Explore the Idyllic Ring of Kerry – The Ultimate Travel Guide

Updated On: December 09, 2022

The Ring of Kerry, Iveragh Peninsula Co. Kerry

If you’re holidaying in Kerry why not explore the scenic trail known as the Ring of Kerry.

The Ring of Kerry is a route that takes you through 10,000 years of geographical history. The trail will take you into the Irish countryside and around the coast of the Wild Atlantic Way. You will spot wild animals as you trail through country roads surrounded by green fields, crashing waves, beautiful forests and majestic waterfalls. 

The Irish countryside is beautiful; there are so many trails and walks to explore and the Ring of Kerry may be one of best of them all. If you want a holiday full of nature and adventure exploring the ring of Kerry should be on your bucket list.

What is the Ring of Kerry?

The Ring of Kerry is a ring road that follows the coastal outline of the Iveragh Peninsula in co. Kerry. It is a really popular loop for holiday makers who want to experience as much of the Irish countryside and coast as possible.

If you were looking for handmade Irish jewellery you are probably better off reading our article on Galway’s Claddagh Ring!

Where is the Ring of Kerry?

The Ring of Kerry is a 179lm circular route around the Iveragh Peninsula in County Kerry.

Map of Ring of Kerry
Map of the Ring of Kerry as shown by the red loop

What towns are part of the Ring of Kerry?

The following towns are part of the Ring of Kerry:

  • Killarney
  • Beaufort
  • Killorglin
  • Glenbeigh
  • Cahersiveen
  • Waterville
  • Caherdaniel
  • Sneem
  • Kenmare

How long does it take to complete the ring of Kerry?

Allowing for brief stops, the route should take a day to drive. It’s recommended that you take your time; however, the experience is most enjoyable when completed over a few days if you want to see everything in a leisurely pace.

It is recommended that you travel anti-clockwise. This is because most guided tours take an anti-clockwise route so you will be moving in the same direction as the large buses.

We drive on the left side of the road in Ireland. If you have never been to Ireland before you may not realise that many rural roads are very narrow, so you don’t want to meet large tour buses if you can avoid it, especially when you are not familiar with the area.

If you are not familiar with the area, you may prefer to go on a guided tour bus. Driving yourself gives you more freedom however; you can spend more time at the places you really like and skip the areas you are not interested in visiting, so it all comes down to personal preference and how willing you are to navigate the Irish countryside.

Wild Sheep found in the Ring of Kerry
Wild Sheep found in the Ring of Kerry

When is the best time of year to complete the Ring of Kerry?

Without a doubt, the Summer months (June-August) are the best time to experience the Ring of Kerry for a few reasons. Firstly, if you plan to explore parts of the route by bicycle, the Summer months should be drier and temperatures are usually below 20 degrees. 

Secondly, some hospitality businesses such as restaurants, cafés, guided tours and activities may operate seasonally. This is not always the case but you should be aware of this when planning your trip and check opening times in advance. 

Thirdly, the area will be busier during the Summer. You’ll meet other holiday makers and there are usually more experiences running in the area such as festivals and pub events.

Finally, if you visit Ireland during the Winter you will have less daylight hours. There are roughly 7 hours of daylight during the Winter; it gets dark by 4pm during the longest nights of the year. In the Summer you can enjoy up to 17 hours of daylight on the longest days of the year.

Things to do during your exploration of the Ring of Kerry: 

There are plenty of activities in the area to enjoy such as surfing, cycling, hill climbing, lowland walking, golf and fishing.

There are also lots of secluded beaches along the coast that you should definitely visit when in Kerry. Irish beaches are so underrated because of our rainy weather. On a fine day however, they are the perfect place to visit.

Derrynane Beach - Beaches on the Ring of Kerry
Derrynane Beach – Beaches on the Ring of Kerry

Ring of Kerry attractions to see:

Here are some great attractions in the Kerry area, we will go into more detail about some of these attractions below!:

  • Skellig monastery 6th century
  • Cahirciveen Ring Forts
  • Portmagee village
  • Valentia Island
  • Waterville Lake
  • Old Kenmare Cemetery
Taken from Geokaun Mountain on Valentia Island Feaghmaan West, County Kerry, Ireland - Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash
Taken from Geokaun Mountain on Valentia Island Feaghmaan West, County Kerry, Ireland

There is plenty of variety in the ring of Kerry. From the idyllic country roads, surrounded by green fields, to mountains and the rugged coastline, you’ll find yourself stopping quite often to take another picture of the scenery. That’s even without mentioning the various towns and villages you will encounter, each with its own charm and hospitality.

The central and western parts of the Iveragh Peninsula (Uíbh Ráthach) make up part of the Kerry Gaeltacht region. Gaeltacht’s are scattered throughout rural Ireland, and are locations where Irish is the main language spoken. 

You can usually find great traditional Irish pubs in Gaeltacht regions. These pubs may feature céilí dance sessions and live traditional Irish music sessions at night!

The majority of locals are also fluent in English, but if you want to experience traditional Ireland at its most authentic you may wish to visit a Gaeltacht region in Kerry.

Points of Interest to visit in the Iveragh Peninsula

Killarney 

When starting or finishing your exploration of the ring of Kerry, you may find yourself in Killarney, a vibrant town packed full with history, heritage and hospitality.

There are lots of walking trials and sporting activities to enjoy in the Killarney area. You won’t go hungry either; there are lively bars, great restaurants and many live music venues. There’s plenty of festivals that are held annually which always creates an additional buzz in the already cheerful town.

Tourism is a vital part of Killarney’s industry and locals will only be delighted to welcome you to their hometown.

Killarney National Park is located near the town. It was actually the first National Park created in Ireland and has been open since 1932. The 102km park is home to a wide array of flora and fauna and includes the lakes of Killarney and the Purple mountains.

Drone footage of Killarney town and the surrounding countryside

The MacGillycuddy’s Reeks

MacGillycuddy’s Reeks is the highest mountain range in Ireland. Carrauntoohil is part of the MacGillycuddy Reeks and it is the highest mountain peak in Ireland, reaching 1,038.6 metres tall. 

Carrauntoohil is a difficult climb and should only be completed by novices with the company of a guide. 

View from the summit of Ireland's highest peak Carrauntoohil - Photo by Elle Leontiev on Unsplash
View from the summit of Ireland’s highest peak Carrauntoohil

Skellig Michael Monastery

Skellig Michael (Sceilg Mhchíl) is located to the west of the Iveragh Peninsula. The island is named after the archangel Michael, while ‘Skellig’ derives from an Irish word which means ‘splinter of stone’. Skellig Michael is also known as Great island and is considered a twin island alongside the uninhabited ‘Little Skellig’ beside it.

You have probably heard of Skellig Michael before. Even if the name isn’t familiar there is a good chance that you have already seen the island a few times. This is because it has been used as a filming location in multiple Star Wars films including:

  • The Force Awakens (2015)
  • The Last Jedi (2017)
  • The Rise of Skywalker
A long time ago, in a county far far away – Filming Star Wars at Skellig Michael

The island of Ireland has a beautiful and diverse landscape, so it’s no surprise that so many blockbuster films (and one very popular TV show in particular) have movies filmed in Ireland.

Skellig Michael is known for its Gaelic monastery which was founded somewhere between the 6th and 8th century. The monastery is in unusually good condition with the remains of a tower house, megalithic stone row, and multiple ‘beehive huts’ preserved. The island is only accessible during the summer months for safety reasons, and visitor numbers are limited to protect the site.

The monastic settlement is home to a variety of species including puffins and seals. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996

Explore the beauty of Skellig Michael with amazing drone footage!

Valentia Island

Did you know that Valentia island is one of the most westerly points in Ireland? You can find it just off the Iveragh Peninsula in the South West of Co. Kerry. 

You can travel to the island by bridge or sea. The Maurice O’Neill memorial bridge at Portmagee links the island to the mainland and is free to use. 

Visitors will enjoy the beautiful scenery on the island which has been shaped by crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean. Why not visit the Valentia lighthouse and stand on the edge of Europe while you learn more about the local history.

Knightstown is the main town on the island. Chapelstown is another smaller village on the island. 

There are over 600 people on the island, but it can be quite busier during the Summer months as there are some holiday homes in the area.

There are 3 pubs, namely Boston’s Bar, The Royal Hotel and Ring Lyne which all serve food.

There are so many beautiful islands scattered around the mainland of Ireland, we even have an article dedicated to 10 more of our favourite Irish islands that you must visit!

Things to do after completing the ring of Kerry: Explore Valentia Island

Thank you for reading this article, we hope that it has inspired you to visit Kerry! The Ring of Kerry offers so much to those who wish to experience the beauty and variety that the Irish countryside has to offer.

Whether you choose to complete the ring of Kerry while adventuring across the Wild Atlantic Way, or only have a day to spend in Kerry, there are so many things to see and do.

While, you are here why not check out more articles about hidden gems in Ireland such as:

Fairy Island in Fermanagh | 6 of the best places for an Irish staycation | 10 Charming Irish Towns You Must Visit | Famous Irish Lighthouses and Where to Find Them | 5 Reasons to visit Achill Island