Scenic Route – Things to do driving on the Ring of Kerry
(Killarney –Cahersiveen-Killarney) (180km, 3-6days)
One of the most famous circuits in Ireland starts in the spectacular surroundings of Killarney. This ring provides the sea, beaches and some spectacular mountain passes. From Killarney I’ll describe driving the Ring of Kerry and the action in an anti-clockwise direction.
Scenic Route – Things to do Driving the Ring of Kerry – Killarney
One of the main tourist hotspots in the south-west which provides a launching pad for several tourist routes. Killarney provides lots of accommodation as well as having many sights of its own. It is on the backpacking trail but is also on the golf course trail so it caters for all types.
Killarney National Park: Nestled between the Lakes of Killarney and Irelands highest mountains is Killarney National Park. There are plenty of walks in the woodlands on the slopes of the mountains and plenty of spots to take a dip in the lake. Muckross House lies on the shores of the lake and is a major tourist attraction and looks spectacular when on one of the surrounding mountains peering down. Around the house there is a restaurant and botanical gardens. Climbing Torc Mountain in the park gives superb views of the lake, Muckross house and Killarney. At 540mtrs and a path to the top it is well worth the effort.
Carrauntoohil Mountain: The highest mountain in Ireland at 1038mts which means it’s not very high and is relatively easy to climb. There is a worn path all the way to the top and the start is about 15km from Killarney. To get there you take a left 4.7km after the last roundabout on the N72 heading towards Killorglan. Don’t be put off by the wicked names on the way up such as Hag’s Tooth and Devils Staircase as they are only bad if you fall down! Needless to say the views are superb. It takes between 4-6hrs round trip to climb depending on fitness and amount of time stopping to take pictures!
Jaunting Trips: Hop into the cart and let the horse and jarvey bring you where you want to go. A unique way to see a few sights in and around the town. There are lots around Killarney National Park.
Scenic Route – Things to do Driving the Ring of Kerry - Killorglan (21km from Killarney)
As you head to the north-west along the N72 on the Ring of Kerry, the first town you come across is Killorglan. This town is famous for the ‘Puck Fair’ which is held every 10-12th August and is Ireland’s oldest fair. King Puck is a goat that is brought down from the mountains to be celebrated every year. Lots of street entertainment and activities.
Scenic Route – Things to do Driving the Ring of Kerry - Glenbeigh
The locals like to call it the ‘jewel of the ring of Kerry’ and with blue flag beaches (Rossbeigh) and Lough Caragh they have a point. A very small village where having a quiet pint is mandatory. Kells Bay is again a blue flag beach and is about 10min drive to the south where the N70 kisses the coast
(61km from Killarney): As you continue driving west on the Ring of Kerry the coastline is spectacular as you roll up and down the hills and eventually roll into Cahersiveen. A good spot for a rest whether you are backpacking, driving or cycling.
Beentee Loop Walk: The desert after the main course of the walk is the view from the top of Beentee Mounain (376mts) which looks down on the bay and the town. The walk starts in Fair Green Car park and just follow the blue arrows or the purple National Loop arrows. Takes 3-4hrs.
Ring Forts: Just north of Carersiveen are the ring forts of Leacanabuail and Cahergal. The thick outer walls from the 6th century can still be walked on. The walls on Cahergal are 10feet thick! The forts are only 300mtrs from each other so it’s easy to visit both. The forts are the other side of the water to the north near Ballycarbery Castle.
Beaches: Some of the best beaches on the ring are around Cahersiveen. Cuas Crom and Whitestrand (blue flag) beaches are just to the north of Cahersiveen.
Valentia Island: One of the largest islands on the west coast of Ireland, Valentia is very barren on the western side and dominated by cliffs but the eastern side is comparably mild and allowed the gardens of Glanleem House to be planted in the 1830’s with plants from the southern hemisphere that still survives today and is one of the main sightseeing attractions on the island. The main village is Knightstown which is where a lot of treks and boat trips can be started. Valentia can be driven to across a bridge at Portmagee or by boat further to the north from Reenard’s Point. Valentia is a popular place for backpackers to explore when the weather is good.
Scenic Route – Things to do Driving the Ring of Kerry - Skellig Ring Road
This is another short ring off the main Ring of Kerry which brings you around the coast through the picturesque villages of brightly painted houses of Portmagee and Ballinskellig. Great views are had on Coomanaspig pass south of Portmagee on your way round. There are also great views of the Skellig Islands and great surfing in St. Finans Bay which is near the village of The Glen. There are plenty of historical churches and ancient religious sites if history is your thing.
Skellig Islands (UNESCO World Heritage site): If you are as far as here then you must go to these islands. They are one of the best places I visited in Ireland. As you can see from the photos the day was perfect. Monks voluntarily lived on these very isolated rocks as penance that rise almost vertically to 230mtrs above the surrounding ocean. The second island is home to a huge amount of puffins, the world’s second largest gannet colony, seals, dolphins and even basking sharks and turtles. Well preserved reminisces of their dome shaped huts remain as do the steps that they carved by hand out of the rock up to their tiny village. It was lived in from around the 6th century to the 12th century. How people lived on this fore lone island where getting turf for a fire was a 6hrs row across the sea is a feat in human endurance. And remember that this is the Atlantic Ocean where wind and waves have an uninterrupted 3000mile trip. Boats to the island depart at 10am and return around 3.30pm with around 2.5hrs on the island. Price is €50 per person. Boats leave Ballinskelligs, Portmagee, Caherdaniel and Valentia Island and depend on sea conditions. www.skelligislands.com, www.skelligstrips.com
Waterville (76km) and Sneem (111km): More traditional villages with Waterville having the beautiful Lough Currane behind it and some championship golf courses. Sneem has squares and gardens to walk around as well as having lots of international sculpture to admire. Sneem is also the capital of the South Kerry Geopark which celebrates the unusual and spectacular geological features. The smaller of the two big climbs on the Ring of Kerry route is before Caherdaniel. It is not anything out of the Tour de France so don’t panic. It has a 200mtr elevation difference so is manageable for anybody.
Scenic Route – Things to do Driving the Ring of Kerry - Kenmare (140km)
A town full of good pubs and good traditional music would be a way to describe Kenmare! One of the bigger towns on the ring and one of the most beautiful in Ireland it is very lively for most of the year. Kenmare has plenty of short walks and water activities such as kayaking, boat trips and scuba diving. Gleninchaquin Park to the south of Kenmare has plenty of streams and walks and includes a 140mtr waterfall. Even if backpacking and not doing the Ring of Kerry it is a good base from which to head out. www.kenmare.ie
Moll’s Gap: A spectacular pass between Kenmare and Killarney and the highest point on the ring of Kerry with a 235mtr climb. You head out of Kenmare on the N71 and as you pant past the sheep I’m sure they wonder what the cyclists are at! The views of the lakes and the surrounding valleys are again spectacular with panoramic views. I’m not just saying this, they actually are. A very popular attraction for tourists staying in both Kenmare and Killarney.
Scenic Route – Things to do Driving the Ring of Kerry - Need to Know
Getting to Killarney is easy from most parts of Ireland. Buses go from Cork (approx 5 per day, 1.4hrs, €27), Limerick (approx 5 buses, 2hrs, €27) and Tralee (5 buses, 40min, €13). If going from Dublin you need to get the bus to either Cork or Limerick. These buses also stop along the route. www.buseireann.ie
By train you can also go from Dublin (Heuston Station), Limerick or Cork. From Dublin the cost is €25 and takes 3.25hrs. Some trains require a short change. From Cork (9trains, €27, 1.25-2hrs). From Limerick City (7 trains, 2 changes, 2.5hrs, €41). www.iarnrodeireann.ie
Practicalities – About Ireland
- €1 =€1, USD$1=€0.77
- Language – English, Irish. The Irish language (gaelige) is thought in schools from 5-18yrs old but approximately only 5% of Irish people speak it on a full time basis. These area’s are called the Gaeltacht and are mainly in the west of Ireland
- Flights- www.aerlingus.com, www.aerarann.com, www.ryanair.com (budget), www.ba.com but most European airlines have flights to Dublin, Cork or Shannon (Limerick) and several American airlines fly to Dublin
- Buses: Dublin Bus (www.dublinbus.ie) is the city bus company in Dublin and has an extensive network. Bus Eireann (www.buseireann.ie), Kavanagh buses (jjkavanagh.ie) are the nationwide bus companies that serves other towns and cities across Ireland. Their main bases are in busaras on Store Street in the city centre for Bus Eireann and for Kavanaghs.
- Irish Rail (Iarnrod Eireann) are the railway company and serve all major cities. www.irishrail.ie
- Car Rental: All the main car hire companies are in Ireland such as Rentalcars.com (www.rentalcars.com), Irish car rentals (www.irishcarrentals.com), Hertz (www.hertz.ie), Avis (www.avis.ie), Europecar (www.europecar.ie), Car Hire (Thrifty) (www.carhire.ie)
- Accommodation – €50 per night for an average double room in a city
- Population of Ireland – 4.56million
Map of Ireland
|The Burren - Kilfenora|
|Cliffs of Moher|
Cliffs of Moher, Liscannor, Ireland
Carrauntoohil, Kerry, Ireland
|Killarney National Park|
Killarney National Park, Ireland
Bentee, Kerry, Ireland
Valentia Island, Ireland
Skellig Michael, Kerry, Ireland
Molls Gap, Ireland
Lough Hyne, Ireland
|Cape Clear Island|
Cape Clear Island, Cork, Ireland
Mizen Head, Ireland
My Photo Gallery of Ireland