Ring of Kerry offers endless opportunities to explore

Ring of Kerry offers endless opportunities to explore

By: Marjorie Appelman

The Ring of Kerry is located in County Kerry and loops for over 100 miles through Ireland’s Iveragh Peninsula. Without stopping, drivers can complete the route in an estimated five hours. But what would be the point in that?

The whole point in exploring the Ring of Kerry is to do just that: explore. Waterfalls, lakes, woodlands, beaches, ancient forts, contemporary farms, quaint towns. The day we spent on the Ring of Kerry was, undoubtedly, the best day of our trip to Ireland, because everything we saw embodied everything I had dreamed that beautiful country would be.

As our jumping off point, we chose Killarney National Park and proceeded clockwise. Stopping first in quest of the Torc Waterfall, we reached it by hiking a short distance through a moss-covered, tree-lined path. We continued up a set of petal-covered stone steps that opened up to a breathtaking view of the countryside.

A short distance later, an inviting view of Upper Lake enticed us to park and to tread across the rocks until we reached the edge of the water. We were not the only ones who couldn’t resist the stop. Another couple and a small child were tossing rocks nearby. Someone else pulled up in a service truck and enjoyed a sandwich he retrieved from his lunchbox.

The ring continued to brim with boundless sights, and we eagerly continued to stop at each. However, we soon realized we needed to keep moving or we would never complete the journey. Reluctantly, we agreed to be more selective about our stops. Unfortunately, though, for our ridiculous plans to forge ahead, our path opened up to the stunning Ladies View. And a restaurant, Ladies View Cafe, with outdoor seating that overlooked the countryside. And it was lunchtime. The triple blow seemed to be a sign, so we conceded, again, and stopped to contemplate the view over lunch.

After lunch and travelling a few miles more on the loop, we reached Staigue Fort, one of three ring forts along the way. The access road leading to the fort from the main road was tight and rugged, and we often questioned whether or not we were on the correct path. However, we could see the stone formation from time to time along the way, so despite the incredibly daunting drive, lined with hedges and blind curves, we stayed the course.

Once to the fort, believed to have been built sometime between 500 B.C. and 300 A.D., we dropped our admission fee into a donation box secured to the gate and hiked to the circular stone walls pieced together without cement. While there is no conclusive reason as to why they were built, some assert the structures were constructed for protective purposes. Others claim the 12-feet-thick walls may have served for gathering, either for entertainment or for meetings. Steps crisscross against the inside of the over 20-foot wall, making climbing to the top relatively easy.

From there we continued on to the Coomakesta Pass overlook, which allows for incredible views in all directions, and for the night, we stayed in Portmagee on the Skellig Ring.

When we completed the Ring of Kerry the following day, we knew topping that journey would be difficult. But we are most willing to keep trying until we do.

(Note: Marjorie Appelman is an English, communications and journalism teacher at Mason County High School and co-founder of the travel blog, Tales from the Trip, which is also on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. She can be reached at marj.appelman@gmail.com.) 

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