Top Things To Do on The Ring of Kerry
The Ring of Kerry: What to see and do along the route
The Ring of Kerry is located in the Southwest corner of Ireland in County Kerry. It came to life in Victorian times after Queen Victoria’s visit to Killarney. Now, one of Ireland’s most popular scenic drive’s it is 180kms of magnificent coastal scenery. Part of the Wild Atlantic Way, the Ring of Kerry offers an amazing variety of things to do, in and amongst the awe-inspiring seaside landscapes.
Introducing you to some of Ireland’s visible and enthralling variety of history you can stop and visit early Christian settlements, Ogham Stones or Wedge Graves along the way. There are terrific views in all directions, including that of Skellig Michael. This amazing rocky island was inhabited in early Christian times by a dedicated and hardy group of Monks and more recently, made famous by Star Wars.
Naturally, for active loving people, we strive to find those little hidden gems, off the beaten track, away from “coach tour” country and introduce you to our favourite places on this amazing journey. All of these, we think, are well worth a visit.
You can drive the route on a day trip, cycle it in a week or hike it in 11 day on our tours.
Come join us, virtually, as we travel the Iveragh Peninsula along the Ring.
Located just outside and south of Killarney National Park, continue along the N71 to the wonderfully scenic Molls Gap. Along the road you will enjoy panoramic views of the MacGillycuddy Reeks, home to Carrauntoohil – Ireland’s highest mountain.
As you make your way from Killarney you can get a preview of what lies in store at “Ladies View” look out point. Further along, close to the Gap you can also gaze through the “Gap of Dunloe” and enjoy a tea or coffee in the beautiful Avoca Hand weavers.
The great thing about Molls Gap, and the Gap of Dunloe is there are so many options to enjoy these routes – by car, by bus, by bike or horse and carriage.
Everyone knows about Killarney, its lakes, its National Park and all else it has to offer. But what about the other large town on the southern side of the Ring of Kerry? Located on the shores of Kenmare Bay, this wonderful town is not quite a hidden gem but it certainly is a jewel in the crown.
While you are here you can visit a wonderful Stone Circle dating back to the Bronze Age. It is one of the largest in the south west of Ireland, uniquely “egg” shaped. There is a boulder dolmen in the centre – possibly marking an ancient burial site.
Visit Holy Cross Church, standing in the middle of town. This stunning piece of architecture dates to the 1800s and is decorated with some wonderful stained glass and mosaics.
Check out Verart – a sculpture garden on the outskirts of town filled with quirky art and a hidden treehouse!
Kenmare is also famous for its lace. Visit the Tourist Office to see an exhibition of lace made by the Poor Clare Convent School pupils in the 1860’s.
Or why not visit one incredibly creative jeweller (P.F. Kelly) in Kenmare who was the first to make an actual Ring of Kerry. Beautifully crafted and available in Gold or Silver with emeralds and diamonds these rings symbolise the love and birth of the original race of people who lived here over 3,000 years ago.
Travel west from Kenmare, passing the beautiful Blackwater Bridge and enjoy wonderful views of Kenmare Bay. The glorious Parknasilla will be along your journey as you travel to the glorious and picturesque village of Sneem. Known as the “knot” in the Ring it has a stunning river dividing the village North Square from the South Square.
Well known for its salmon fishing many years ago, there is a beautiful Pyramid Garden and River Walk to enjoy here, along with a sensory garden. Why not enjoy time on the Millenium Seat beside a Tree of Light.
Situated in the South Square, facing the sports field, is a bronze life-size statue of John Egan, a local legend and esteemed Kerry Gaelic footballer of the 1970s and 1980s.
Savour the atmosphere of this little village, before you continue your journey west.
It is well worth taking a detour as you travel further west from Sneem to visit the amazing Staigue Fort. This Ring Stone Fort dates to the Iron Age and is one of the largest and most impressive in Ireland.
The walls are a staggering 5.5m high (18ft) and 4m thick (13ft) but what makes it so incredible is the dry stone wall technique used in its construction. Not one piece of cement or mortar can be found here. Perhaps it was a Celtic Tribal Centre, or maybe just a local chieftains home – but whatever it was – it leaves us a remarkable piece of history.
Caherdaniel and Derrynane
On arrival to Caherdaniel, you are greeted with the idyllic Carroll’s Cove inviting you to wander down to the beach and test the water temperature. In season – there is a terrific beachside café here with super food. In the village of Caherdaniel, the Blind Piper serves wonderful tea, coffee or Guinness.
From here, you have several options with Derrynane House and Gardens less than 2 kms away offering wonderful walking, safe swimming, horse-riding or boat trips to the Skellig Island.
This was once the home of Daniel O’Connell, Ireland’s famous Liberator who gave his name to O’Connell Street in Dublin.
Enjoy a magnificent hike from the house, onto the Blue Flag Derrynane Beach and then along a Mass Path to follow the Kerry Way Walking Route back to where you began. Passing an ancient Ogham Stone, you can continue your hike to visit an amazing Wedge Grave in this archaeologists’ paradise. Make sure you see the Ring Fortress that gives the village of Caherdaniel its name.
Perhaps you’d like to book into a workshop with local seaweed harvester, John Fitzgerald. On our 7-Day Guided Kingdom of Kerry Hike, John joins us in Derrynane for an immersive seaweed walk (complete with seaweed tastings), as he explains and demonstrates a variety of local seaweed species and uses.
Situated right on the Wild Atlantic Way, did you know that Waterville was a favourite holiday location for Charlie Chaplain and Walt Disney? Both men loved to fish and Lough Currane just outside Waterville boasts fantastic fishing.
Lough Currane is also home to Church Island with its magnificent Early Christian monastic remains.
That’s before we even mention Waterville Golf Club or the new Skellig Bay Golf Course.
Waterville sits on the shores of Ballinskelligs Bay, on the Skellig Ring, and it would be such a shame not to go across to the other side of the bay to see the magical things you will find over there.
Ballinskelligs is where the Monks founded another monastic settlement after they left the Skellig Island in the 12th century.
There is a wonderful hike at Bolus Head offering the best views possible of Skellig Michael and the Little Skellig which is home to Ireland’s largest colony of nesting gannets. This 9km looped walk will really take your breath away as you enjoy the amazing views it offers.
After your hike, we suggest you refresh body and soul with a visit to the wonderful Skellig Chocolate Factory. Then continue over the hill, passing the Kerry Cliffs (over 300m high and incredibly spectacular) before descending to Portmagee.
The Kerry Cliffs are widely acknowledged as the most breathtaking cliffs in the Kerry region. Towering over 1000 feet above the untamed Atlantic, the cliffs also offer the closest viewing point for the impressive Skellig Islands. Kerry Cliffs are also a popular spot for bird watching enthusiasts.
Portmagee & Valentia Island
Portmagee may be the starting point for many who visit the Skellig Islands, made famous by Star Wars, but it was originally a smuggling port. Then came the historical trans-Atlantic cable that linked Valentia Island with America and so this tiny little corner of Ireland was suddenly on the world stage.
Valentia Island offers you a beautiful walk at Geokaun Cliffs, and the famous slate quarry is also worth a visit. Knightstown at the eastern end of Valentia Island is a beautiful location and you can take the ferry from here back to Reenard Point and into Cahersiveen.
The Old Barracks here is well worth a visit here, as is the beautiful and ornate Daniel O’Connell Memoria Church of the Holy Cross, which is the only church in Ireland to be named after a layman.
Take to the trails and enjoy the Beentee looped hike above the town or, if feeling adventurous, venture up to the Pilgrim mountain of Cnoc na dTobar at 690 metres high.
Also worth your time is the Cahergall Fort, located near Cahersiveen. This large stone fort was constructed around 600AD and is one of the best examples of early medieval stone forts found on the Ring of Kerry.
Bealach Oisin & Ballaghbeama
Finally, why not complete your Ring of Kerry by detouring off the N70 at Cahersiveen and go the inland route via Bealach Oisin and Ballaghbeama Passes. This ancient road way cuts through the heart of the Ring of Kerry to Glencar, then travels under the McGillycuddy Reeks to the Gap of Dunloe and finally back to Killarney. This is one of our favourite cycling days on our Ring of Kerry Self-Guiding Cycle Holiday.
Now that you are back in Killarney, you’ll want at least another day to explore the town and visit the magnificent Killarney National Park. Here, you can enjoy many fantastic hikes, and also some terrific cycles. That’s before we even introduce you to Ross Castle, Muckross House and our favourite Muckross Abbey. When looking for things to do along the Ring of Kerry, you mustn’t miss the castles!
Cycling The Ring of Kerry
Of course, one the best things to do on the Ring of Kerry (in our opinion) is an outdoor adventure. Interested in a cycling tour in Ireland, but worried that you don’t have enough cycling experience? The Ring of Kerry is an excellent route for you.
Our Self-Guided Ring of Kerry Cycle is an ideal Ireland bike tour for novice cyclists. Cruise along quiet country roads, wind your way through the stunning Gap of Dunloe, meander through serene Killarney National Park and soak in some of Ireland’s most spectacular scenery.
What’s more, you don’t necessarily have to ride a road bike on your adventure. We also offer top-of-the-line e-bikes, for those who’d like a little extra power on the uphills.
LUXURY OPTION: For those seeking a bespoke level of comfort and ambiance, our Luxury Self-Guided Ring of Kerry Cycle features the finest accommodations along the route, including five-star Relais & Châteaux and Killarney’s Premier Historic Hotel. Perfect for celebrating an anniversary, honeymoon or birthday – or simply for those who love to travel in style!
Hiking The Ring of Kerry
If you’d like to explore the Wild Atlantic Way on foot, we offer a number of Self-Guided Ring of Kerry hiking tours – 5, 8 and 11-day tours. The Kerry Way hiking route runs parallel to the Ring of Kerry driving route.
Our Kingdom of Kerry Guided Hiking Tour combines the Kerry Way with the Dingle Way on the Dingle Peninsula. The Dingle Way route takes you from Tralee, along the Kerry Camino and along the most westerly point in Europe.