Pages and pages have been written about the world-famous Ring of Kerry in County Kerry. Authors have waxed lyrical about the lush beauty of Killarney National Park, travel journalists have claimed villages like Sneem to be the quaintest on the island, and poets and songwriters have fallen under its spell.
But if you’re looking for some off-the-beaten-track recommendations while exploring this part of the Wild Atlantic Way, here’s where we think you should go on your next road trip…
The triangular layout of Kenmare and the house façades and shopfronts add a wonderful splash of colour to this bright town. Keep an eye out for the small historic buildings that are now being used as modern cultural and exhibition spaces, such as the Carnegie Arts Centre, the Old Courthouse (now the Kenmare Heritage Centre) and the Kenmare Butter Market.
For walking enthusiasts, the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks and the Caha mountain range are right on your doorstep. Wildlife watchers can enjoy one of the Seafari Boat Trips, and if you had designs on fishing in Ireland you’re in the right place: the Kenmare River is the perfect spot for angling.
Time it right and your visit to Killorglin might coincide with the town’s main annual event: the Puck Fair in August. No one is really sure when the Puck Fair began, but there are some references to it dating as far back as the 17th century! Today, you can enjoy live music, a parade, a fun fair and amazing street entertainment.
Outside the festival, Killorglin would be a good location for exploring around Caragh Lake, which is southeast of the town. You’re still close enough to the MacGillycuddy's Reeks as well if you’d like to explore by foot, and the Laune River runs alongside the town if you’d like to indulge in some angling.
To tell you that Sneem is a several-time winner of the Tidy Towns competition is a clue to its demeanour. A place of retreat and quietude, this is the kind of spot where you can spend the day with some good books by a cosy fire. However, in spite of its humble atmosphere, the town has welcomed some of the best and brightest, including Charles de Gaulle and Chaim Herzog.
While you're here, treat yourself to some luxury pampering or one of the many activities available at Parknasilla Resort. Or, if you'd like to immerse yourself in nature while relaxing, you can always soak up the views (and yourself!) at the Sneem Seaweed Baths.
D O'Shea's bright pink exterior makes it hard to miss, but it's also the first place locals will recommend, so a stop at this traditional Irish pub and restaurant is a must. Many consider it to be Sneem's beating heart, serving great food, drinks and live music. Food-wise, the emphasis here is on fresh and local, with many restaurants such as The Blue Bull and Sacre Coeur serving mussels caught in Kenmare Bay and meat from the town's butchers.
Nestled on the coast with the shadow of the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks at its back, Caherdaniel is a winner on location alone. The small village is home to Derrynane House, the ancestral home of Ireland’s “Liberator”, Daniel O’Connell, which sits in a truly idyllic spot facing the sublimely beautiful Derrynane Beach, with its white sands and crystal clear waters. The house itself contains gorgeous gardens, a museum, café and O’Connell’s Triumphal Chariot, amongst other personal items.
If you'd like to get to know the area a little better, join local man, Vincent Hyland, on the free Derrynane Seashore Nature Trail. Meet Vincent at Derrynane House, and he'll take you on an amazing 1.2km walk exploring nature, marine life and the great sights of the area. Or, if you'd like to see a unique view of Derrynane Bay, head to the ruins of Derrynane Abbey. Only accessible at low tide, the short trek to the abbey will take you across lovely sand dunes. The views that await are well worth the walk!
So, which of these hidden gems will you be visiting first?