Essential Kerry & Cork Peninsulas in Five Days (Road Trip Itinerary)

Foaming seas, staggering cliffs, ancient constructs – experience the awe-inspiring views of the Southern Peninsulas between Tralee and Ballydehob. Strike out from Tralee, and discover five impeccable peninsulas – Dingle, Iveragh, Beara, Sheep and Mizen – each with its own quirky identity. From the ancient and ethereal beauty of the Ring of Kerry, to the roaring seas of Mizen Head in Cork, experience that edge-of-the-world feeling along this untamed stretch of coastline.

Day One

Start from Tralee, and seek out Dingle amongst the immaculate beaches and craggy cliffs of the Dingle Peninsula.

Take a town like Tralee

On the northern neck of the Dingle Peninsula, Tralee is everything you imagine a thriving country town to be. But it also includes the eye-catching Blennerville Windmill. It was at this port that people bade farewell to Ireland during the Great Famine, voyaging to the New World in the mid-19th century. It’s also a town that embraces tradition: catch a show at Siamsa Tíre, Ireland’s National Folk Theatre, or time your trip for the utterly unique Rose of Tralee International Festival every August.

Two towns overlooking Brandon Bay

Fáilte and welcome…this is a Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking) area, but don’t rush for the dictionary. Around the towns of Brandon and Cloghane, everyone speaks English, too. In the shadow of Mount Brandon, one of Ireland’s highest peaks, this is true rural Ireland, with stone cottages and pretty harbours creating a picture postcard affair. Stroll around here, and the heather-covered highlands rolling down to the waters are your just reward.

A literary legacy from the shores of Dunquin

Face out from the steep, narrow and twisting lane leading down to Dunquin Harbour, and the only thing between you and America are the Blasket Islands. Their most famous resident was author Peig Sayers, whose marriage resulted in her moving to this “lonely rock in the middle of the great sea”. Uninhabited since 1953, the Blaskets are best viewed from Dunquin – although you’ll often find yourself sharing the path with a farmer’s flock of sheep. Ferries leave from here, and from nearby Ventry.

Dingle Town – The beating heart of the peninsula

via John Hession

Famous residents of this picturesque town include Fungie the Dolphin, and boat trips to see him are legendary. Dine out on the freshest of shellfish in places like The Chart House, and perhaps raise a toast to your fine adventure with Dingle’s own whiskey, gin or vodka from the Dingle Distillery, before asking the locals to teach you “cúpla focáil” (a few words) in Irish to take home. After all, this is still Gaeltacht territory!

COME AT FESTIVAL TIME

Make plans for the Dingle International Film Festival (March), a four-day extravaganza that celebrates all things film and animation.

Day Two

Traverse the Iveragh Peninsula in the shadow of Ireland’s highest mountains, Macgillycuddy’s Reeks, towards the stark beauty of the Skellig Islands.

Travel a mile (or three) on an Inch

As the waves of the Atlantic lap against your feet, take a moment for yourself and relax on Inch Beach. Only then will you understand why this stretch of nature was chosen by David Lean as the beach location for Ryan’s Daughter, and why Playboy of the Western World was shot in its entirety here. All that fresh air will make you peckish, so tuck into the bar menu at Jack’s Coastguard in Cromane, Georgina Campbell’s Seafood Restaurant of the Year! Yum.

COME AT FESTIVAL TIME

Ever been to a festival where a goat is crowned king? Only in Killorglin at Puck Fair(August)!

The tower at the end of the world

Valentia Island is your target here, but you’ll soon be distracted by mind-blowing views. This is, after all, part of the Ring of Kerry. Wind your way along the sheer cliffs looking out over the ocean, towards the Bray Head Tower. Built during the Napoleonic War, the tower was used again during World War II, and it is here that you’ll see the word “ÉIRE” spelled out in stones: a signal to pilots that they were on the Irish coast. Peer out towards the stalwart Skellig Islands, and you might even catch a glimpse of a whale passing in the water below.

Day Three

Wind your way along the sea-weathered Iveragh Peninsula, through tiny villages, past pretty harbours and simply stunning scenery.

The stars in the ocean

Gaze out from the coast, and take in the Skelligs, sitting crouched in the roaring ocean. Most recently called home by Jedi knights (it was a key filming location for Star Wars: The Force Awakens) these islands were first occupied in the 6th century by monks who sought solitude and peace. The mind boggles at the challenges they must have faced, living in this incredible location. If you’re lucky enough to get to visit, climb the steep stone steps to the summit, where stark beehive huts cling to the rock and an overwhelming sense of calm prevails. Alternatively, take a boat ride around the islands, or visit The Skellig Experience in Valentia.

IF YOU HAVE MORE TIME

Look deep in to the vast expanse of the Milky Way at the Kerry International Dark Sky Reserve, Ireland’s only Gold Tier Dark Sky Reserve.

The gem of the West

Tucked away at the very end of the Iveragh Peninsula is the beautiful seaside village of Waterville, boasting miles of sandy beaches and views out into the glittering ocean. Famed as Charlie Chaplin’s favourite retreat, tales are told to this day of his fly-fishing skills (or rather, lack of them).

IF YOU HAVE MORE TIME

Mountains and water converge at the Waterville Golf Links, an absolute must-visit for any golfing fans.

To the manor born

Surrounded by swathes of forest, the ancestral home of Daniel “The Liberator” O’Connell Derrynane House deserves a stop to absorb its grandeur. Travel down the coast to another luxurious manor – Dromquinna Manor, which stands on 40 acres of wooded garden. After exploring, the Boathouse Bistro – housed in a boathouse dating from the 1800s – will satisfy any rumbling tummies.

IF YOU HAVE MORE TIME

Got a sweet tooth? The moreish Bake My Day just outside Derrynane serves a mouth-watering array of sweet treats and cakes.

Beauty knows no bounds at the cusp of two Rings

On the banks of the bay, the haven of tranquillity that is Kenmare sits perched between the Ring of Kerry and the Ring of Beara. Famed as a foodie destination, make sure to get to the farmers’ market on a Wednesday for superb artisan produce. The history of the town is tied up in elegance, with the main industry of lace having lent its riches to the town – pieces of Kenmare lace are owned by Queen Elizabeth II, and the Pope. The jewel of this area, though, lies just outside Kenmare. Ever wanted to see a majestic red deer up close? Visit Killarney National Park, and you might!

IF YOU HAVE MORE TIME

Book ahead and dine out in style at The Lime Tree Restaurant – how does Pan-fried Breast of Skeaghanore Duck or Fillet of Seabass sound?

NEXT PAGE: Days 4 and 5

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