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 really is a lot to see. We had a lot of trouble planning our day there though because we couldn’t really find detailed information. Since we only spent a day there, I am not an expert, but wanted to share what I learned. I really enjoyed it, and I definitely want to come back.
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The first thing you learn when you are reading any Ring of Kerry guide is that you are supposed to drive counter clockwise around the route. 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.
Ring of Kerry Tour
I should mention that it is not an easy drive. The roads are narrow and in some places steep. 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. If it was me, I don’t think I would have been comfortable driving. If no one in your group is comfortable driving, there are plenty of tour options including a Ring of Kerry Bus tour.
Ring of Kerry Highlights
The actual Ring of Kerry drive is not that long and can easily be done in a few hours, but you really don’t do it justice if you don’t stop along the way and explore. 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 hike or take jaunting cars, which are a form of horse pulled carriages. 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 unless you are a very experienced driver – thank goodness I have Russell! The road is very narrow, winding, and hilly. It is the width of one lane 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 really 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 in the wrong place, so 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.
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 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.
I was really impressed by the Kerry Cliffs and we got really lucky with the weather. They are a little bit off the Ring of Kerry road and then about a 10 minute walk from the parking lot. It is well worth the 4 € per person entry fee. The walk to the cliffs is easy and there are some stone igloo replicas that you can see on the way. As you get closer to the cliffs it does get really windy. It 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.
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 so I will cover it in more detail in a later post.
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 really enjoyed our time on the Ring of Kerry and definitely plan on going back. Check out the video so you can get a better idea of what it is like.
Have you done the Ring of Kerry drive? What were some of your favorite spots?
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 Skelig 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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