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Ring of Kerry
Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrThe Iveragh Peninsula, known as the “Ring of Kerry”, is a circular route in South Western Ireland. Enjoy and explore the stunning coastal scenery, medieval ruins, velvety green fields, wild islands, sandy beaches, and many picturesque towns that make up this beautiful route. The scenic loop can be driven in a day but plan on the 179 km taking much longer than you think it will, particularly if you make frequent stops to enjoy the views.
The mostly coastal Ring starts and ends inland in the buzzing Killarney, the biggest town on the Ring of Kerry. From Killarney, the Ring passes through a lovely National Park to the towns of Kenmare, Sneem, Caherdaniel, Waterville, Ballinskelligs, Portmagee, Valentia Island, Cahersiveen, Glenbeigh, and Killorglin and back to Killarney. Being a circular route, you can travel the Ring of Kerry in either direction. You can go the way of the tour buses toward Killorglin, the home of the famous Puck Fair , or you can head through the scenic Killarney National Park towards Kenmare. The journey can be 40 km shorter if you only venture between Kenmare and Killorglin.
The Ring provides plenty of things to see on the way, like Ballinskelligs Castle , O’ Connell Memorial Church, Skelling Islands, Staigue Fort, Ballycarbery Castle, Cahergal Stone Fort, and Kerry Cliffs. Just south of Killarney, Ross Castle, Muckross House, Lough Leane, and Ladies View, all located within Killarney National Park, are must-see attractions located along the Ring.
Visit the Kerry Bog Village Museum, admire the Kells Bay Gardens, explore the Old Barracks Heritage Center in Cahersiveen and be sure to stop at one of the five blue flag beaches located around the Ring of Kerry - Rossbeigh, near Killorglin, White Strand and Kells beach near Cahirsiveen, Ballinskelligs or Derrynane beach at Caherdaniel.
The best time to visit the Ring of Kerry is late summer, early autumn or spring. In summer, temperatures are pleasant and there are fewer rain showers, but scenic pull-offs are always full and heavy traffic can add several hours to the trip.
Highlights of the Ring of Kerry
KenmareThe picturesque town of Kenmare links two scenic loops in southern Ireland, the Ring of Kerry and the Ring of Beara, and is a nice spot to stop and admire its colorfully painted houses and shops. Although its location ensures that plenty of tourists pass through town, it still retains an authentic Irish feel. The charming Kenmare is noted for its high-quality lace and excellent woolen goods, as well as farmers markets selling local produce and crafts. Just off Market Street you'll find Druid’s Circle, a very good example of a stone circle, composed of 15 heavy boulders.
Staigue FortThe Staigue Fort is one of Ireland's largest and best-preserved, round, stone forts. It is located north of Staigue, near the village of Castlecove and was likely built between the first century BC and the early centuries AD. The walls are built of large, flat stones and laid without mortar. The fort is unusual in the height and thickness of its walls. Visitors enter through a narrow, lintel-led doorway. Once within, there are a few signs in both English and Irish, describing the fort and its history. An ingenious arrangement of open staircases inside the ring allows you to easily climb to the top of the walls. The Staigue Fort Exhibition Center is located a few kilometers from Staigue Fort. It has an interesting video presentation, as well as a pleasant coffee shop.
Derrynane HouseSet in lovely gardens, Derrynane House was the family home of a 19th-century politician and statesman, Daniel O'Connell, known as the “Great Liberator”, who negotiated limited Catholic emancipation in 1829. It now houses a museum and is furnished with family portraits, writings and many items relating to Daniel O' Connell. The house is surrounded by beautiful subtropical gardens. Plantation and garden walks were laid out by the O’Connell family in the 18th and 19th centuries. One of the highlights of the property is the private chapel added in 1844. If time allows, take a short walk to the Derrynane beach with beautiful views across the bay.
Skellig RingAway from the crowded Ring of Kerry, the scenic Skellig Ring loop drive boast authentic, rural feel and, best of all, there are no buses. The predominantly coastal route adds a slightly longer loop to the journey and takes you along narrow lanes, through tiny ports and charming villages. The 32 km long drive starts in either Cahersiveen or Waterville, depending on where you are on the Ring. At St. Finian’s Bay, treat yourself with a cup of creamy hot chocolate at the family-run chocolate factory. For a great scenic view out to the Skellig Islands, across to the Dingle Peninsula and the Blaskets, turn left into the driveway with the sign pointing to the ‘Best view in County Kerry’. Park the car and walk about ten minutes up the gravel road to take in the gorgeous coastal cliffs.
Skellig IslandsJust off Ireland’s south western coast are two islands crammed with history, nature, and rugged cliffs. The first island you’ll come across will be Little Skellig, while only a small outcrop, this island is home to the world’s largest Northern Gannet colony. The larger island, Skellig Michael, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, known for its well-preserved early Christian monastery. Monks lived on the island from 6th to the 12th century. Once there, you have to climb some 600 very steep steps to the top. However, the views are worth every bit. At the summit you can enter the monastic huts and imagine the hard life of a 7th-century ascetic. The monastery features a small church, some burial sites, and tiny vegetable gardens where the monks grew the food they needed.
Boat tours leave from Ballinskelligs, Portmagee, Caherdaniel, and Valentia Island. If you want to pay a visit, make sure to book ahead as only a very limited number of people are allowed on Skellig Michael each day. Beware that there can be strong winds and waves during the journey. Weather conditions may also cause a cancellation of the tour, so try to plan a flexible itinerary. And note that there are no food, drink and toilets on the island. Be sure to visit also the Skellig Experience Center on Valentia Island, which tells the story of the islands.
WatervilleBe sure to make a stop in a coastal town of Waterville and take a picture of a bronze Charlie Chaplin statue. Known as “An CoireÁn” in Gaelic, or ‘the Little Whirlpool’, Waterville is located at the tip of the Iveragh Peninsula, halfway around the Ring of Kerry. A beautiful, little town overlooking stunning Ballinskelligs Bay is is home to Waterville’s famous Links Course, the angler’s paradise, Lough Currane, traditional pubs, and a wide range of shops. Waterville also hosts the annual Charlie Chaplin Film Festival.
PortmageeWhether en route to the Skellig Islands or not, you’ll want to stay a while in Portmagee, a tiny, charming fishing village, located south of Valentia Island. The village, located on the southern shoreline of Portmagee Channel, is named after a famous smuggler, Captain Theobald Magee. Its brightly painted houses are lovely and boast a pleasant variety of shops, cafés, and traditional pubs. Sunday night set dancing is a must for any cultural enthusiast. The scenic village also serves as a departure point for boat trips to the Skellig Islands.
Valentia IslandValentia Island is one of the largest islands on the west coast of Ireland, where the first transatlantic cable was laid between Ireland and Newfoundland in 1866. Tiny Knightstown is the main hub of activity on the island. The main street is very pleasant and lined with lovely shops, cafés and small restaurants. The western part of the island is dominated by the dramatic cliffs of Bray Head which boast spectacular views. The gardens of Glanleam, planted in the 1830s, is one of the main sightseeing attractions on the island, offering 5 km of walks through enchanted gardens and green fields. The island also hosts a heritage center which tells the story of the natural, industrial, and communications history of the island. Be sure to make a stop at Cromwell’s Lighthouse, which has opened to the public recently. The Valentia Island is accessible from the mainland by car ferry from Reenard Point, or by the road bridge from Portmagee.
CahersiveenThe bustling, colorful town of Cahersiveen is the largest of the towns on the Ring. Located on the banks of the River Fertha is the gateway to the western side of the Ring of Kerry. With the beautiful Daniel O’ Connell Memorial Church, the interesting Old Barracks Heritage Center, and the lovely harbor is well worth a visit. Cahersiveen's most famous historic figure is undoubtedly Daniel O'Connell, who was born in the town. His birthplace, the ruined cottage, can be found just outside Cahersiveen to the left of the bridge. and just before the Monument for Saint Brendan the Navigator. Just north of Carersiveen are the ring forts of Leacanabuail and Cahergal.
Daniel O’ Connell Memorial Church
Wonderful Daniel O’ Connell Memorial Church, built in the late 19th century, is set in the middle of Cahersiveen. A Gothic Revival-style church was designed by George C. Ashlin . It is the only Catholic church in Ireland built in honor of and named after a lay person. The church is built like a cross with ceiling-high, stain-glassed windows. If you are planning on taking in a mass, make sure you check the schedule.
Old Barracks Heritage Center
The exhibition center, situated in a former Royal Irish Constrabulary Barracks, houses exhibits on Daniel O'Connell, the Fenian Rising and features a wonderful insight into the history and culture of the area. The Barracks was designed and constructed during the period 1869-1871 to house the officers, who were assigned to protect the Transatlantic cable, that ran from Valentia Island to Newfoundland.
Kells Bay GardensTake a walk trough the lush Kells Bay Gardens. The gardens at Kells cover over 17 hectares, boasting a large collection of sub-tropical plants, pleasant walks with superb dinosaurs carved from fallen trees, ponds surrounded by brightly colored flowers and even a waterfall. The multiplicity of tree ferns makes the garden particularly atmospheric. You could happily spend hours wandering through these gardens. Be sure to make time for fresh scone and tea afterwards and a short walk to the lovely Kells Bay Beach.
GlenbeighThe Glenbeigh is a tiny village, known for its golden blue flag Rossbeigh beach and panoramic views of the Bay of Dingle and the Dingle Peninsula. The beautiful, sandy Rossbeigh beach provides perfect conditions for swimming, water sports and walking. Just outside the village the remains of Whyn's castle can be found.
Kerry Bog Village MuseumThe Kerry Bog Village Museum, located between the towns of Killorglin and Glenbeigh , offers a fascinating insight into how people lived and worked in Ireland in the 18th and early 19th century. The cottages in the village are well-preserved and furnished the way they would have been when inhabited. The Great Famine devastated Ireland and this museum gives a glance into that time period. At the village you will also see the once almost extinct Bog Ponies and Ireland's largest dogs; the Irish Wolf Hounds. The adjoining Red Fox Inn serves delicious meals and a world famous Irish Coffee.
Food & DrinkThe Ring of Kerry is dotted with towns and villages, so you are never too far from a good meal or just a hot cup of coffee. Pubs are generally less formal than restaurants and most serve food. Featuring reasonable prices and traditional Irish music, they’re great for a casual lunch or dinner. Hot Irish stew with warm, buttered Irish soda bread is a classic, and of course a pint of Guinness. Also recommended is the fish & chips. In Ballinskelligs, be sure to stop by the Skelligs Chocolate Factory. They give you a sample of every chocolate they offer. Local markets offer a fantastic opportunity to meet the locals and sample the local produce.
AccomodationsThe Ring of Kerry offer an abundance of places to stay. There are many hotels, hostels, and guesthouses available along the route, but if you want to experience the real Kerry, the many B&B's on the Ring provide a warm and welcoming experience. When booking accommodations, stay close to the ring so you can start your exploration early. Many people stay in Killarney to visit this part of Ireland, but if you prefer a little quieter location, try Kenmare. It also gives you easy access to the Ring of Beara as well as the Ring of Kerry.
Getting aroundCar hire is recommended for exploring the Ring of Kerry, of course if you don’t mind driving on the left side of the road. The roads are very narrow so be alert. Another great way to get around is on bike. Bike hire is available in many of the bigger towns and villages and some have arrangements where bikes can be dropped off in different towns. Also, numerous bus companies offer trips during the summer months.
Walking The Kerry WayThe Kerry Way is one of the longest and oldest signposted walking trails in Ireland. It begins and ends in Killarney and traces the Ring of Kerry route. The walking trail is broken up into 9 segments that are long enough to complete in a day trip. How long it takes you to complete the 215 km long trail depends on your level of fitness and how quickly you walk. If you wish to walk the entire route you should allow around nine days.
- Most tour buses, which do cause traffic jams in peak season, travel in an anti-clockwise direction, so be sure to start early in the morning and take a clockwise path.
- The roads are significantly less crowded in the off-season.
- Make sure you take a detour west on the Skellig Ring and visit the Skellig Michael - a worthy UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Give yourself a whole day to drive the loop.
- Don’t wait for the rain to stop, as the weather can change in seconds.
- The speed limit of 100 kph is a bad joke - drive the speed that feels comfortable.
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Author: Ayda. Last updated: Aug 05, 2015