The Ring of Kerry – My Self Drive Recommendations

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(Photo Source from http://www.Ireland.com)

The most common question asked of me by my guests is for recommendations on what to see on the Ring of Kerry.  Here are my own personal tips and recommendations. I am not affiliated with anyone I reccommend, nor do I proclaim to be an expert. Here are just some hints and tips I’ve personally picked up on our many visits around the beautiful scenic drive.

Our house is ideally located right on the Ring of Kerry road. Most tour guides and indeed almost all the tour buses pass our door every morning as they set off on the most beautiful drive on the South West Coast of Ireland. Due to the popularity of the Ring of Kerry however, the road gets very busy from April onwards. There are many buses and rental cars on the road, and the number grows annually.  Given the size of the roads and the twists and bends on the roads, you will find it difficult to overtake the coaches during the high season. This is one of the reasons that I suggest to all my guests to drive the Ring of Kerry in a clockwise direction, beginning with Killarney National Park and travelling Southwards towards Kenmare.

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This would have you, turning right as you leave our home and following the signs for Killarney National Park, namely the Muckross area. There is so much to see here in Killarney I would recommend allowing a whole day for exploring. (Ross Castle, Muckross Abbey, Muckross House & Gardens, Muckross Traditional Farms, & Torc Waterfall). So for me, the Ring of Kerry starts at Torc Waterfall as you are leaving Killarney.

From Torc Waterfall, there is a wonderful scenic lake & mountain drive up to Molls Gap, passing Ladies View as you go.

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Following on from stops for photos at Ladies View and Molls Gap, the drive through the mountains takes you to the picturesque town of Kenmare. Kenmare is a beautiful town worth a stop to have a browse in the cute shops or a coffee in the welcoming pubs or cafes.

After Kenmare, we always make a beeline for Castlecove. There are plenty places of interest and view-points sign posted along the way, each of which you may stop and visit if you wish. Along the way to Castlecove, you will pass Sneem Village. A wonderfully quaint village, filled with unique tea rooms and souvenir shops. Always worth a stop. Sneem gets very busy in the high season, especially in the afternoons, when the day buses start to arrive.

The drive is breathtakingly beautiful from Kenmare. The coastal road views are stunning. (When there is no fog). Castlecove is a fabulous beach with a wonderful bar/restaurant, which has us visiting time and time again. O’Carrolls Cove, provide delicious seafood and bar food. Their seafood platter is fabulous and the bar is located right on the waterfront, with spectacular beach views. This is where we always travel to as a family when the sunny weather pays us a visit, and we easily spend a day on the beach there.

 

o carrolls cove

From O’Carroll’s Cove I always recommend a stop in Derrynane. A visit to Derrynane House is a must-visit. It is the ancestral home of Daniel O’Connell, a very important figure in modern Irish political history. Known as “the liberator” he did much for Irish equal rights in 1820s. If you have an interest in Irish history, then Derrynane House is a fantastic visit. The house is now a museum, and is very interesting. Also towards the back of the house is a beautiful idyllic beach with powdery sand.

 

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Onwards from Derrynane, the stunning coastal drive continues, and Waterville is the next main stop.  Waterville is another small Irish town. It’s picturesque as the main street is right on the ocean. It’s probably most famous for the actor Charlie Chaplin holidaying there. In fact they have a film festival named after him. There is a statue in the main street of Charlie Chaplin, which draws all the tourists. It is a big stop for all the coaches.

Following on from Waterville, instead of following the singposts for the Ring of Kerry, which would take you to Caherciveen, may I suggest the more scenic route of the Skellig Ring. The route is longer, windier, and narrower; but oh so worth it. Following the signposts for Ballinaskelligs will give you breathtaking views the Skellig Islands, from the Star Wars franchise fame. But more importantly for me, Ballinaskelligs is home to Skellig Chocolate Factory. My favourite Chocolate!!

The chocolate factory is a must-visit. The invite you to sample all the chocolates and explain how the chocolate is made and discuss the unique flavours (Teelings whiskey, gin & tonic for example. The citrus is one of my favourites.) They have a wonderful gift shop as well as a coffee shop definitely worth a visit. I always over-spend when I go to the factory. They have fantastic gift ideas, and actually I order online for birthdays, father’s day etc.

After the factory I recommend taking the VERY scenic route to the Kerry Cliffs. The road is very narrow but drivers are very courteous, yielding when appropriate. The entrance fee for the Cliffs last summer was €3 per person. The views are incredible and totally worth the entrance fee. Also in the vicinity is a great hike, called Bolus Head, which arec liff walks with unspoilt views of the Skelligs. We came upon this by chance when our visit to the Skelligs was cancelled due to a large swell in the water, making landing difficult. The Bolus Head hike was a great alternative however.

bolus head

 

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A short drive away is the harbour Village of Portmagee. It is here where most of the boats bound for Skellig Michael depart. If you wish to get on a boat to visit the Island, advance bookings are highly recommended. Due to the popularity now with the Star Wars movie, last summer, tours were booked out months in advance, and are subject to sea and weather conditions.

We have eaten in The Moorings in Portmagee on a few occasions, and let me tell you, you will not get fresher fish. The crab claws are amongst the best I have ever sampled, and my kids were very well catered for also. The staff are fabulous. Portmagee is also the gateway to Valentia Island, linked to the mainland via a bridge. I always tell my guests to go to Valentia Island over the bridge, and return to the mainland via the Car Ferry in Knightstown. Also not forgetting in Portmagee is the SKellig Island visitor centre.

Once over the bridge on Valentia Island, there is plenty to be explored. I recommend a visit to the Valentia Island website to learn the history of the island and to get the most out of your visit.

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Once back on the mainland, head for Caherciveen, a larger Kerry Town. The main attraction I recommend to guests (which was recommended to me by one of my earlier guests) is Ballycarbery Castle. Now closed to the public, you can still get a glimpse of it however. It is closeby to Cahergall Fort and Leacanabuile Fort.  All of which should be signposted in the centre of the town for a turn left.

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After Caherciveen, the drive is still very scenic. In fact, on a clear day you will be able to see a glimpse of the Dingle Pennisula in the distance. There are many lay-bys to pull in for photo worthy opportunities. Along this stretch of road, Kells Bay would be my favourite place to visit. Kells Bay House and Gardens is well worth a visit and you can easily spend an hour or two here, exploring the lush sub tropical gardens.

Back up on the main road again, the next place worth a stop is Rossbeigh Strand. I spent many hot summer days as a child here, most of Killarney population would flock to Rossbeigh Strand during a spell of fine weather. It is a stunning beach, with mountains in the background and views of Inch Strand, on the Dingle Road, in the distance.

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After a visit to Rossbeigh, I recommend getting back on the main road, through Glenbeigh Village and make a start for Caragh Lake.  Along the route are some very pretty mountains and valleys.

caragh lake

If you are on the road late and looking for dinner in this area, I highly recommend Jacks Coastguard restaurant in the Cromane area. It is well signposted back on the main road. Fish and seafood is their speciality but, like most other places, they cater for all tastes. The coastal views from the restaurant  are fabulous.

Back on the main road, you will pass through the lovely town of Killorglin, home to Puck Fair, Ireland’s oldest festival, which takes place annually from August 10th – 12th. Follow the link for more information if you are visit during these dates.

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After Killorglin, is a short 20 minute drive back to Killarney. We are on the main road on the right hand side as you approach Killarney. If you have visited everywhere on my list you are sure to be exhausted at this stage!!

I’m often asked how long will the Ring of Kerry take, and it is so diffucult to say. Some guests have done The Ring in 4.5 hours, whilst others took 13 hours (the current Sika Lodge guest record). I recommend starting early and giving yourself the whole day to get around. There is much to see, and everyone has different tastes and interests so it is difficult to say how long different people would spend in one place. I would say aim for 7-8 hours to get the most out of it.

If all this is too daunting for you, fear not!!! I would be only delighted to book you on a tour bus, where you can sit back and relax and listen to the friendly bus drivers commentary. The tour company we use collect and drop you off right to our doorstep.

Which ever way you travel the Ring of Kerry, I hope you enjoy it and appreciate the beauty as much as we do…….don’t forget the Chocolate Factory (just saying!! )

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