Hello, fellow travellers and wanderlust enthusiasts! Here’s how I drive the Ring of Kerry (and Skellig Ring) as a local. This 179-kilometre circular route, nestled in the southwestern part of Ireland, promises an unforgettable blend of natural wonders, cosy villages, and heartwarming Irish culture. So, pack your excitement, a camera, and a hearty appetite for adventure as we delve into the enchanting world of the Ring of Kerry!
1. Killarney: Your Gateway to the Ring of Kerry
Our voyage commences in the charming town of Killarney, as we prepare for this full day trip (5-8 hours) be ready to leave before 9am and travel anti-clockwise so you’re ahead of the buses. From cosy B&Bs to luxurious hotels, Killarney has accommodation for everyone. You’ll find traditional music wafting from its pubs and artisanal shops that promise unique finds. We don’t recommend exploring Killarney on this given day as it’s a full day trip in itself. However, you will see some of the towns gems towards the end of your trip.
2. Killorglin: First Stop on the Ring of Kerry
As the journey unfurls, our first stop is Killorglin, a town known for its rich heritage and warm hospitality. Set against the stunning backdrop of the River Laune, Killorglin is a treasure trove of Irish traditions. If you happen to be around in August, don’t miss the Puck Fair – a vibrant three-day festival that celebrates the town’s unique history with great gusto. Although this town is worth a stop I recommend to continue driving to Rossbeigh Beach to stretch your legs. After Rossbeigh head to Kells Bay and Gardens and after Cahersiveen vere off to the Skellig Ring.
3. The Skellig Ring: A Detour to Paradise
Prepare to be awestruck as we venture onto the Skellig Ring – a lesser-known but equally breathtaking extension of the Ring of Kerry. This detour leads to the Skellig Islands, where ancient monastic settlements and rugged landscapes create an otherworldly charm. Bookings for the Skellig Islands have to be made months in advance after Star Wars was filmed here and due to sea conditions it’s still not a guaranteed trip. The Skellig Ring road itself is a visual feast, with dramatic cliffs and stunning seascapes at every turn. Be sure to stop off at the Kerry Cliffs.
This stunning scenic coastal route located on the Iveragh Peninsula is often considered an extension of the famous Ring of Kerry, offering travelers a more secluded and rugged alternative with breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean and the Skellig Islands. Here are some key points about the Skellig Ring:
1. **Geography and Location:** The Skellig Ring is located on the western edge of the Iveragh Peninsula, which is part of the larger Ring of Kerry circuit. It is known for its dramatic cliffs, rugged coastline, and stunning vistas.
2. **Skellig Islands:** The Skellig Ring is named after the Skellig Islands, which are located about 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) off the coast. Skellig Michael and Little Skellig are the two main islands in this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Skellig Michael is famous for its ancient monastic settlement, perched atop steep cliffs, and its unique and well-preserved stone beehive huts.
3. **Scenic Drives:** The Skellig Ring offers some of Ireland’s most spectacular driving routes. The winding roads take you through charming villages, past picturesque beaches, and along dramatic cliffs. It’s a paradise for nature lovers and photographers.
4. **Portmagee:** The picturesque village of Portmagee serves as the gateway to the Skellig Islands. It’s a quaint fishing village known for its colorful houses, seafood restaurants, and as a departure point for boat tours to Skellig Michael. Eat in The Moorings and drive across the bridge to Valentia Island. If you’re up for a walk wander up Bray Heah for stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean.
5. **Wildlife:** The Skellig Ring is also known for its diverse wildlife. Birdwatchers often visit the area to spot various seabirds, including puffins, gannets, and kittiwakes. You may also encounter seals and dolphins along the coastline.
6. **Outdoor Activities:** The rugged terrain and scenic beauty of the Skellig Ring make it a desirable location for outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling, and photography. There are several hiking trails, including those that lead to panoramic viewpoints.
7. **Sustainable Tourism:** Efforts have been made to promote sustainable tourism in the area, preserving its natural beauty and cultural heritage.
Visiting the Skellig Ring provides a chance to experience the wild and unspoiled beauty of Ireland’s southwest coast. It’s a place where you can immerse yourself in the stunning landscapes, explore ancient history, and enjoy the tranquility of this remote and captivating region.
4. Waterville: Where Land and Sea Embrace
Our journey continues to the tranquil village of Waterville, embraced by the wild beauty of the Atlantic Ocean and Lough Currane. As you stroll along the promenade, let the salty breeze invigorate your senses. This is a place that has charmed artists and writers for generations – you might just find your own creative spark in its serene ambience. The village itself boasts a rich history and has been a favorite vacation spot for celebrities like Charlie Chaplin. With its welcoming atmosphere, traditional Irish pubs, and local seafood, Waterville is a delightful destination for those seeking relaxation and outdoor adventures on Ireland’s southwest coast.
5. Ballinskelligs: A Hidden Gem
Ballinskelligs (Baile an Sceilg in Irish) is a picturesque coastal village located on the Iveragh Peninsula in County Kerry, Ireland. Nestled between the dramatic Skellig Rocks and the scenic Ballinskelligs Bay, the village offers a serene and breathtaking setting. Here are some highlights about Ballinskelligs:
1. **Scenic Beauty:** Ballinskelligs is renowned for its stunning natural beauty. The golden sandy beach, known as Ballinskelligs Beach or White Strand, stretches along the bay and provides a unique location for swimming, sunbathing, and water sports. The surrounding landscapes, with rolling green hills and rugged cliffs, are a paradise for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.
2. **Historical Sites:** The area has a rich history, with ancient ruins and historical sites to explore. Ballinskelligs Castle, a well-preserved tower house dating back to the 16th century, stands as a testament to the region’s medieval past. Nearby, you can find the ruins of the 12th-century Ballinskelligs Priory, an old Augustinian monastery.
3. **Skellig Islands:** Ballinskelligs serves as a gateway to the famous Skellig Islands, particularly Skellig Michael, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its ancient monastic settlement and remarkable birdlife. Many boat tours depart from Ballinskelligs to take visitors to these remarkable islands.
4. **Cultural Heritage:** The village has a rich cultural heritage, with a strong connection to the Irish language (Gaeilge). You may hear Irish spoken here, and the local community takes pride in preserving their linguistic and cultural traditions.
5. **Outdoor Activities:** In addition to swimming and beach activities, Ballinskelligs offers opportunities for hiking, cycling, fishing, and water sports. The surrounding countryside and coastal trails provide scenic routes for exploration.
6. **Hospitality:** Ballinskelligs has a friendly and welcoming community, with local pubs and restaurants offering a taste of traditional Irish cuisine and a warm atmosphere for visitors.
One of the highlights of Ballinskelligs is its pristine Blue Flag beach. This beach offers the perfect spot for relaxation and rejuvenation. Whether you’re seeking a refreshing swim, or a peaceful seaside stroll, the beach’s tranquil atmosphere will surely soothe your soul. One of the main attractions here is the Skellig chocolate factory which is well worth a visit. Check the opening times before you go, try the samples and be sure to take your favourite chocolate home with you, from Ballinskelligs head towards Derrynane next.
6. Derrynane: Where Nature and History Embrace in County Kerry
Prepare to be enchanted as you set foot in Derrynane, a coastal paradise nestled along the rugged shores of County Kerry in Ireland. A lot of south Kerry, positioned after the Skellig Ring has some of the best beaches in Ireland, Derrynane is a charming haven and seamlessly weaves together pristine natural beauty, historical richness, and a tranquil ambiance. Derrynane beckons travelers to explore its hidden treasures and immerse themselves in its captivating allure, explore Derrynane house and gardens and take a stroll along it’s beautiful beach.
7. Sneem: A Palette of Colors
Sneem, a village awash in colours, invites us with its cheerful atmosphere. Stroll along its charming streets adorned with brightly painted houses and revel in its artistic soul. Be sure to take a peek at the famous Sneem Sculpture – a tribute to the village’s unique character and welcoming spirit. Although we love this quaint town we recomend to keep driving to Kenmare for some of the best food in the County. If you’re looking for somewhere to eat there’s no better spot to eat than the Village Kitchen in my opinion!
8. Kenmare: A Culinary and Cultural Delight
Our expedition takes us to Kenmare, a town that seamlessly blends culinary delights with cultural treasures. Explore the vibrant arts scene and savour delectable Irish cuisine in its cosy eateries. The town’s colourful façades and warm atmosphere create the perfect backdrop for a leisurely afternoon. If the weather is in your favor try and grab a seat on main street and watch the colourful town go about its business while you indulge on some of the best food in Kerry. Top tip – visit some of the local craft shops for a different taste of the local environment.
9. Ladies View: Majestic Vistas Await
After Kenmare, be sure to drive through Molls Gap, and as we approach the final stretch, don’t miss Ladies View – a vista that offers a sweeping panorama of the Killarney National Park. Let the breathtaking landscapes take your breath away as you reflect on the wonders of this captivating journey. You can see most of the Killarney lakes from here, this viewing point is named after the admiration from Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting during Victoria’s 1861 visit to Ireland.
10. Return to Killarney: A Farewell for Now
As this incredible adventure comes to a close, we return to Killarney with hearts full of cherished memories. For your final scenery delight, stop off at Torc Waterfall and Muckross House and Gardens, or save this for another day. The Ring of Kerry has shown us the true essence of Ireland – its natural beauty, its history, and its warm-hearted people. As you bid adieu to this remarkable route, remember that its magic will forever stay with you.