If you’re planning to drive around the world famous Ring of Kerry, you will not be disappointed with your decision. The Ring of Kerry is without doubt one of the most amazing coastal routes and the wonderful thing is that it can be enjoyed even without getting out of your car, if that’s something that you want! However if you’re prepared to venture outside the car, you will witness some of the most spectacular and breathtaking scenery in the world.
Obviously if you are reading this post, you are trying to prepare for your trip and so all you really need (other than this post bookmarked or screenshot) is some basic essentials. Obviously, the Ring of Kerry is best seen on a sunny day but this is Ireland so you have to make provision for inclement weather. Whatever the weather, you are on a coastal route so it’s likely to be blustery at some stage so keep a large scarf or pashmina in the car that you can drape around yourself (and your partner) easily. Something like this is also handy to use to sit on for a picnic at one of your stop off points. An umbrella isn’t likely to help on the route as it's unlikely to fare well against the coastal elements but it might be of help as you wander around some of the towns and villages on the ring. A good option is to have a waterproof jacket with a hood and a pair of boots or trainers as you’ll need them especially if you plan on getting out and about on some of the trails. Bottled water is always a good travel companion and of course you’ll want something that can be relied upon to take a decent photograph… and be sure to bring a power bank charger or a car phone charger as you don’t want to risk your battery dying with the stunning scenery you’ll want to be capture!
There are many routes and starting points you can go onto the ring; this route is suitable to be covered in one day but of course if you have more time than that, you might want to extend your stay at each stop off point; for example, this post excludes Killarney town but that would be an excellent addition and could require at least one full day or an overnight stay in Killarney or its environs to explore. For this post, we suggest you join the ring as you leave the majestic town of Killarney and head out on the N70 to Killorglin. Killorglin is a great place to stop and have a coffee; it’s a small town so park up and amble around as you meet the friendly locals. The town hosts a lively festival for three days in August called Puck Fair should you be in the area around that time, it is a most enjoyable time. There is an agreement amongst bus and tour operators that those that traverse the ring do so anticlockwise. This is because in certain parts, the road can narrow a lot and with so many buses travelling the route especially at peak times, this anti-clockwise “agreement” helps to ease traffic issues. As with any tourist route, you should be conscious of other drivers as they might not be used to driving on the Irish side of the road. Keep your distance from the vehicles in front and indicate in sufficient time should you wish to stop on your drive at any stage.
Stop Off Point One - Caragh Lake
Caragh lake is situated just off the main route between Killorglin and the village of Glenbeigh. As with a lot of the Ring of Kerry, you might find that you will encounter heavy volumes of traffic both coming towards you but also behind you. As a result, it is important to always keep your concentration especially when you’re turning off and onto the main road. You’ll need to be aware of the signposts for Caragh Lake and to also take your turn off in plenty time. It’s a freshwater lake and is included in the special area of conservation in this section of the county of Kerry.
Stop Off Point Two - Rossbeigh Beach
On a clear and fine day, once you reach Rossbeigh beach (close to the village of Glenbeigh, so keep an eye out for the signposts once you get to the village), you should be able to see the Dingle peninsula as you survey the amazing scenery even from your car! This beach is vast and has a large car park so even in busy times, there is lots of room for parking. On a sunny day, the reflection on the water is mesmerising as you take some time to sit on the rocks above the sand to survey the awesome scene. If you’re up for a swim, this is a good place to throw yourself in as it has a Blue Flag signifying its cleanliness and suitability for swimming.
Stop Off Point Three - Ballycarbery Castle
After Rossbeigh, it might be heading towards your lunch or snack time so on your way to Ballycarbery Castle, it might be an idea to stop and get a takeaway sandwich and drinks in Cahersiveen. This is a small town with lots of charming cafes, restaurants and shops so if you have some time, it is a nice pit stop. You might also want to check out the imposing Daniel O’Connell Memorial Church as you enter the town. Ballycarbery Castle is slightly off the Ring of Kerry driving route but only by about 10 minutes drive and it’s a hidden gem. It’s a castle that doesn’t have any staff or guides though and is pretty rough and ready. Parking is scarce but people are always coming and going so you should be able to get a space. It’s a unique place and dates back to the 16th century and is mainly occupied by overgrown ivy and roaming cows but it has great character and provides a stunning backdrop for your snaps! It is important though to remember that this is an unmanned castle so please be careful roaming around as there are many low and sharp edges to the ruin and also meandering steps with no guard rails to guide you!
Stop Off Point Four - Portmagee
Portmagee is such a charming and colourful fishing village with cute looking pubs, cafes and restaurants lining its short streets. In busy summer months, you might have difficulty finding parking here but persevere as it is worth it. Take a stroll through the street and relax by the pier and take in the lively atmosphere that surrounds; during summer months it does get busy. It’s possible to get a ferry to see the famous Skellig Islands here but it’s important to book in advance if you want to venture out as it only travels weather permitting. Also, note that if you take the boat trip to the Skellig, you’ll need a number of hours to cover the journey over, time to explore it and also the journey back (it’s a 12km boat trip out to the rock).
Stop Off Point Five - Geokaun Mountain
This is a real highlight but be warned, the drive over here from Portmagee is quite narrow so take your time. To get here, follow the signs for Valentia Island from Portmagee and travel over the bridge. You’ll see Geokaun signposted but it’s approximately 5km from Portmagee so keep on track - you might think you’ve lost your way but do persevere. It’s €5 entry to drive your car up the mountain and there are a few stop off points where you can safely park your car and take short walks. On the first ascent stop, you should be able to see the famous Skellig Michael off in the distance (this was used in one of the Star Wars movies) and it looks simply stunning on a clear day. You can travel with your car further up the mountain to another car parking area and it’s possible to take another hike (not too taxing at all). The scenery all around of the Kerry hills, isles and lakes is simply incredible.
Stop Off Point Six - Waterville
Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rlsmith_photos/21092188145/
After leaving Geokaun, you’ll rejoin the N70 and head towards Waterville. This large village is famous for golf, its beach and its association with Charlie Chaplin. It is a great place to stop off and have a tea/coffee or something stronger and there are a number of pubs you’ll enjoy along the sea front. You’ll also notice the monument to Charlie Chaplin which of course is worth taking a photograph with! As you travel on from Waterville up into the mountainous and winding road, you will come upon a large car park area about 5km from Waterville which at different times can be packed with other tourists. You can’t miss it as there’s a statue of the Catholic religious figure the Virgin Mary at the scene. The view from here is superb and you will likely want to take some time to sit on the wall and survey the scenery all around. Be warned: this spot can be very blustery as it is high up and exposed to the elements.
Stop Off Point Seven - Caherdaniel
There is a village of Caherdaniel but the best stop off point is the beach between Caherdaniel and Castlecove. Parking can be scarce here but it is so worth stopping off. You will know it because it has a caravan/mobile park and a beach side pub also so keep an eye out for those signs so that you can turn off the road in plenty of time. This is a small beach but it really is magical especially on a sunny day and even though it can be busy it is still a really peaceful spot.
Stop Off Point Eight - Sneem
Sneem is the finishing point for this post on the Ring of Kerry journey. Sneem is such a great large village with many high quality restaurants and pubs. It has some great craft and trinket shops too that you could easily spend an afternoon wandering around. It’s a colourful spot with the locals taking pride in the appearance of the place and there are pretty flowers and shrubs all about. It can be busy but by taking a short stroll, you can find yourself amongst the flora and fauna once again which is all around the wonderful Ring of Kerry.