Gems on the Ring

Queen Victoria adored it. Charlie Chaplin made it his holiday home and even Charles de Gaulle visited. The Ring of Kerry has attracted the great and the good (and lots in between!). Tour guide John Hickey figures out why...

Ross Castle, County Kerry

Pages and pages have been written about the Ring of Kerry. Authors have waxed lyrical about the lush beauty of Killarney National Park and the profusion of rhododendron bushes creeping up the mountainside.

Travel journalists have lauded villages like Sneem to be the quaintest on the island, and Waterville’s location to be ordained by a higher power. We don’t have that kind of space, so we’re keeping it short and we’re keeping it informed.

To do that, we asked tour guide John Hickey for his gems on the Ring of Kerry. 


“Top of the list would be Kenmare. The triangular layout of the town makes it really accessible and the house façades and shop fronts add a wonderful splash of colour. Keep an eye out for the small architectural gems such as the Carnegie Library, the Old Courthouse and the old market building, now home to a restaurant.

Also, for walking enthusiasts the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks and the Caha Mountains are at the doorstep. If you had designs on fishing in Ireland you’re in the right spot: the Kenmare River is ideal for angling.”

Derrynane House, County Kerry
Derrynane House, County Kerry


“Next on the hit list is Killorglin. Time it right, and your visit might coincide with the town’s main annual event: Puck Fair in August. The centrepiece of the fair, raised high above the populace on its elevated throne and draped in royal regalia, is the Billy Goat (yes, you read that right). Adorned with crown, its hooves polished, the goat receives its subjects with regal aplomb, who pay homage over the three days. He always looks rather pleased to be placed above the bustle of the madding crowd!

“Outside the festival, Killorglin would be a good location for exploring the area around Caragh Lake, which is southeast of the town. Again if you've got your walking boots and fishing rod, the Reeks await you and the Laune River runs alongside the town.”

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“Sneem comes in at number three. To tell you that Sneem is a several time winner of the small Tidy Towns competition is a clue to its demeanour. A place of retreat, quietude, some good books and a cosy winter fire, the town has welcomed some of the best and brightest.

“Divided in two by the River Sneem, the village is famous for having played host to some of the world’s presidents. Charles De Gaulle, Chaim Herzog and our own President Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh, to name but a few. Various monuments are evidence to their sojourns here.’”


“You may have expected me to choose Charlie Chaplin’s favourite holiday spot of Waterville or the golfing haven of Glenbeigh next. Instead, I’ll swing for Caherdaniel. Nestled on the coast with the shadow of the MacGillycuddy's Reeks at its back, Caherdaniel is a winner on location alone.

“Ireland’s ‘Emancipator’, Daniel O’Connell, once called the area his home. Miss visiting it on your Ring road-trip and you’ll kick yourself. Derrynane House sits in a pretty forested niche with Derrynane beach for company. The house itself boats matinee idol good looks and hosts gardens, a museum, a café and impressive pieces such as the great man’s Triumphant Carriage.”

So there you have it…put a ring on the Ring of Kerry when plotting your travels. It’ll be worth it!

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