Ireland’s Ring of Kerry

Mention Ireland to anyone and it conjures up verdant hills, crashing waves, and vertical cliffs melting into the sunset. The Ring of Kerry, on the southwestern side of the country, is one of the most picturesque corners of the Emerald Isle, and with good reason. The waters are crystal clear, the hills are a vibrant green, and the craic is always loud, friendly, and fun.

ring of kerry photo
Photo by Thomas Mulchi

what is the ring of kerry

The Ring of Kerry comprises the peninsula just south of the Dingle Peninsula. It begins and ends in Killarney, with a small, two-lane ring road circling the peninsula. A short detour takes travelers off the beaten path out to Ballinskelligs before returning to the main road near Cahersiveen.

There are a lot of prehistoric and Iron Age sites scattered around the Ring. Many are not signposted, so travelers interested in these sights are encouraged to do research. Some sites are within grazing fields. There are several well-established country houses along the Ring. Muckross House is withing the grounds of Killarney National Park while Derrynane is in Caherdaniel.

ballycarbery castle photo
Photo by gr7361

what to do on the ring of kerry

Many tourists take day trips around the Ring of Kerry, which – for travelers with a short amount of time – is perfectly fine. Tours begin and end in Killarney. For travelers with longer periods of time in which to travel, a recommended itinerary is below. All along the route there are panoramic views; pull over at any lay by and enjoy the view of the Atlantic waves crashing below.

Begin your tour in Killarney at the National Park.  From here, drive south along the N71 to Kenmare, a charming and creative port village with colourful houses, great pubs, and a large stone circle. The road turns west at Kenmare, becoming the N70. Three km west of Sneem is another prehistoric site, Staigue stone fort, a late Iron Age construction. Just past Waterville, take the left turn off toward Ballinskelligs. The buses do not come down this road. In Portmagee (and in good weather only,) arrange for a tour of the Skelligs, two monastic beehive islands off the coast (fun fact: they were featured in the last two Star Wars movies as locations on Ahch-To.) Across the bridge from Portmagee is Valentia Island. Valentia is known for being the eastern terminus of the first trans-Atlantic telegraph cable. In Cahersiveen, across the firth, are Cahergall Stone Fort and the ruins of Ballycarbery Castle. These are nice places to watch the sunset. Head into town for a fresh fish meal at QC’s before continuing your journey. Further north along the N70 is Rossbeigh Strand, a must-see in the Ring of Kerry. From Rossbeigh, follow the N70 back to Killarney, stopping at the Gap of Dunloe for a short, 90 minute hike through the hills.

gap of dunloe photo
Photo by Denis Mc Carthy

how to get here

Aer Lingus flies internationally into both Dublin and Shannon. Killarney is a two-hour drive from Shannon and a three-and-a-half hour drive from Dublin. It is highly recommended to hire a car, as the only other option is a group tour. There are many tour companies that offer day trips, approximately 6 and a half hours, during which they hop on and hop off at various tourist destinations around the Ring.

Photo by Lana Galina

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