Ireland's best drives

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Whether or not you're used to getting into the driver's seat from the right, and driving on the left, Ireland's (often pot-holed) two-lane roads make up some of Europe's most scenic drives. Particularly going village to village, pub to pub, on and off the rugged coastal drives of western and southwestern Ireland.

Here are four of the best plucked from Lonely Planet's Discover Ireland guidebook.

(Note local car rentals can be costly — inquire about rates before you go, and try local Nova Car Hire for weekly rates in high-season from 150 euros.)

Sky Road, County Galway
This short 12km loop from Victorian-era town of Clifden hits some of west Ireland's most gorgeous (and famous) rugged coastline along Clifden Bay en route to Kingston village and back. It's so short, some go by bike or foot.

Lough Inagh Valley, County Galway
In from Galway's fabled coast, the short drive up R344 from playfully named village of Recess reaches a scene of magnificent desolation: stark brown landscapes, with jutting peaks of the Twelve Bens mountain range dotted by cloud shadows. Look for a track to the west at the north end of the valley to explore deeper parts.

Ring of Kerry, County Kerry
South of Galway, the 179km circuit — looming west of the well-lubed tourist machine town of Killarney — is one of Ireland's greatest, most diverse (and lengthy) jaw-dropping circle drives, this taking in jaw-dropping coastal scenery and pristine beaches, medieval ruins, loughs (lakes) and emerald green meadows — plus villages with traditional pubs. The best stretch is between Waterville and Caherdaniel in the southwest of the peninsula.

Healy Pass, County Cork
Also in southwest corner, this short 11km drive over the other-wordly Healy Pass from Lauragh to Adrigole offers spectacular views of the rocky inland scenery. Consider a 1km detour west of Lauragh on R571 to Glanmore Lake, with the remains of an old hermitage on a tiny island in the middle.

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For more ideas for travel dreams to Ireland, check out Lonely Planet's all-color guidebook to Ireland.