The optimal route to visit every county in Ireland (by car and bike)

If you’ve ever wanted to visit every county in Ireland by car, while taking in one of the area’s major attractions, then look no further: I have calculated the optimal route to visit a major place of interest in every county on the island of Ireland. You can see the interactive version here.


Not the interactive version! See the full version here.

The map was inspired by a US version which computed the best route to visit a national park in every state in the contiguous USA. The code was developed by data scientist Randy Olson who deserves all the credit; I just adapted his work for Ireland. The code computes the distances between all of the locations, then figures out the shortest route between them using Google Maps. I won’t go into the detail here, but if you want to know more (or do it yourself) the method is explained in the original blog post.

I have had to make some concessions when choosing key places of interest in every county on the island of Ireland (you might not agree that the Ceide Fields are Mayo’s biggest attraction or that Newgrange is the best thing to see in Meath, so the Python code and method is available here if you fancy changing it for your purposes; it’s in the format of a Jupyter notebook so anyone with basic Python skills should be able to run it and adapt it).

The locations I chose were based on areas of outstanding natural beauty, historical significance, or top TripAdvisor destinations.  In alphabetical order they are:

Co. Antrim:Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge; Co. Armagh: Armagh County Museum; Co. Carlow: Altamont Gardens; Co. Cavan: Cavan County Museum; Co. Clare: Cliffs of Moher; Co. Cork: Fota Wildlife Park; Co. Derry: The Peace Bridge; Co. Donegal: Glenveagh National Park; Co. Down: Tollymore Forest Park; Co. Dublin: Dublin Castle, Dame Street; Co. Fermanagh: Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark; Co. Galway: Connemara National Park; Co. Kerry: Killarney National Park; Co. Kildare: Castletown House; Co. Kilkenny: Kilkenny Castle; Co. Laois: Rock of Dunamase; Co. Leitrim: Glencar Waterfall; Co. Limerick: King John’s Castle; Co. Longford: St Mel’s Cathedral; Co. Louth: St Peter’s Church of Ireland; Co. Mayo: Céide Fields; Co. Meath: Newgrange;  Co. Monaghan: Rossmore Forest Park; Co. Offaly: Birr Castle; Co. Rosscommon: Lough Key Forest Park; Co. Sligo: Benbulbin; Co. Tipperary: Rock of Cashel; Co Tyrone: Ulster American Folk Park; Co. Waterford: House of Waterford Crystal; Co. Westmeath: Athlone Castle & Visitor Centre; Co. Wexford: SS Dunbrody Emigrant Ship; Co. Wicklow: Glendalough.

If anyone is interested in taking this trip (which is 2300km long and will take around 35 hours of driving) the Google Maps directions from Dublin Airport are available here [1], [2], [3], [4]. Just hop off a plane from anywhere in the world and begin your trip around Ireland.

But if you are mindful of your carbon footprint, which you should be, you might fancy a cycling version of the map, which takes a different route to avoid motorways, and is available here. The directions from Dublin Castle are available in four parts, but be warned, it’s over 121 hours of cycling: [1], [2], [3], [4] (note: if these directions load up as ‘driving’, just click the bicycle icon to change to cycling). Because the average cyclist burns roughly 650 calories per hour, this trip will burn almost 80,000 calories. The highest point you’ll reach will be 476m above sea level in Glendalough. Happy travelling!


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