The Ring of Kerry is often used as a substitute name for the Iveragh Peninsula, but more properly it refers to the 175-kilometre road that encircles this vast, scenic leg of land.
The Iveragh Peninsula
The Iveragh Peninsula (Uíbh Ráthach) is the largest peninsula in southwestern Ireland. A mountain range, the Macgillycuddy's Reeks, lies in the centre of the peninsula. Carrauntoohil, its highest mountain, is also the highest peak in Ireland, making it the literal backbone of County Kerry.
The peninsula is a place for naturalists and explorers, with lakes, woodlands, and sandy beaches.
Towns on the peninsula include Killorglin, Cahersiveen,Portmagee, Waterville, Caherdaniel, Sneem and Kenmare.
The Ring of Kerry, a popular tourist trail, circles the coastline, beginning and ending at Killarney, just east of the peninsula.
Valentia Island lies off the northwestern tip of the peninsula. It is connected with the peninsula by a bridge at Portmagee village, but it can also be reached by ferry crossing between Renard Point on the mainland and Knightstown on the island.
The Skellig Islands lie about 12 kilometres off the west coast and are known for their monastic buildings and bird life.
Kerry Geopark is a community initiative on the Iveragh Peninsula which aims to promote geotourism in this area of high geological importance. Some of the interest features are Kenmare Bay (a drowned river valley or ria), signs of past glaciation and volcanic activity and 400-million year old fossilised tetrapod tracks.
The Iveragh Peninsula is seeped in historic wonders.
Cahersiveen is the birthplace of Daniel O'Connell, "The Liberator." Here you can tour Derrynane House and National Historic Park, his childhood home (Tel: 353 (0)66 947 5113).
See the Eightercua Stone Alignment near Waterville. Wander the ancient church site of Templenakilla. Visit the Skellig Heritage Centre on Valentia Island. Learn about the history of Michael Skellig, a seemingly uninhabitable rock eight miles off the coast, that was home to an early Christian monastery, one of the best preserved examples today. Take a boat trip out the Michael Skellig from the Heritage Centre. Cruise Valentia Island, with its pre-Christian remains, a famous grotto, and the footsteps of ancient life forms.
You must visit the Ogham stones on the way to Kells - Leacht Fhionain on Drung Hill, and another at Loher. Wander the town of Kells, seeped in history, home to John Golden, associated with the Fenian Rising
You cannot miss Killarney, situated in the heart of Killarney National Park. Drive the gorgeous Gap of Dunloe, set within the McGillicuddy Reeks. Go climbing in Glencar, known as "The Highlands of Kerry." Sail aboard a luxury 37-foot yacht from Cahersiveen around Valentia and Beginish Islands with John O'Donoghue (www.yachtcharterkerry.com). Rossbeigh beach, near Glenbeigh, is famous for the summer horse races, thundering on its sandy banks - enquire locally for dates.
The landscape is gorgeous here and just calling you out to play. Pick up The Kerry Way Map Guide, published by Cork Kerry Tourism, for information about the long walks on the peninsula. Or read New Irish Walk Guides - Southwest, by Sean O'Suilleabhain, published by Gill & Macmillan.
Do you know who you are? Does your great, great grandfather come from The Iveragh Peninsula?