The Ring of Kerry in Ireland is probably one of the most famous scenic drives there is, so I was excited to finally get the chance to experience it for myself. The area is just beautiful and there is a lot to see. We had a lot of trouble planning our day there though because we couldn’t find detailed information to plan our Ring of Kerry itinerary. Since we only spent a day there, I am not an expert, but wanted to share what I learned. I enjoyed it, and I definitely plan on going back.
The first thing you learn when you are reading any Ring of Kerry guide is that you are supposed to drive counter-clockwise. We went at the very tail end of the season (1st weekend in October) so there wasn’t much traffic, but I have heard this is not the case in the summer, so be prepared. (If you are planning on going in the summer, you with find this Ireland Packing List helpful).
I should mention that the Ring of Kerry is not an easy drive. The roads are narrow and in some places steep, similar to what we dealt with on the Isle of Skye. Additionally, in Ireland, they drive on the left side of the road. Lucky for me, Russell is British so used to that type of driving. (Read more about driving in Ireland)
If it was me, I don’t think I would have been comfortable driving. I would have been stressed dealing with those narrow roads and I would not have enjoyed the trip as much. If no one in your group is comfortable driving, there are plenty of tour options including a Ring of Kerry Bus tour. Click here to check out the options available through Get Your Guide.
Ring of Kerry Highlights
The actual Ring of Kerry drive is not that long (only 111 miles) and can easily be done in a few hours, but you don’t do it justice if you don’t stop along the way and explore. If you are traveling with the whole family, here are some ideas for things to do on the Ring of Kerry with kids. We tried to stop and see as much as we could. Here are the points of interest that we stopped at in the order you would come across them driving around the Ring of Kerry counter-clockwise starting in Killarney.
Gap of Dunloe
The Gap of Dunloe is a very scenic area close to the beginning of the Ring of Kerry. There are several options of how to explore this area. Most people either do a Gap of Dunloe hike or take jaunting cars, which are a form of horse pulled carriages. I wouldn’t recommend taking the jaunting cars after reading about what happened to my fellow blogger, Angie Away. The weather was a little iffy when we got to the area and we didn’t want to spend too much time at any one place so we decided to explore by car.
I would not recommend this approach either unless you are a very experienced driver – thank goodness I have Russell! The Gap of Dunloe road is very narrow, winding, and hilly. It is only one lane wide but it is for two way traffic. So depending on where you meet someone coming the other way, you may have to do some reversing.
I was stressed even as the passenger, but the views were worth it. The mountains are so pretty and rugged. Plus we saw some sheep. Oh and we also almost had a head-on collision with a cow. Yes, there was a man walking his cow on the road. Luckily Russell was able to slow down, but we both got a good scare.
We got a little lost, went through Molls Gap, and rejoined the Ring of Kerry road in the wrong place. We had to backtrack a little to get where we wanted to go. I think if I went back and the weather was good I would really like to do some hiking in Gap of Dunloe or maybe even one of the Gap of Dunloe tours.
There are several different rock forts in Kerry, but we stopped to see Cahergal & Leacanabuaile ones. Well, it was kind of by accident that we found them. I saw a sign to turn off for the Ballycarberry Castle and you probably know I am a sucker for a castle. (To find the forts turn off the Ring of Kerry and pass the Old Barracks in Cahirciveen, continue over the bridge, and turn left at the next crossroads. The forts are located approximately two miles down the road in the direction of Ballycarberry castle).
Well before we saw the Ring of Kerry castle, the stone forts caught our eye. There was a parking lot on the side of the road, so we parked there and made the short walk to each fort. The Cahergal Stone Fort, which is located closer to the road, was built in 600 AD. The Leacanabuaile Stone Fort is located on the hillside and probably dates back to 800 AD. You can go inside both forts and admire the stonework. The Cahergal Stone fort has some steep stairs inside so you can climb to the top.
Valentia Island is located a half a mile off the Ring of Kerry road and measures seven miles long by three miles wide. To get to Valentia Island, we took the car ferry which runs about every 10 minutes from Knightstown.
There are several points of interest on Valentia Island, but I had two that I wanted to see. Unfortunately, the famous ice cream shop, the Farmhouse Dairy is only open in the summer, so we didn’t get to try any. I also wanted to see the lighthouse. The road to the lighthouse was very curvy, steep, and narrow, again would only recommend it for experienced drivers. The lighthouse is beautiful and the views are worth the stress of that road.
Ring of Kerry Cliffs
I was really impressed by the Kerry Cliffs, which are definitely well worth the €4 per person entry fee. The cliffs are located a little bit off the Ring of Kerry road. Then it’s about a 10 minute walk from the parking lot. The walk to the cliffs is easy and there are some stone igloo replicas that you can see on the way.
We were lucky that the weather cooperated and it stayed dry. Still, as we got closer to the cliffs it got really windy. It’s worth walking along the cliffs though, as they reminded me a bit of the Cliffs of Moher. It might have been my favorite of our Ring of Kerry stops, the views were just stunning and I loved the rugged landscape.
Killarney National Park
The last section of the drive goes through Killarney National Park, which is absolutely beautiful. You can easily spend a whole day here. Check out my post about Killarney National Park for more information.
More Ideas for the Ring of Kerry
We didn’t have time to see everything that we wanted to along the Ring of Kerry route, so if you have longer you might want to consider some of these options.
Skellig Michael Island
It is not easy to get to Skellig Michael. Only a few boats can land on the island each day during the summer season. Plus, the weather and tide have to be just right or they won’t be able to. A Christian monastery was founded on the island sometime between the 6th and 8th century and then was abandoned in the late 12th century. You have to climb about 600 steps to get the monastery. The remains of the monastery and most of the island became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. Skellig Michael has also been featured in the Star Wars movies.
Cute Towns in Kerry
In addition to Killarney where we stayed, we passed through several cute towns like Waterville, Sneem, and Kenmare, that I would like to explore more. It might even be nice to stay in one of them.
We enjoyed our time in Kerry and definitely plan on going back. Check out the short video so you can get a better idea of what driving the Ring of Kerry is like.
Expert Tips for Planning Your Ring of Kerry Itinerary
- Come with an experienced driver who is comfortable driving on the left and on narrow roads.
- Be sure to get out of the car and explore as much as you can, there is plenty to see!
- If you want to visit Skellig Michael, book it in advance!
- If you want to see more of Ireland (which I highly recommend), check out these Ireland itineraries.
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