Diving the Ring of Kerry in County Kerry Ireland, we felt like we were in a James Bond movie. We were driving on the wrong side of these very narrow, winding roads. If you like to get off the beaten path and take in small towns, you will love the Ring of Kerry. The complete drive around the 111-mile ring take 3.5 hours, but with stops, you should plan for at least a day but better yet two. We allotted a day but would have liked to stop at more places. There are so many cute cafes, pubs and shop in the quaint little towns you drive through that will beckon you to visit. You will find yourself pulling over to see castles, Celtic ruins, adorable sheep and beautiful vistas.
We started on the Ring of Kerry in Killarney. We stayed at a hotel in Killarney. Killarney is a small town with lots of great restaurants with food choices spanning the globe. There are also so many great pubs you will have a hard time deciding which ones to visit. Killarney also has charming shops to explore. You could plan for a whole day to explore Killarney. The first pub we visited was the Danny Man Pub. Keith had his first Guinness, A Hop House Lager and we had fantastic food. I had a vegan curry while Keith tried their local burger made from Dingle beef. Dingle beef comes from cows on the Dingle Peninsula. They say that the meat tastes different because the cows graze on grasses that get sprayed with ocean water. So they ingest the salt thus making the meat a distinct flavor.
As I said earlier, we had to adjust to driving on the left side of the road! We chose to travel clockwise on the Ring because the tour buses take the counter-clockwise route. Going this way insured us that we would not be stuck behind a big bus or have a coach blocking our view. The first couple of times we had to pass one of these big buses while driving on the wrong side of the road was a bit scary, but it got more comfortable with time.
Kate Kearney’s Cottage
About a 10 or 15-minute drive from Killarney we were driving through the Gap of Dunloe on our way to Kate Kearney’s Cottage. The gap is very scenic with many lakes. Kate Kearney’s Cottage is a 150-year-old restaurant and pub along the Gap of Dunloe. We passed beautiful fields and horses before pulling into the parking lot of this charming, ivy-covered cottage. The shop in front of Kate Kearney’s sells local crafts. Even if you are not hungry or thirsty, this pub is worth a stop.
Killorglin is a village further along on the Ring of Kerry. Located along the River, Laune Killorglin is close to the Atlantic Ocean. There are hotels, pubs, and restaurants. This village on a hill is best known for one of Ireland's oldest, longest and most unusual festivals, Puck Fair. This annual event celebrated on the 10th, 11th and 12th of August is Ireland's oldest street festival. It a photogenic town!
Kerry Bog Village Museum
Next up we visited Kerry Bog Village Museum. This museum features six restored dwellings with thatched roofs from the 18th and 19th century. It depicts the harsh existence that people carved out for themselves in a peat bog. A bog is a wetland that accumulates peat, a deposit of dead plant material. Peat in Ireland is also fuel. It is fascinating to see how people lived and worked in Ireland during this time including the famine. This village is the only one of its kind in Europe.
Although the location of the museum is on vast bogland not all of the dwellings are original to the land. One of the houses was originally from North Kerry but now resides in the village. At the community, we learned about the importance of the bog, the equipment used to extract the turf and the wildlife native to the bog.
The Village contains four period thatched cottages and a blacksmith’s forge. The cottages contain furniture from the era and figurines of the times. At the village, we saw Kerry Bog Ponies. They initially lived a mainly feral existence in the peat bogs of County Kerry.
We also met some very friendly Irish Wolf Hounds. The Irish Wold Hound is an ancient Irish breed of dog famous for being the world’s tallest dog. The Wolf Hound was a hunting dog used in hunting larger game but not by just anybody; this dog was for the Royals only.
Another place that I would not miss on the Ring of Kerry is Ballycarbery Castle. This once proud 16th-century castle on a is now an ivy and moss-covered ruin. It is a quick stop for some fantastic pictures.
The Eightercua Stones are thought to date back to 1700 BC. They consist of 4 stones with the largest being 9 feet tall. The rocks are believed to designate a tomb of Sceine, the wife of a Milesian ruler. Note that you can’t get close to these stones because they are on private property, but you can easily view them from the road.
Killarney National Park
Not too far from the Famous Muckross House is The Killarney National Park. It’s the most extensive native forest in Ireland.
Located inside of the Killarney National Park is the Torc waterfall. The waterfall is not visible from the road but not to worry, it's only a short walk once you park your car. If you love photography, you will love visiting these falls. The 70-foot waterfall picturesquely nestled in a woods is a delight. For the best photos climb the 100 or so steps immediately to the left of the waterfall. You may even have a view of the lake. Torc waterfall is one of Killarney’s biggest tourist attractions. Many buses stop here. As a result, it can get busy and congested.
Muckross House and Gardens only 3.6 miles from Killarney is a nineteenth-century Victorian mansion. The mansion is a 65 room, three-story Tudor style with formal gardens. It too is located in the stunning beauty of the Killarney National Park. This is because much of the original estate was donated to Ireland and formed the basis of what today is Killarney National Park. Muckross House, built in 1843, is Ireland’s oldest National Park. In the 1850s extensive renovations were made in preparation for the visit of Queen Victoria in 1861. These improvement costs for the Queen's visit may have been a contributing factor in the financial difficulties suffered by the owners which resulted in the sale of the estate.
While visiting the mansion, you will be able to enjoy the magnificent views only available from this location. The Gardens at Muckross House are renowned for their beauty. In particular, they are noted for their azaleas and rhododendrons, an extensive water garden, and a beautiful rock garden made of natural limestone. There are also three traditional farms to visit. The farms demonstrate the farming methods of the 1930’s.
Driving the charming loop at the heart of County Kerry is a way to experience wild Ireland. The narrow roads surrounded by green and trees are the iconic roads you see in movies of Ireland. There are so many fascinating unmarked sites on the Ring that we do not have the names for but below is a picture tour.
Ring of Kerry
Driving the Ring of Kerry is a way to see Ireland off the beaten path. The charming villages and rugged coastline and ancient ruins are real gems. Travel slow, savor the sights, have your camera ready and enjoy the ride.
If you like castles and large manor houses, be sure to read “Enjoy the Romance of Ireland’s Exclusive Castles and Manor Houses”
Be sure to see our adventure in this 2 minute video
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