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In essence, the Ring of Kerry is the ring road that follows the coastal contours of Kerry’s Iveragh Peninsula. The Ring of Kerry is one of Ireland’s most famous circuits and a popular holiday route to drive. Much more than a simple driving route, the Ring of Kerry is an iconic destination wrapped in a stunning visual history, with diverse wildlife scattered across Ireland’s lush green hills.
Kerry has three peninsulas, which are the Dingle Peninsula, the Iveragh Peninsula, and the Beara Peninsula from north to south.
The Ring of Kerry drive is located on the Iveragh Peninsula County Kerry, in the southwest of Ireland. Tucked along part of the Wild Atlantic Way, the Iveragh Peninsula is southwest Ireland’s most popular and iconic site.
The Ring of Kerry is actually the ring road (the N70) that circumnavigates the Iveagh Peninsula. Running from Killarney to Kenmare, along Kenmare Bay passing the villages of Sneem and Caherdaniel, then heading north along the Skellig Road and along the northern shores of the peninsula before circling back to Kilarney.
To make the most of your experience along this scenic route, we suggest you dedicate most of your day to discovering the local culture and nature in order to shorten your driving time. Take a break from driving and visit amazing places such as the world-famous Skellig Michael, filming location of the recent Star Wars movies, before journeying on a relaxing boat ride through the beautiful lakes of Killarney.
For many people, driving the Ring of Kerry is the ‘classic’ way to visit, but for those seeking a more active and off the beaten track experience, a great alternative method is to hike the mountains of Kerry on a guided tour. Not only will you get to scale Ireland’s best mountains including the incredible Carrantouhil, Ireland’s highest peak by day, you’ll also get to relax in some of southwest Ireland’s finest deluxe accommodation. What a reward for scaling Kerry’s impressive peaks!
Another really cool way to experience Kerry’s gems is by cycling the Kerry Peninsulas – this challenging route is full of exhilarating climbs and descents contains several of Ireland’s top bike routes.
In theory, you could drive around the Ring of Kerry in one full day – but it seems a shame to cram such wondrous sightseeing opportunities into a small amount of time. You’ll find it far more rewarding to take the time to explore this iconic location savouring each moment and creating unforgettable lifelong memories.
With our scenic self driving tour you can dedicate a whole seven days to exploring the beauty of the Ring of Kerry. You will also have the luxury to hike some of the most beautiful areas in Ireland. Include a cultural trip to the Skellig Islands, filming locations for Star Wars Episode VII and VIII as well as home to 7th century monastic ruins, then head off to Valencia Island to walk in the footsteps of dinosaurs! On your journey, stop at castles, historic sites and ancient stone circles.
While our self drive tour of the Ring of Kerry starts at Shannon Airport for the sake of convenience, the real Ring of Kerry starts once you arrive on the ring road – often in Killarney. There’s no right or wrong way to drive the Ring of Kerry. That said, we recommend that you drive the ring road clockwise as the views are on the left hand side of the road (and we drive on the left in Ireland!), which makes it easier to pull over and stop. The buses leave early in the morning from Limerick and Shannon, and tend to drive counter-clockwise. Do keep in mind that the roads can be narrow, so take care when driving around bends. If you’re not comfortable driving on Irish roads, we recommend doing a guided tour instead; there are private and small group options.
The route ends wherever you decide to leave the peninsula, but the most popular end is the same place you started: Killarney. The town is lively with plenty of choices for food, music and pubs, and Killarney National Park is literally right on the town’s doorstep.
The Ring of Kerry is a driving route, which you can explore at your own pace. However, if you do choose to explore the wild and off the beaten path landscapes at the interior of the ring road, you’ll need to be an experienced hiker with the proper equipment, as this is where you’ll find Carrauntoohil, Ireland’s highest mountain, as well as the mountains of the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks, the Gap of Dunloe and more – meaning that this is a region best explored with an experienced mountain guide.
While you’re in this part of the world, visit the Skellig Islands, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Once home to monks who lived on the isolated rocks as penance between the 6th and 12th century, Skellig Michael is full of the monks’ beehive huts, chapels and more. Little Skellig, the smaller of the two islands, is home to huge colonies of gannets, puffins, seals, dolphins and basking sharks. Catch a boat to the Skelligs from Portmagee, but remember that they are 11km offshore, and therefore boat sailings are weather dependant. Also, due to their popularity and protected nature, the number of boats are limited, so book your spot early.
Take a short detour from the road to the famous mountain pass, the Gap of Dunloe, which slices through the MacGillycuddy Reeks. The narrow road winds through the pass into the Black Valley passing five beautiful lakes.
The Gap of Dunloe is approximately 11 km from north to south. You could drive it but the best way to travel the Gap of Dunloe is by bike. Take a boat ride from Ross Castle in Killarney National Park with your bike to Lord Brandon’s Cottage and cycle back through the Gap of Dunloe to Kate Kearney’s cottage.
The glacial valleys of Moll’s Gap are one of the most dramatic views on the Ring of Kerry route. On the road between Killarney and Kenmare, Moll’s Gap boasts the ultimate view of the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks mountain range, the predominant mountain range of the Iveragh Peninsula. It derives its name from Moll Kissane who set up an illicit bar here during the 19th century. Moll’s Gap is the highest point on the Ring of Kerry with a 235 metre climb.
Ladies View is the first viewing point you’ll meet – or the last, depending on which direction you drive the Ring of Kerry. Ladies View is named after Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting who saw it in 1861 and gaped in awe at the majestic valley spreading out before them. Just 16km from Killarney, it provides a panoramic painting of the lakes and mountains of Kerry.
Jul 01, 2022
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