Driving Route Of The Month – Ring Of Kerry, Ireland
If you want to experience the raw natural beauty of Ireland at first hand, then a trip around the beautiful Ring of Kerry in Ireland’s southwest is a must. The circular route, which covers about 170km, boasts some of the most breathtaking scenery you’re ever likely to see.
On top of its outstanding beauty, ‘The Ring’ is dotted with lots of attractions and colourful villages and towns, each with its own story to tell.
Check out our guide to the Ring of Kerry…
The ‘Ring of Kerry’ has become a major attraction with tour buses carrying eager visitors around the route every day. However, we recommend that the best way to see it, is to drive at your own pace (as the buses adhere to an itinerary, stopping at only some of the attractions).
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.
So to get the best out of this trip, book Car Rental Ireland, get a road map, buckle up your seatbelt and off you go!
Firstly, it is advisable to start the Ring of Kerry in Killarney and travel the route in an anti-clockwise direction. The reason for this is that the route is narrow in parts so all the major coaches and buses travel in the one direction.
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 Carrauntoohil, 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 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 (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 of Puck Fair!
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. This is the Kerry Bog Village and Museum, which gives a visual insight into the work and livelihood of people in Ireland during the 18th century. 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.
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.
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 cathedral in the town 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 usual 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!
If you are enjoying your adventure so far, we suggest you exit Cahirciveen on the Valentia road (R565) and head west along the peninsula to discover Valentia Island, the remote towns of Portmagee, Ballinskeillgs and the Skellig Islands. This area is a must see if you are looking for somewhere ‘off the beaten track’ as it is less frequented by visitors.
However, if time is against you, continue on your way through Cahirciveen and 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. 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.
As you 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, which is thought to be over 2000 years old! Its exact purpose is still unclear, but it was probably built as a stronghold to protect a local king or lord.
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.
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.
If not, 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.
And finally to Killarney, famed the world over, for its unequalled beauty. You could easily spend a day 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 a day 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!
We’d love to hear your experience of the Ring of Kerry. Or if you are just about to take to the road, why not come back to us and let us know what you thought of it!