The Ring of Kerry is a famous scenic drive around the Iveragh Peninsula in southwest Ireland’s County Kerry. Its 179km-long, circular route takes in rugged and verdant coastal landscapes and rural seaside villages.
Skellig Michael, a rocky island with an abandoned 7th-century Christian monastery, is a major destination point, with boats from Portmagee making the 12km crossing during the warmer months.
On this beautiful route, there is much to see so we have narrowed the attractions down to the 12 best. Make sure you try and see them all on your journey!
1. Skellig Islands: A top attraction on the Ring of Kerry
Skellig Michael , or Great Skellig is the larger of the two Skellig Islands located 11.6 km west of the Iveragh Peninsula in County Kerry, Ireland. A Christian monastery was founded on the island at some point between the 6th and 8th century and remained continuously occupied until its abandonment in the late 12th century. The remains of the monastery, along with most of the island itself, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. This place is definitely one of the best things to do on the Ring of Kerry.
2. Valentia Island
Valentia Island is one of Ireland’s most westerly points lying off the Iveragh Peninsula in the south-west of County Kerry. It is linked to the mainland by the Maurice O’Neill Memorial Bridge at Portmagee. It is known as one of the post beautiful islands off the coast of the Irish mainland.
3. Cahergal Stone Fort
A few hundred meters on from Ballycarbery Castle is the stone fort of Cahergalbuilt around 600AD. It is well worth a visit. The current structure has undergone some reconstruction and while the purist may say it is too “clean and pure” it is an impressive site. With walls approx 6 m high and some 3 m thick this dry stone wall fort is one of the best examples of an early medieval stone forts to be found on the ring of Kerry.
Portmagee is a village in County Kerry, Ireland. The village is located on the Iveragh peninsula south of Valentia Island. The name in Irish means ‘the ferry’, referring to its purpose as a crossing point to the island. Access to Valentia Island is now via a bridge from Portmagee. The bridge is called the Maurice O’Neill Memorial Bridge. The bridge was built in 1970 and named in memory of a young farmer captured and judged by a military court before being executed in 1942. This place is definitely one of the best things to do on the Ring of Kerry.
5. Kells: an important stop on The Ring Of Kerry
Kells is an old picturesque fishing village situated halfway between Glenbeigh and Cahersiveen. It is a quiet and peaceful place undisturbed by recent developments and is home to Kells Beach, one of Kerry’s Blue Flag beaches (some refer to it as Kells Bay).
There are beautiful views of Dingle bay and the Blasket Islands from this region. To get the best views you need to head to an area close by called “mountain stage”. From here with the mountains as a backdrop (old railway tunnels run through the mountain from a bye gone era) you can get great views, weather permitting, of the coastline . The beautifully engineered “Gleesk Viaduct” (an old railway bridge) built in 1892 can also be seen from here.
Cahersiveen is a town in the Region of Skellig Kerry, County Kerry, Ireland. It is located on the River Fertha and is the principal town of the Iveragh Peninsula. Cahersiveen is near Valentia Island and is connected to the Irish road network by the N70 road.
The Catholic church in the town is the only one in Ireland named after a lay person, Daniel O’Connell. It is situated on the slopes of Beentee. It also contains a decommissioned Royal Irish Constabulary barracks, now a heritage centre, which according to legend, was built from the plans for a British barracks in India that got mixed up (a very common myth that occurs in many Irish garrison towns). Cahersiveen was where the first shots of the Fenian Rising were fired in 1867.
The Village of Caherdaniel in County Kerry, Ireland is named after Irish Hero Daniel O’Connell. Caherdaniel is situated half way around the Ring of Kerry. A great place to stop on the Ring of Kerry to stretch your legs and to explore the magnificent beaches here.
One mile from Caherdaniel you have Derrynane Beach, one of the most beautiful and cleanest Beaches in the World. Here you can explore one of the 3 Beaches and an old Abbey. There are plenty of watersports here including windsurfing and sailing. Daniel O’Connell’s former home is a museum and is well worth a visit. Derrynane National Park and the local coastline provide a range of different levels of walks. Seeing this place is definitely one of the best things to do on the Ring of Kerry.
8. Kilarney National Park and Muckross House
Regarded by many as the focal point of the National Park. Muckross House enjoys a majestic location looking out onto Muckross Lake. The house was designed by William Burns a Scottish architect for Henry Arthur Herbert and his wife Mary Balfour.
With a total of some sixty-five rooms, it was built in Tudor style and typified the elegant lifestyle of the 19th century land owning class. Muckross house itself was built over a period of years from 1839 to 1843 but further work was carried out during the 1850’s in preparation for Queen Victoria’s visit.
It is said that these improvements for the Queen’s visit were a contributory factor to the financial difficulties suffered by the Herbert family which resulted in the sale of the estate. At the time the building is reported to have cost some £30,000.
Originally a plantation colony Kenmare is a small and attractive town set on a deep bay between the Macgillycuddy Reeks to the north and the Caha Mountains to the east. The Irish name for the town is “Neidin” which translates as “little nest” a reference many believe to the “nesting” location of the town between the two mountains.
From Kenmare Pier, you will see the beautiful Kenmare Bay stretch for as far as the eye can see which is a spectacular sight on a fine day (fine days can be a rarity in Kerry). One of the most striking features of the town of Kenmare is its colorfully painted houses and shops. The town has won the “Irish Tidy Towns Competition” in 2000 and was runner-up in 2003 and 2008. The town library is one of the “Carnegie Libraries” funded by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.
10. Torc Waterfall
Torc Waterfall is well worth visiting and like all waterfalls, it is best seen after heavy rains (no problem in Kerry!). Torc waterfall is a 5-minute walk off the N71 Killarney Kenmare road through scenic woodland.
The waterfall is some 70 to 80 feet high and the Owengarriff river which feeds it rises in “The Devil’s Punchbowl” on nearby Mangerton mountain. Seeing this magical waterfall is definitely one of the best things to do on the Ring of Kerry.
11. Ross Castle
Ross Castle is located just outside the town of Killarney on the Ross Road. It is very well signposted and easy to find. Originally the home of an Irish Chieftain (O’ Donoghue Ross), Ross Castle Killarney was probably built in the late 15thcentury.
The castle is a typical example of the stronghold of an Irish Chieftain during the Middle Ages. It sits on the banks of Lough Leane on a majestic site looking out on to the lake and Inisfallen Island (home to a 7th-century monastery). It is reputed to be one of the last strongholds of significance to fall to Cromwell’s forces in the 1650’s.
12. Ladies View
Ladies View is a scenic point along the N71 portion of the Ring of Kerry, in Killarney National Park, Ireland. The name apparently stems from the admiration of the view given by Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting during their 1861 visit. If you are driving around the whole ring of Kerry, you can’t miss it! What a view! Definitely one of the best things to see on the Ring of Kerry and well worthy of a visit.