Things to Do in Ring of Kerry
Explore southern Ireland on a road trip along the Ring of Kerry, a 110-mile (180-km) scenic route of narrow roads winding around the Iveragh Peninsula. As you cruise along the Atlantic Coast on this mountain road through Kells, Derrynane, and Glenbeigh, you’ll find a number of impressive sights.
Most travelers start and end the loop in Killarney and make stops all around County Kerry to see historic seaside villages, Killarney National Park, the rugged Atlantic coast, and a few Irish castles. Many tours depart from other Ring of Kerry towns such as Sneem, Parknasilla, Cahersiveen, and Killorglin, the home of the famous Puck Fair festivities, but if you need transportation to southern Ireland from elsewhere in the country, Ring of Kerry day tours are offered with starting points in Dublin, Kenmare, Cork, Limerick, and Kinsale.
Things to Know Before You
As with many ring roads, there is little room to pass at some points. It’s good to note that all tour buses travel counterclockwise from Killarney and that self-driving travelers can head clockwise for less traffic.
What to See Along the Ring of Kerry
From Ross Castle and Muckross House to Torc Waterfall, Bog Village, and the glacial valley of the Gap of Dunloe, you’ll want to keep your eyes peeled and your camera out. The ring also passes the golden beaches of Inch Beach, the Lakes of Killarney, the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks mountains, Ladies View, and Dingle Bay looking out to the Dingle Peninsula. The coastal side of the loop offers a taste of the Wild Atlantic Way, and in County Kerry’s Waterville, visitors tend to stop for photos with the waterfront Charlie Chaplin statue.
How to Tour the Ring of Kerry from Dublin
The Ring of Kerry loop is one of the most popular day trips available from Dublin, as WiFi-equipped coach tours make it easy to see dozens of sights in one day. Bus tours depart from a main street in Dublin city center and head out on a four-hour drive 185 miles (300 km) southwest to then embark on the 110-mile (180-km) loop. Day trips tend to be quite long (upwards of 14 hours) due to all the driving. If a single day isn’t enough, multi-day tours include accommodation and allow you to see more at a slower pace. The ring can also be reached from Dublin on a rail tour, during which travelers take a train to Killarney and then hop on a coach bus to ride the ring.
Dingle Peninsula lie a group of abandoned sandstone islands rise out of the Atlantic Ocean. The Blasket Islands (Na Blascaodaí in Irish) have all been occupied at one point or another, but it was the tiny community on the largest island, The Great Blasket, that gained fame for its tradition of folklore and storytelling.
At its peak, the island boasted 175 residents; by the time the Irish government decided the islands were too dangerous for habitation and ordered a mandatory evacuation, there were only 22 people remaining.
Visitors to The Great Blasket find the ruined remains left behind by the island’s former inhabitants. An 8-mile (13-kilometer) walking path takes visitors past some of the island’s most spectacular scenery — sea cliffs and white sand beaches — with the opportunity to spot shorebirds and a colony of seals who now call the islands home.
Towering atop a grassy hill just outside of Cahersiveen along the scenic Ring of Kerry, the ivy-covered remains of Ballycarbery Castle overlook the sea. While historians believe a castle was built on the site as early as 1398, the present-day ruins date back to the fifteenth century, when the castle was occupied by either the McCarthy Clan or their wardens, the O’Connells.
A registered historical building in County Kerry, visitors will nonetheless find no entrance gate, signs or placards in the remains of the castle. It’s been left largely forgotten, and while the structure itself has fallen into ruin, the views of Cahersiveen from around the grounds are well worth the trip.
Cahergall Fort is one of two stone forts outside the town of Caherciveen that together are known as the Ring Forts. Cahergall Fort is the larger of the two, built from as early as the eighth century. Much of the stone ring fort’s walls have been reconstructed, making it one of the best architectural examples of an early medieval stone fort in the region. These walls, up to 7 feet (2 meters) high and 16 feet (5 meters) thick at the base. The fort overlooks Valentia Harbor and affords amazing views of Ballycarbery Castle, Carherciveen, Valentina Island and the Kerry mountains from atop its ramparts.
Derrynane House is the ancestral home of Daniel O’Connell, a politician and statesman from the 19th century who promoted the Irish cause in British Parliament. The house is now an Irish National Monument and sits within 1.2 square-kilometers of National Park. It’s also a museum dedicated to commemorating O’Connell, who was known by the nation as the Great Liberator. O'Connell built the two-story south wing of the house facing the sea plus the library wing to the east in 1825, and these are the oldest surviving parts of the property. It was renovated in 1967, when it was opened to the public as a museum displaying a number of artifacts from O’Connell’s life and career. Visitors can wander around the politician’s dining room, lounge, study, and chapel, and marvel at the impressive chariot that was used to carry him through the streets of Dublin upon his release from prison in the 1840s. He was imprisoned over his efforts to repeal the union with England.
Derrynane Beach looks out of place when compared to the rest of Ireland—almost like a tropical sliver of the Caribbean that’s drifted across the Atlantic. Here at this long, white sand cove on the famous Ring of Kerry, lush green mountains serve as the backdrop to a clear, turquoise bay. The natural harbor is popular for swimming, and a flotilla of sailboats and pleasure craft are often found offshore. At low tide, stroll across to Abbey Island and scramble around on the rocks, and visit the remains of St. Finian’s Abbey on the leeward side of the island. From the vantage point on Abbey Island you can view the surrounding beaches, some of which have towering sand dunes that have been formed by fierce winter storms. Not far from Derrynane Beach is O’Carroll’s Cove Beach Bar and Restaurant—the only beachfront bar you’ll find on the entire Irish coast.
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