Trip idea: Ring of Kerry

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Drive the picturesque loop at the heart of County Kerry and get ready to experience Ireland at its wildest

Rugged islands, white-sand beaches, dramatic mountain passes and a royal goat – the Ring of Kerry works its magic as you travel from rugged coastline to charming villages and buzzing towns. You can do it all in a day, but our advice? Go slow, savour the sights, get off the beaten track, and see what has made this driving route one of the most popular on the island of Ireland.

Ring of Kerry

Ring of Kerry

Bring an open mind, a good camera and a sense of adventure – the Ring of Kerry offers a rare escape into some of the most breathtaking landscapes Ireland has to offer. From island-studded Atlantic panoramas to cosy traditional pubs, prepare to meet a masterpiece.

A driving 23 mins
Killarney

Kicking it off in Killarney

Looking for fine food, great festivals and trad music pubs where the craic is mighty? Killarney has it all. This vibrant town has an undeniable energy that makes it a lively counterpoint to the stunning natural landscapes that surround it. Travellers have been lured here since the mid-18th century, drawn by Killarney's great atmosphere and friendly vibes. Feast on an abundance of seafood fresh from the Atlantic at Quinlan's Seafood Bar; feel the joyous beats of a traditional music session in Murphy's Bar; and visit the stupendously beautiful Muckross House and Gardens, a 19th century mansion surrounded by majestic grounds. But make sure to keep some energy, the Ring of Kerry is just about to start...

Don't miss

Killarney National Park is built for cycling. The gradients are slight and the paths are smooth. If you’d like to cycle some more of Kerry, Killarney Rent a Bike can provide you with the wheels to do so.

B driving 23 mins
Killorglin

Where goats are crowned king...

With the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks mountain range and Ireland’s tallest mountain, Carrauntoohil, drawing attention to your left, this first stretch of the Ring of Kerry takes you through serene pastoral landscapes and narrow tree and hedge-lined roads. As you reach the town of Killorglin, you might notice the statue of a goat perched proudly on a large boulder. This is King Puck. Every year, a wild mountain goat is crowned king and a festival erupts in the town with several days of music, dancing and unbeatable fun. Thought to have its origins in pagan times, Puck Fair is Ireland's oldest festival with official records dating back to the early 17th century. If you're not in town around festival time at the beginning of August, don't worry – Killorglin is an enjoyable melting pot of pubs, cafés and galleries.

If you have more time

Like views? Like golf? Then make your way to Killorglin Golf Club, considered to be one of the most scenic courses on the island.

C driving 14 mins
Rossbeigh Strand

Into the heart of the Kerry landscape

Leaving Killorglin, the scenery ramps up as you head towards Glenbeigh, a peaceful village that basks in beauty thanks to the vast sands of Rossbeigh Strand, as well as the surrounding hills and mountains. Walk, horseride, swim, surf and hike or simply sit and watch the light play over the landscapes – it's really something special.

If you have more time

A short detour from the N72, the Gap of Dunloe slices narrowly through the MacGillycuddy Reeks mountains. Beginning at Kate Kearney’s cottage, the walk through is a 5-mile round-trip treat of mountains, lakes and curving roads. Pony and trap rides, tours and organised day trips are also available.

D driving 26 mins
Barracks Heritage Centre, Cahersiveen (Photo @storytravellers)

A western town with plenty of intrigue

Known as the gateway to the Skellig Ring, Cahersiveen is one of the westernmost towns in Europe. Sitting at the foot of Bentee Mountain, the town has a fascinating history that can be traced through its 7th century stone fort and the beautiful 15th century Ballycarbery Castle. But it's the Old Stone Barracks that gives Cahersiveen an unusual edge. This heritage centre was built as a police station for the Royal Irish Constabulary in the 1870s, but local rumour suggests that the turreted "scholss-style" pile was actually built in error. According to some accounts, the British authorities were in such a race to have the station built that they mixed things up resulting in the plans for a building in India being used. Fact or fiction? We couldn’t say, but it’s a great story either way.

Don't miss

The Skellig Ring lies off the Ring of Kerry and shouldn't be missed on any trip here. There are stunning beaches, exceptional Atlantic views, the island of Valentia, and trips out to the 6th century island monastery of Skellig Michael.

E driving 19 mins
Charlie Chaplin statue, Waterville

Where Charlie Chaplin came to relax...

Heading towards Waterville, the roads twist and turn as you're brought through craggy landscapes bounded on one side by the Skellig Peninsula, with glimpses of the ocean adding blue to the vast stretches of green. This is pure escape in a part of Ireland that is legendary for its wild beauty. Heading into the village, it's easy to see the appeal of this bucolic seaside spot. Backed by deep green mountains and facing the Atlantic Ocean, this coastal gem is a top destination for hill walking, golfing and angling. And at night, don't forget to look up – this part of the island is an International Dark Sky Reserve and is one of only three Gold Tier Dark Sky Reserves on the planet. Stunning landscapes by day; majestic skies by night – welcome to Waterville!

Come at festival time

Waterville was a favourite holiday spot of Charlie Chaplin, and the village celebrates his memory every year with the Charlie Chaplin Comedy Film Festival in August.

F driving 21 mins
Derrynane

A break by the beach...

Sitting on a soft green hill overlooking the pristine white sands of Derrynane beach, the worries of the world feel a million miles away. Gently lapped by aquamarine seas and backed by rolling green hills, the butter-smooth sands here are made for walking, relaxing, thinking... with beautiful sea views and quaint little coves. Close to the beach, Derrynane House feels like its been lifted from the pages of a 19th century novel with its beautiful setting and stunning grounds. This was the home of Daniel O'Connell, one of Ireland's greatest politicians in the 19th century. Visit the house, enjoy a coffee in the former stables and explore the whimsical woods beyond – it's a special place.

If you have more time

Just west of Sneem, Staigue Fort and the surrounding area are believed to have been used for both defence and worship. One of the largest ring forts in Ireland, the walls reach some 18ft high with some sections measuring 13ft thick. Experts believe the fort predates St Patrick’s arrival in Ireland.

G driving 27 mins
Sneem

Enjoy the rural beauty of Sneem

It's got a charm all of its own, Sneem. The neat colourful houses lined around the village square give this delightful little spot a real picture-postcard feel. Divided into a small north and south village by a gentle river, this place is almost dwarfed by the majestic scenery that surrounds it. Park up, walk around and enjoy the special atmosphere and unique way of life of this remote coastal gem.

If you have more time

Close to the village, the acclaimed resort of Parknasilla makes a wonderful retreat for a few days, with gorgeous woodland walks and coastal trails.

H driving 29 mins
Kenmare

Old-school charms in Kenmare

The landscape changes dramatically as you leave Sneem with pretty woodland framing the road as it winds and weaves towards the town of Kenmare. Along the way, drop in for a bowl of seafood chowder in the Boathouse at Dromquinna Manor, with stunning views over Kenmare Bay. Winding into Kenmare you'll find a never-ending stream of knitwear stores, great restaurants and lively seafood spots. In Kerry’s first Heritage Town, traditional charm mixes with contemporary cool with smart galleries sitting alongside old-world pubs, antiques shops, bookshops and delis. Buy an Aran sweater, feast on Kerry's finest seafood at Tom Crean Fish and Wine and enjoy the eclectic atmosphere of this enjoyable little town.

I driving 12 mins
Moll's Gap

A mountain pass with breathtaking views

Be prepared – the next stretch of road will bring you through impossibly beautiful mountain passes as you head towards the incredible Moll's Gap. Named after Moll Kissane who set up an síbín (illicit bar) here in the 19th century, the "gap" is an outstanding stretch of curving road enhanced by a scattering of lakes and the hulking presence of the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks mountain range. Stop at the Avoca Handweavers store, set on a rocky ridge. It's a fitting place to enjoy the sweep of mountain, river and lakes that serenely stretch out below you.

J
Lakes of Killarney

Park life with a twist...

Keep going and your route will take you through Killarney National Park. A steep-sided hill on one side and Lough Leane followed by Muckross Lake on the other mark this stretch as something special. Once you reach Muckross House, it’s time to decide how to explore the park itself. A varied collection of mountains, lakes, forests and even a waterfall, this is a landscape of unique visual beauty. How you see it is up to you.

If you have more time

Take a trip on a traditional jaunting car – an old fashioned pony and carriage – around Killarney National Park.

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Beyond the Ring of Kerry

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