for motorcyclists in the beautiful south-west of Ireland – at least virtually: You can drive the routes yourself!
In the following 3rd part of this article series, I will take you to the most beautiful mountain roads in the north of Ireland.
More interesting articles for you
THE BEST MOUNTAIN ROADS AND PASSES FOR MOTORCYCLISTS IN IRELAND – PART 1: OVERVIEW & THE SOUTH EAST
THE MOST BEAUTIFUL MOUNTAIN ROADS AND PASSES FOR MOTORCYCLISTS IN IRELAND – PART 3: THE NORTHWEST & THE NORTHEAST
FROM NORTHERN IRELAND TO SCOTLAND BY MOTORBIKE – TOUR 2: HIGHLIGHTS AND HIGHLANDS
Picture credits Map: Google Maps with handwritten additions