Want to tour the most popular stretch of road in Ireland? Then take a drive around the Ring of Kerry. This 193 kilometre road trip takes you past gorgeous stretches of the Atlantic Ocean, in and out of quaint towns, and past the castles and natural landmarks that define Irish history. It stands out among other scenic road trip routes in Ireland, because it’s actually a short drive, but packed to the rim with marvellous sites and views.
On your next drive around the Ring of Kerry, make sure to travel clockwise and take a stop at some of the following locations.
Where Should You Start Your Trip?
If you’re staying in Dublin and renting a car to drive around Ireland, you’ll start the route in either Killarney or Killamey. If you’re less inclined to do your own driving, both towns give you the option of joining up with a bus tour. These bus tours drive counter-clockwise around the Ring of Kerry, but the narrowness of the roads keeps them from visiting some of the sites mentioned here.
The availability of bus tours is only one way Killarney and Killamey tailor their functionality to visiting travellers. Regardless of which town you choose to stay in, you’ll be able to choose from any number of affordable hotels to stay at. Likewise, your food options will be plentiful.
Where Should You Visit?
There are dozens of interesting places to stop along the Ring of Kerry, including:
Killarney National Park
Drive from Killarney – 3.1 kilometres
Staying in Killarney, however, puts you a little bit closer to Killarney National Park. If you feel like visiting the park, you’ll be able to hike through Tomies Woods and see the sun rise over Doo Lough. You should absolutely take an hour or two out of your trip around the Ring to travel over Five Mile Bridge, if only for the views this natural wonder offers.
Drive from Killarney National Park to Molls Gap – 4.4 kilometres
From your starting point in either Killamey or Killarney, you’ll move on to Molls Gap and the Staigue Stone Fort. Molls Gap, named for Moll Kissane (who operated a shebeen, or a pretty rowdy hostel, in the 1800s), is full of shops perfect for an hour or two of shopping.
Staigue Stone Fort
Drive from Molls Gap – 41.7 kilometres
Staigue Stone Fort is among the largest forts you’ll come across in Ireland. For any kids – or adults – on your trip who are medievally-inclined, a visit to this fort offers them a chance to dive back into the 400s and become more familiar with the Irish lords in the area.
Skellig Ring Road and Skelligs’ Chocolate
Drive from Staigue Stone Fort – 41.3 kilometres
Feeling peckish? The great news is that at this leg of your journey, you’ll be able to bunker down in Skellig for a treat. While not precisely a natural wonder, Skelligs’ Chocolate serves hot chocolate and other sweets no matter what time of year it is. If you’ve got kids in the car with you, Skelligs’ Chocolate gives you a chance to let them stretch their legs and indulge their – and your own – craving for sweets.
Check out another of our road trips – Dublin to Belfast
Drive from Skellig Ring Road – 5.8 kilometres
The next stretch of road will take you along gradually-growing cliffs, all while teasing you with glimpses of the ocean beyond Ireland’s borders.
The Kerry Cliffs are the most majestic sight you’ll see along this leg of the Ring of Kerry. They are sweeping, sea-soaked vistas that rival the Dover Cliffs for their views.
Drive from Kerry Cliffs – 7.5 kilometres
Beyond the Kerry Cliffs you’ll find Valentia Island and the Skellig Experience Centre. While it costs four euros to visit the island, you’ll be able to drive over (or take the ferry) to see a wildlife sanctuary in the form of a puffin nesting site.
If you’re looking for a cute – if pervasive – animal break from your driving, Valentia Island is a great place to get out of the car, stretch your legs, and enjoy some of Ireland’s wildlife.
The whole of the Ring of Kerry is ripe with natural wonder and stunning visuals. So long as you drive safely across the route’s narrow roads and take your time at each stop, you’ll be able to wring every drop of Irish wonder out of this magnificent drive.
Featured Photo by K. Mitch Hodge