“once the Kerry people have you in, they will keep you in” and “when you get to Kerry, you won’t be able to leave”.
For those of you who do not know what the Ring of Kerry is, it is basically a tourist trail which covers some of the most picturesque spots in County Kerry. The world famous Ring of Kerry that stretches for 180km otherwise known as The Iveragh Peninsula and the Lakes of Killarney tour is a mystical & unspoilt region of Ireland that has attracted visitors for hundreds of years.
A drive along its route will have you discover sandy beaches, freshwater rivers full of fish, pretty villages, ancient heritage spots and some of the most friendliest people you can find in Ireland.
Its spectacular beauty is beyond question, It’s beautifully positioned on the rugged Atlantic coastline, with some of the highest mountains in Ireland plus many beautiful peninsulas and sandy beaches all topped off with a few magical Islands just off the coast.
It is a natural centre for outdoor pursuits that include golf, water-sports, cycling, walking, running, riding and the very best fishing in freshwater rivers for salmon & trout and at sea for bass, ray, pollack, conger eel, cod, flounder, wrasse, mullet, mackerel and tuna.
The Ring of Kerry has some of the Europe's finest beaches (See Rossbeigh in the Ross-Maine area) that provide all the facilities for a traditional seaside holiday. Above all, the Ring of Kerry provides an amazing insight into the ancient heritage of Ireland - see the Iron Age Forts & Ogham Stones, Old Monasteries and a landscape carved out of rock by the last Ice Age 10,000 years ago. Visitors to Ireland should not miss a trip to the beautiful Ring of Kerry Tourism.
Clockwise from Killarney it proceeds to Killorglin, then around the Iveragh Peninsula to Glenbeigh – passing through Cahersiveen, Waterville, Sneem, Caherdaniel, Kenmare and many other less travelled spots,the Skellig Chocolat Factory, the Dark Sky area, a night of music on Derrynane beach, fishing on the Kenmare river and many more – before returning to Killarney.
It is a wonderful day-trip by car. It is also popular with tour bus operators, who are encouraged to travel the Ring in a counter-clockwise direction so as not to cause hold-ups for cars following the aforementioned route.
However, much to the usual advice to travel the route clockwise, I find it better to travel the same anti-clockwise route as the coaches. They are always pulling in to a craft shop outlet or a place to eat. I have completed the route many times but in the past few years I have begun to discover that real gems lie off the beaten track around the ring.
Get off the beaten track. You will certainly get the typical views on the well-worn routes but you will be amazed at the stunning scenery that awaits if you take the time (and a bit of courage) to take your car your feet or your bike on “the road less-travelled”.
On one trip I stopped when I saw a beautiful meadow, and on the far side near the forest saw a stag and a herd of deer grazing peacefully among the grass and wildflowers. There wasn’t a sound except the sound of the breeze in the trees. No cars, no planes overhead, no cell phones…nothing.
As you drive, bike or hike the countryside soon turns more mountainous and the beauty of its rugged hills and valleys contrasted starkly with the softer beauty of the coast. You will come across a lot of free-range sheep and more than once as you go around a turn you will find one standing in the middle of the road.
Above all the Ring of Kerry provides an amazing insight into the ancient heritage of Ireland - see the Iron Age Forts & Ogham Stones, Old Monasteries and a landscape carved out of rock by the last Ice Age 10,000 years ago.
A plan of attack is needed before you start out on the journey and there is the usual tourist way to circumnavigate the ring and there is the adventurous most daring and scenic way, the way I go around the Ring of Kerry.
By driving, you can adapt the trip to suit yourself, so you can stop where you want, and take in the fresh air and breathtaking scenery for as long as you like.
It can be covered in a day by leaving early in the morning, but if you really want to take your time to explore it, then you won't have any problem finding accommodation, as the route is lined with B&B's.
To experience the real Ireland, lodging in an Irish Bed and Breakfast or a Family Home in Kerry brings the visitor closer to the people, their culture, traditions and genuine Irish hospitality.
It will be a pleasure for your host to provide local knowledge of where to go what to see and they will often book cycle hire, boat trips and coach tours to make your Ring of Kerry experience fulfilling. You may get the chance to taste traditional Irish Soda Bread or a "Full Irish Breakfast" and regardless of your tastes, the variety of food on the breakfast menus is sure to satisfy.
Whether you drive hike or bike, this is the route to take. It may take longer, (a lot longer) but it is worth it and you will remember the experience for the rest of your life. I really think it should be listed as one of the things you should do in life, part of your “Bucket List”.
First spend an enjoyable evening in Killarney Then next morning have a good Irish Breakfast and set off around the Ring Of Kerry.
Take the road for Killorglin on the N72 (R562) along the north shore of Lough Leane. Leaving Killarney on the N72, you'll find it hard to miss the MacGillycuddy's Reeks on your left, with the highest point in the range Carrauntoohill, peaking at 1038m (3411ft). This is the highest mountain in Ireland!
At the base of this mountain range, lies the Gap Of Dunloe, widely recognised as one of the most picturesque glaciated valleys in Europe and the home of the famous Kate Kearney`s Cottage (great spot for a pint and some food!).
Continue on the N72, and the first town you'll come to is Killorglin. On the 10th, 11th and 12th of August (or there abouts) each year, a very extraordinary festival takes place in this town involving a goat! It is said that a goat once saved this town from invasion of the Cromwell's troops, so each year a wild goat is taken from the mountains and placed high on a pedestal in the town and make him King for the time of the festival. (don't worry he's well looked after by animal welfare).
People flock from near and far to see the goat and enjoy the craic, music and drink which flows for the three solid days and nights of Puck Fair!
If you can get away from the celebrations exit Killorglin on the N70 and follow directions for your next town, which is Glenbeigh. On your way here, you will see a little thatched village on your right hand side.
One of the more recent additions to these parts is the Kerry Bog village. Now, these places can sometimes feel “setup” – but I must say you will be very impressed with the attention to detail and feel of the individual cottages. The most striking thing is how these cottages were furnished with so many original pieces. Afterwards, you can relax with a nice creamy pint at the Red Fox Inn and Restaurant, which is next-door to the bog village.
The road to Glenbeigh runs close to Caragh Lake, a fisherman's paradise. Glenbeigh is a sleepy picturesque village, which is home to a popular sandy beach called Rossbeigh - a great place if you want to stretch your legs while breathing in the invigorating sea air from the Atlantic Ocean.
As you drive on to the village of Glenbeigh – with Dingle bay on one side and the mighty slopes off the McGillicuddy Reeks on the other. You can take a little while to stroll along parts of the Kerry Way – one of the best long distance walking paths in the country.
The Kerry Way starts in Killarney and then follows a path around the Iveragh peninsula and looping back through Killarney National park once more. Do take some time to vanish into another world as you walk even a small part of this ancient way.
Back on the N70, and onto the pretty fishing village of Kells, which also boasts its own sandy beach and stunning views of Dingle Bay and the Atlantic. A small picturesque seaside area, one has a panoramic view of Dingle Bay.
Situated in the valley in kells, there is a 40 acre Victorian garden showcasing native flora and a variety of mostly Southern Hemisphere exotic plant species. The gardens include the Primeval Forest, Ladies Walled Garden, Palm and Succulent Garden and Bamboo Glade.
The town of Caherciveen is the next stop on your travels. This is the main market town on the Ring, so it's quite a busy spot all year round. This town was the birthplace of Daniel O`Connell, a famous political leader in the early 19th century. The beautiful Cathedral in the town is a must see and is dedicated to him - the only one in the country to be named after a lay person.
Also, check out the Barracks, which is a really unusual building. It's said that the plans for this building got mixed up with plans for a barracks in India, as the British had occupation of these two countries at that particular time!
You can also catch a ferry from here to take you out to The Skelligs. The Skelligs is an important early Christian site 7 miles off the West Kerry Coast. A massive rock, with two unequal pinnacles 200 meters high, the remains of a flooded mountain range, where monks came to meditate and seek communion with God, after they struggled to the top of Skellig Michael.
I suggest when you exit Cahirciveen on the Valentia road (R565) and head west along the peninsula to discover Valentia Island, a good half day in itself. Valentia Island embodies all of the main features of the Wild Atlantic Way in one neat and seriously picturesque package.
Just off the Ring of Kerry, it can be reached by bridge from Portmagee or by ferry during the summertime from Reenard Point. Where you will also find the O’ Neill’s Bar which does very good seafood and pints which could delay your crossing! Only joking there’s one every 10 minutes.
The remote towns of Portmagee, Ballinskelligs and the The Skellig Islands are all near. This area is a must see if you are looking for somewhere 'off the beaten track' as it is less frequented by visitors.
Also there is excellent and enjoyable accommodation to be found at Portmagee. On the way you could be distracted by the Skelligs chocolate factory – some of the nicest chocolate you will ever taste. Well worth the detour!
Your next port of call as you continue on your way is to follow directions for Waterville on the N70.
Waterville is located about half way on the Ring of Kerry, so it’s a good place to stop for lunch if you didn`t go to Valentia. After something to eat, you can wander around this colourful town as many famous people have done before you like, Charlie Chaplin, Walt Disney, Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods. There is, in fact, a statue of Charlie Chaplin in the town! Waterville is also a famous game angling resort, it has an 18 hole championship golf links course (one of the top 20 in the world!) and also a fantastic sandy beach.
One of the things I love about this part of the world is the “interior” of the peninsula. Leave the “Ring” and head inland on a small road. Or do the smaller “Skellig Ring”. Head to the village of Ballinskelligs – an Irish-speaking area known as a “Gaelteacht”. This whole area received the monks from the nearby Skellig Michael rock island after the beehive huts there were abandoned in the 12th century. There are so many layers of history in this area – from ancient stone circles, ring forts, old abbeys, medieval castles and whole abandoned (and restored) villages.
From Waterville, directly on the ring route, there is a road which takes you right through the centre of the peninsula through the Ballaghasheen Pass and which leads to the magnificent Ballaghbeama Gap and onwards to Moll’s Gap. Again, these roads are not frequented by tour buses – for obvious reasons.
Now back on the Ring continue your journey on the N70 from Waterville to Caherdaniel, you will cross over what is called Coomakista Pass. Get your camera ready – park up, and admire the views of the Kenmare River, the Scariff and Deenish Islands.
If it is a nice sunny day, then stop off at Derrynane Beach, considered to be one of the finest beaches in the country! Derrynane House is worth a visit if you are interested in exploring the house that was once home to Daniel O' Connell.
Next on the itinerary has to be a visit to Staigue Fort, a large stone fort, about 4km off the N70. Cathair Na Stéige (Staigue Fort) is located in Castlecove on the road to Sneem. It is about four miles off the main road.
It is in excellent condition. It is thought that this structure was built in the first century B.C. and so it is over two thousand years old. Little is known about its builders or indeed what is was used for. It may have been built for religious reasons or to protect cattle.
Back on the N70 again and make for the pretty town of Sneem, a popular holiday destination because of its sheer beauty and relaxed atmosphere. The town was once home to the famous 'Casey Brothers', world-wrestling champions. The statue on your left as you leave on the N70 for Killarney, is a life size statue of Steve 'the crusher' Casey.
The thing that hits me most as I wandered into the colourful village of Sneem was the smell of turf fires! A real smell of Kerry. The village offered a welcome rest after the snaking road out of Killorglin and getting stuck behind a tractor or two.
The other thing about Sneem are the really interesting sculptures and installations spread through the village. It’s very striking to see the photographs of locals in the park – people who have returned to the area after previously emigrating – and underneath their stories and their hopes for their communities. Well done Sneem!
Pass through the picturesque villages of Parknasilla and Templenoe and the next town you'll enter is the heritage town of Kenmare, which is regarded as the "The Jewel on the Ring of Kerry". Stroll around its charming streets to find out why. It has gourmet restaurants, friendly Irish pubs, craft shops and a whole host of outdoor activities if you want to stick around.
After an enjoyable few hours in Kenmare continue north on the N71 for the last leg of the journey. The views you will see on this part of your journey will simply take your breath away. Pull over at Molls Gap viewing park and admire the MacGillycuddy Reeks and the glaciated Black Valley.
Further along the road you will come to 'Ladies View', one of the most beautiful views of the three Killarney Lakes and the National Park. It is so called, because when Queen Victoria came to Killarney in 1861, her ladies-in-waiting were overwhelmed by the view they saw from here.
From Ladies View turn left across to Purple Mountain, The Reeks, The Black Valley, the Gap of Dunloe and down to Kate Kearney`s Cottage.
And finally to Killarney, famed the world over, for its unequalled beauty. You could easily spend a day or two in Killarney exploring its attractions, and you'd still have not seen everything. If you are short on time though, visit Muckross House and Gardens, Ross castle, Torc Waterfall the National Park.
Wrap up your days of driving with a nice meal in one of Killarney's many award-winning restaurants, followed by a lively traditional Irish music session in one of the local pubs. The town has a buzzing nightlife scene and a warm and friendly atmosphere. It offers so much to see and do, so it's easy to see why it is one of Ireland's best-loved tourist resorts!
Here are a few more Top things to do on The Ring Of The Kingdom Of Kerry