Day-by-Day route summary
Join us for an exciting and unique experience…
For 2004 we start the 2nd Emerald Isle Classic by going north from Dublin, into Ulster and along its wild northern coast before exploring the beautiful county of Donegal, right on the north-western tip.
Then it is south, along the Atlantic coast to Sligo, before swinging inland across the very centre of Ireland and onto the Wicklow Mountains and the finish at Dublin. The competitive event includes our popular and unique driving tests and regularity sections on some of the classic roads of Irish motor sport.
We keep these simple and on private estates, which the ordinary tourist never sees. They have a 'no tricks' format, with a minimum of speed changes and the driving tests will be carefully scored by class, so less nimble cars have an equal shot at the competition.
For the Masters Category we've added two short evening sections and run a different penalty system, so expect some tough opposition. Those on the Touring Category can take things a little more leisurely visiting only the main controls. We will recommend a route, provide marked maps, and point out places of interest along the way. At the end of each day there's the traditional Irish "night nav" for those that are really keen and do not mind losing a little bit of "craic"!
The Route Day 1: Sunday 16th May
After a mid-morning start in the lovely city of Dublin, we head north east across the rolling Irish countryside with a few of our unique special tests to warm us up for the week ahead. Our route also takes us past historical sights such as Bective Abbey and the huge Neolithic burial mound at Newgrange before crossing the border into Northern Ireland near Crossmaglen.
The final section of the day will take us along the shore of Carlingford Lough and through the famous Mountains of Mourne before reaching the peaceful fishing town of Newcastle where we spend the night at the Slieve Donard Hotel overlooking the Irish Sea.
Day 2: Monday 17th May
An easy run through Downpatrick precedes a short ferry crossing of Strangford Lough to the Ards peninsula that was home to the great Ards road race course.
Now, the only motor racing that takes place here is at Kirkistown, but this lovely peninsula hides a number of delights including Mount Stewart Gardens. We pass the Ulster Folk Museum and Museum of Irish Transport at Cultra before continuing through the busy city of Belfast, fortunately on an expressway, and then north to the lovely Antrim coast.
The steep wooded valleys - the Glens of Antrim - that lead down to the sea are justly famous. We shall explore a few before driving the spectacular cliff hugging Torr Head Drive, a rallying classic. You may get time to walk the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, but no visit to the spectacular coast would be complete without a visit to the Giants Causeway, with its basalt pillars stretching into the sea. Finally, a visit to the famous Bushmills Distillery should finish the day off nicely before the overnight halt in Coleraine.
Day 3: Tuesday 18th May
We now head south west, inland towards the rounded humps of the Sperrin Mountains, another rallying playground. After a morning spent amongst these hills we head north again to the ancient city of Londonderry to cross the River Foyle back into the Republic of Ireland.
The Inishowen peninsula is the northern most part of all Ireland and contains some stunning coastal scenery as well a maze of roads to delight any driver. At its northern most tip is Malin Head, a name familiar to sailors for its weather reports sent around the world.
Heading south again into Donegal brings us to our overnight halt in Letterkenny, traditional home to the Donegal International Rally. The Fanad peninsula hides some of the best roads in Irish rallying, so where better to spend a few hours tonight on a traditional Irish "night nav"?
Day 4: Wednesday 19th May
The mountain and coastal scenery of Donegal is second to none and today we shall explore it to the full, as we swing south. Muckish Mountain and Mount Errigal are Donegal rally favourites and you will never be tired of the ever-changing views as the route switchbacks between mountain and sea.
Tiny fishing ports like Sheep Haven and Killybegs dot the rocky coastline as we head south, through Donegal town and into County Sligo, our final run to the overnight halt dominated by the flat topped bulk of Benbulben.
Day 5: Thursday 20th May
The countryside to the west of Sligo is bleak and remote and visited by few - ideal for rallying then! After a morning exploring these lonely lanes - and taking in a few special tests too - we head south east, through a countryside speckled with lovely lakes and fine estates. After crossing the River Shannon - Irelands longest river, we continue south into the heart of the countryside for a final, restful night in the market town of Tullamore.
Day 6: Friday 21st May.
Some regularities in the Slieve Bloom mountains precede more special tests before we head east through Kildare and on towards our final goal. The Wicklow Mountains south of Dublin will provide a sting in the tail on roads familiar to anyone who has done a "Circuit", before we finally turn north and back to the capital for the finish and gala prize giving.