Among the many beautiful and absolutely astonishing counties of Ireland, County Kerry truly stands out. The history of Ireland is prevalent there with its several heritage sites. These same sites attract the attention of visitors from any place around the globe to see for themselves, the romanticism of old Ireland. We’re here to help and be your Kerry guide.
But First, What and Where Is Kerry?
County Kerry, in the peninsular southwest region of Ireland, is a rural Irish heartland. It aligns seamlessly with the Atlantic Ocean and it is the home of many gorgeous and astounding landscapes, well-shaped roads, and ancient heritage sites and landscape. The quirky side of County Kerry (and the distinctive accent of its residents) is what most likely draw the attention of its visitors. You will be fascinated with its corners and wherever you go you will find outstanding locations.
Here are our favourite spots and sites in County Kerry along with some activities to dwell on:
Visit Ballybunion and Its Beaches
Ballybunion or Ballybunnion is a coastal town and seaside resort in County Kerry, 15 km from the town of Listowel. What remains in the town is a single wall and two golf courses occupying the area, and one of them is the famous Ballybunion Golf Club, a top class Links course founded in 1983.
As for the beaches, with exceptional cliff walks and stunning views over Loop Head, a cliff separates two of the most popular sandy stretches here—Men’s Beach and Ladies’ Beach. Today both beaches are bona fide beauty spots for everyone to enjoy.
Go on Top of Skellig Michael
Skellig Michael is a desolate, steep, rocky island situated twelve kilometres from the coast of County Kerry. It is the larger of two pointed islands that stick out from the swell of the Atlantic Ocean and extend 230 meters straight up.
According to some legends, those two islands played a crucial role in prehistoric times, but the known history of Skellig Michael began when a monastery was established near its summit in the middle of the 7th century. It was considered an oratory for monks to worship their god and a place of solitude that can only be reached by climbing 600 stone steps.
Viking raids came through and destroyed this monastery in the 9th century and threatened the existence of this very community. Despite this, parts of the monastery survived until the 12th century, and the monastery itself is remarkably well preserved with daily boatloads of visitors from the mainland making the precarious leap to the small harbour at the bottom of the cliff.
Skellig Michael rose into popularity when it was used as the shooting location for the ever-popular Star Wars movie franchise in its recent instalments titled The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi.
Travel to the Past at Muckross House
Located in the popular town of Killarney, This fine rural estate is home to rugged horse-pulled jaunting cars, fantastic gardens, craft stores and lake views. Muckross House consists of a towering 19th-century mansion and a farm set amid the hills.
The farm aspect of the estate is a lovely homage to Ireland in the old days with its rugged simplicity, and there are lots of local treats and souvenirs available to purchase in the craft shop. At Muckross House, you’ll get a glimpse into a luxurious 18th-century life like never before.
Drive Around The Ring of Kerry
Many people have heard of County Kerry because of this destination. The Ring of Kerry is perhaps the most popular location in all Kerry and a powerful household for Irish tourism in general. It has everything: fascinating scenery, winding roads, the Atlantic ocean views, and high peaks all around. Basically, the exact image of Ireland in tourism brochures.
Moreover, you can check out the other touristic locations while on the drive like castles, stone circles, etc… The Ring of Kerry is said by many to be one of the most beautiful driving routes in the world and it doesn’t disappoint.
Stay the Night in an Irish Castle
There are several castles located in County Kerry, and some of them are really old. Whether they are huge castles or small castles, they all add something to the heritage of Kerry. Most of them are open to visits, and one of them offers for you to stay the night. Here are some:
Located inside the Killarney National Park, Ross Castle is a lakeside castle that has been around since the 15th century and gives a taste of rural life centuries ago with its super old farm.
Its incredible structure contrasts wonderfully with the timid lake before it and you can stroll off into the wilderness with the castle lighting up behind you along the way.
Another 15th-century castle and a dramatic defensive battalion that was once the last piece of defence in the region to hold out against British rule, Listowel Castle has been restored to its former shape in recent years to be open to visitors. The tours at the castle are not many, so you would want to book ahead.
Ballyseede Castle is definitely one of the best well-known castle hotels in all Ireland and has a history dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries. Set in thirty acres of native woodland in the heart of County Kerry, the castle has been wonderfully transformed into a luxurious hotel.
Ballyseede Castle is ideally located, on the main Tralee-Killarney road, two km east of Tralee in County Kerry. It is an ideal location for a memorable vacation. The castle hotel still is an imposing three-storey stone building, with a cut-stone door case, following a broad flight of steps up to the hall door. Think stand-alone baths, incredible views, fine dining and a chance to play with their resident Irish wolfhound—a night you won’t be forgetting anytime soon.
Take a Tour Inside Killarney National Park
Killarney National Park in County Kerry was established in 1932 to protect one of Ireland’s most precious natural habitats and it is sublime in every sense of the word. Covering a huge ground of idyllic wilderness, this natural wonderland offers small islands, vast lakes, a 15th-century castle and a 19th-century mansion to look at. It also features an incredible array of wildlife creatures to gaze at. The park is one of five national parks along the Wild Atlantic Way.
Take a Look at Torc Waterfall
Situated at the Ring of Kerry, Torc Waterfall is one of the most magical waterfalls you can ever see. Like all waterfalls, it is best seen after a dose of heavy rains in the area. The base of Torc Waterfall is just a five-minute walk from the car park through a beautiful green, mossy forest. At this point, if you are lucky enough to visit after heavy rainfall you will be getting a little damp from all the mist as you face an impressive, raging cascade of water which drops over 70 feet.
Play with Fungie the Dingle Dolphin
A staying resident at the harbour of Dingle in County Kerry, Fungie the dolphin has been an elective figure among the tamed animals of Ireland. Dingle is a sheer entertainer, and you can reach it by taking a boat for a playful meeting. Better still, if you don’t find Dingle around, you don’t have to pay anything.
Join a Session at Dick Macks in Dingle
Dick Macks is one of the top-rated music pubs in County Kerry and an absolute favourite for its visitors and residents alike. Opened in 1899, you can’t travel to County Kerry and not stop off for a pint or three. If you’re looking for an interesting slogan/mark, there’s a famous sign outside Dick Mack’s that reads, “Where is Dick Mack’s? Opposite the church. Where is the church? Opposite Dick Mack’s.” To this day, one half of Dick Mack’s is a standard pub and the other half is a leather shop.
The highest peak in Ireland, Carrauntoohil might pale in comparison to some of the continent’s greats (it’s only 1,038 metres high – with Mount Halti in Finland surpassing it with 1324 metres and Mount Elbrus the highest of all with 5,624 metres), but it is a challenging climb for intermediate-level hikers. There are plenty of genuinely challenging walks around the peak best undertaken supervised, especially the precipitous, slippery point known as the ‘Devil’s Ladder’. However, Carrauntoohil itself – via the most commonly walked route – is fine in moderate weather for those with hiking experience, with rewarding views from the towering metal cross that marks its peak and spectacular views across the Kerry countryside.
Go Camping on Valentia Island
There are several nice camping spots in County Kerry, especially the ones overlooking the ocean. A true camping site that stands out is Valentia Island. With its stunning views of the Skelligs island and the Atlantic, you can peacefully gaze at the horizon and the night sky with all of its stars clearly. You can check into the Valentia Island Camping and Caravan park if you don’t fancy wild camping. For events in the area, including food and music festivals in the summer, a full schedule can be found here.
Get on Top of Bray Head
Bray Head is a towering viewing point dotted around Valentia Island and it beckons with a sturdy uphill stroll towards a signal tower’s ruins sitting atop beautiful windswept cliffs. Once you’re at the top, you can embrace fascinating panoramas of the Skellig and Blasket Island and the Dingle Peninsula. It’s definitely worth the climb.
Eat Some Fresh Mussels in Portmagee
Now that you’ve decided to camp at Valentia Island or anywhere nearby, you should head over to Portmagee for lunch. This is one of the most picturesque villages in Ireland where you can enjoy some delicious food and drinks.
Visit the Blasket Islands
Uninhabited islands ridging against the Atlantic, The Blasket Islands are brimming with views and scenery. It is basically a group of fabled islands; deserted, battered by the elements, but endlessly fascinating. The enduring fascination with the Blaskets can be explained in part by the brilliance of their unique community of hardy storytellers who existed there until half of the past century. All of them had left the island at that point, but before doing so some had decided to write down their memories to preserve them.
See Inside The Fitzgerald Stadium
While it’s known that County Kerry has their own football team that participates in the league in Dublin, up there at Croke Park, it is also acknowledged that the Fitzgerald Stadium in Killarney is their one and true home. Kerry’s football team have left their mark on the history of football in Ireland as they are known as kings of the sport, and it would be nice to visit the place where it all started and still going strong.
Witness the Uragh Stone Circle
This neolithic stone circle on the Beara Peninsula is nothing short of a worthy detour on the Rings of Kerry. The towering stones overlook Lough Inchiquin and it’s fascinating to watch as you picture the old history of the people who lived around it and stare down at the hills and lakes that form their backdrop as well.
Spend the Night Stargazing
As if it hasn’t been established already, County Kerry is one of the best places in Europe to go stargazing. The night sky in certain parts of the county is eliminated with stars and absolutely free from light pollution. It’s also possible to photograph The Milky Way on a clear moonless night. Pure magic.
Red Cross City
Cathair Crobh Dearg (often referred to as The City of Shrone) is thought to be one of the oldest Christian pilgrimage sites in Ireland, having previously been an important pagan fertility site. It’s essentially a stone ráth─an ancient ring fort. The site is named after a triple pagan war goddess named Crobh Dearg (or Red Cross) who later got the title of a Saint when the site was adopted by early Christians.
In addition to religious rituals, the city has been used for other things including testing improvised explosive devices in 1915 in preparation for the 1916 Easter Rising.
Take a Photo with Charlie Chaplin’s Vacation Statue
The village of Waterville in County Kerry has been a holiday destination for many travelling celebrities to Europe over the years, but no one loved it more than the late and ever-popular actor Charlie Chaplin who got a statue in the centre of the town just for going on vacations there.
Chaplin and his family used to stay at the huge Butler Arms hotel in the Irish coastal town every year for over ten years starting in 1959. Chaplin never portrayed an Irish character or shot an adaptation in Ireland, but he was so beloved by the community there to the point that he had a permanent bronze statue of him erected. The statue comes with a plague thanking Chaplin for his humble and benevolent presence.
We hope you enjoyed this entertaining guide to visiting County Kerry. Have you ever visited this vivid county? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!