The Ring of Kerry: the jewel of Ireland’s scenic drives

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by Conrad - 12 March 2015

The Ring of Kerry is a 179-km circular route on the Iveragh Peninsula in County Kerry in the southwest of Ireland. Primarily a coastal route, the road winds its way between picturesque lakes, lush waterfalls, stark seascapes and the ruins of ancient cultures that lived on the peninsula thousands of years ago. Although the Ring of Kerry can be completed in a day, the timelessness of the scenery calls out to be explored at length.

Your journey begins and ends in Killarney, which serves as a tourist hub for the Ring of Kerry. Killarney is known for its famous lakes, which can be seen in all their splendour from the Ladies View outside of town. Or, explore Torc Waterfall, a 20-meter waterfall that also offers lake views. Don't miss Ross Castle, a refurbished castle that is open to the public and offers hiking trails and boat excursions.

From Killarney, take N72 and proceed west to Killorglin, a charming town on the River Laune. Every August Killorglin hosts the 400-year-old Puck Fair, the oldest traditional fair in all of Ireland. In Killorglin, you'll meet N70 and continue west to Glenbeigh with its famous Bog Village made up of six traditional, rural Irish dwellings with thatch roofs. Be sure to visit Rossbeigh Beach, one of the most popular stretches of sand in all of Kerry.

As you continue on your journey, you'll be treated to dazzling views of Dingle Bay. Cahersiveen is a harbour town with a beautiful lighthouse. From Cahersiveen, you can embark on a side trip to the fishing village of Portmagee or take the ferry to Valentia Island, which is also accessible by bridge from Portmagee. Valentia Island has surprisingly lush, tropical vegetation fed by the Gulf Stream that warms the tip of the peninsula.

Once you've explored Cahersiveen and its enchanting environs, head south to Waterville, which has, as you might expect, gorgeous seascapes and views of Ballinskelligs Bay. It's also a great place for fishing and golf. As you make your way to Caherdaniel, you'll travel through Coomakista Pass with some of the best views of the Iveragh Peninsula.

In Caherdaniel, be sure to visit the circular stone fort built during the Iron Age. Even more extraordinary, the countryside and surrounding views have remained the same as when Dónall built the fort 2,500 years ago. Also worth a visit is the Derrynane House, the home of Daniel O'Connell, one of Ireland's most important political figures.

From Caherdaniel, head east to Sneem a colourful village whose name means 'knot'. Don't be surprised if you find yourself compelled to explore Sneem's scenic squares and charming lanes. The last stop on the ring is Kenmare, one of Ireland's heritage towns and world renowned for its lace. To return to Killarney, you'll take N71: a long and winding road through Molls Gap, which offers beautiful views of Macgillycuddy's Reeks and the surrounding lakes in Killarney National Park.

Of course, being a circular route, you can travel the Ring of Kerry in either direction, but be advised that the tour buses travel in the direction we've shown here. No matter which way you travel, you'll be treated to some of the most stunning scenery in all of Ireland.

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