The Ring of Kerry is 179 kilometers of scenic road along the Iveragh Peninsula in Ireland. It winds past white sand beaches, medieval ruins, mountains, lakes, and great little towns. While technically doable in one day, we recommend at least two to three full days in order to really experience The Ring of Kerry. There are plenty of Bed & Breakfasts along the way as well as places to stop for sights, hikes, food, and much more!
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How to Get There
A great start and endpoint for the Ring of Kerry is Killarney, Ireland. Killarney is easily accessible by car, bus, train, or from Kerry Airport which is 15 minutes north. There are tons of restaurants, hotels, and shops in Killarney so make sure to leave some time for exploring here.
By Car: Driving the Ring of Kerry will give you the most flexible and personalized experience. You can choose to stop when you want, eat where you want, and stay as long as you want in each place. There are multiple car rental shops in Killarney and it`s best to drive counter-clockwise.
This is the same direction as the tour buses and it also keeps you on the inside lane along the cliffs. If you choose to drive clockwise you will most likely come face to face with large tour buses along your journey. This can be nerve-racking because the outside lane drops steeply down to the sea in many areas.
By Bus Tour: There are numerous bus companies offering tours from Killarney. Options include a 1 day (approx. 7 hours) and a two-day tour. The price of a one-day tour is around €25 euros, while a two-day tour is €40-50 euros. Please note that this price just includes the bus ride; meals, accommodation, and entrance fees will be extra.
By Bike: The Ring of Kerry is the most famous cycle route in Ireland. The route is 169 km and rated 8/10 in difficulty. There are many places to rent bicycles in Killarney and plenty of B&B`s and restaurants along the way. The road surface is generally in good condition and suitable for all types of bikes. For more information on biking the Ring of Kerry, click HERE.
Airbnb: Usually the most cost-effective option, there are many Airbnb rooms available along the Ring of Kerry.
Bed and Breakfast: If you are looking for an authentic Irish experience you should stay in a B&B. Chat with your hosts about attractions, enjoy a delicious breakfast, and immerse yourself in the Irish culture. Bed and Breakfasts can be booked online through B&B Ireland.
Hotels: Many of the towns along the way have hotels; however they are likely to be the most expensive option.
The Ring of Kerry is full of SO many different options depending on your interests and travel style. Here is a list of our favorite stops and the things you can`t miss along the way!
The Gap of Dunloe
The Gap of Dunloe is a narrow mountain pass forged between The MacGillycuddy Reeks and Purple Mountain. It is technically part of The Ring of Kerry but I would recommend setting aside a full day just for this. The trail begins at Kate Kearney’s Cottage which is about 12 km outside of Killarney. You can either hike, bike or ride a horse and carriage the 11 kilometers along the trail.
From there you have options to cross the lake on a boat tour or head back the way you came. Numerous companies offer customizable round-trip tours from Killarney in order to help with the pick-up/drop-off situation. The Killarney Guide will help lay out all of your options for this scenic day.
The Kells Bay House
The Kells Bay House and Gardens encompass a unique Hotel with a waterfall, rope-bridge, and 17 hectares of sub-tropical plants and trails. A ticket to walk the gardens is €8.00 euro per person or you can visit one of the waterfalls for free at the front! A room will cost €88 to €125 euros and they have a lovely Thai restaurant in the building.
The remains of this impressive castle are near the waters edge by the town of Cahirciveen. One of the largest on the peninsula; the ivy covered castle from the 15th century shows its age. You will not find any gates, signs or paths into the castle and entrance is free.
The Cahergall Stone Fort
A few hundred meters from Ballycarbery Castle is the stone fort of Cahergall. This ring fort was build around 600 AD as a defended farm stay. The current structure has undergone some reconstruction and it is one of the best examples of early medieval stone forts in the area. Entrance is free!
A lovely island accessible by ferry or by a single road. Go exploring at Valentia lighthouse, shop at the Valentia Candle Shop, and grab a treat at the local ice cream shop. If you have time make sure to enjoy the views of the Bray Head Walk; a 7 km loop (2-3 hours) along the west coast of the island.
The Skellig Islands are 2 uninhabited rocky islands off the coast of Ireland. Skellig Michael is known for its well-preserved early Christian monastery, beehive shaped huts, and as a filming location for Star Wars. There are over 600 steps built into the rock leading up to the monastery so good walking shoes are a must!
Many tours run seasonally from the Portmagee Marina. From May to October you can visit Skellig Michael on a day trip with Casey`s Tours for €85 euros per person. They also offer an Eco Tour where you view Skellig Michael from the boat for €35 per person.
Presumed to be a ritual spot dating back to 1700 BC, Eightercua consists of a four large stones around 9 feet high. Irish mythology believes it to be the burial site of Scéine, the wife of the Milesian bard-magician Amergin. Scéine is said to have died at sea just prior to them invading Ireland. It is a 1.5 km walk from the town of Waterville or you can view these stones from the road.
Walking trails in the dunes above will lead you down to this striking beach. You can also access the beach from the Derrynane House (if you stop here.. have some cake!) Lifeguarded in the summer months; this is the perfect place to stop and cool off! Make sure to walk the abbey ruins and cemetery while in this area.
The Streets of Kenmare
One of the most striking features of Kenmare is its colorfully painted houses and shops. It won the “Irish Tidy Towns Competition” in 2000 and was runner up in 2003 and 2008. Stop for lunch, spend some time exploring the shops and enjoying the adorable little town of Kenmare.
The Ladies View
The Ladies View is a beautiful viewpoint and a great place to stop and stretch your legs. Enjoy the view, the local sales booths and if you’re lucky some wildlife.
Torc Waterfall was one of my favorite stops on the Ring of Kerry! A 5 minute walk through the scenic woodland takes you to this phenomenal 80 foot waterfall. For a good view point of the lakes make sure to climb the steps to the left of the waterfall; and go early in the summer months to avoid the crowds.
Muckross Abbey is an Old Irish Monastery and an active Irish Graveyard. Dating back to the beginning of Christianity in Ireland; Muckross Abbey is free and definitely worth a visit! Explore the gardens, the pottery studio, and the operational farm then head down to Muckross Lake. Entry is €9 euros per person for the house and farm or €15 euros for both.
The Blue Pool Studio and Gallery
The Blue Pool Art Studio is home to Mary Nesson Ceramics selling hand crafted pottery and ceramics. With a focus on bird feeders and angels; these intricate pieces of art make perfect gifts or souvenirs.
Ross Castle is located just outside the town of Killarney on the banks of Lough Leane. The Castle has recently been restored and is open to visitors from April to October; but you can walk the grounds for free anytime of year. Boats trips are available from here to Inisfallen Island and around The Lakes of Killarney.