Exploring Ireland’s beauty and scenery is a joy. Deciding exactly which part to explore and how to explore it can be trickier. Thank goodness, then, for the Ring of Kerry, a 179km circular route around County Kerry’s Iveragh Peninsula.

Beginning and ending in beautiful and quietly buzzing Killarney, the Ring has become a firm favourite with both casual holidaymakers and intrepid travellers, thanks to its non-stop jaw-dropping scenery. For many people not from Ireland, this is quintessential Irish scenery they’ve always hoped to set eyes on – deep blue seas crashing against wild and craggy cliffs, cascading waterfalls hidden within forests… You get the idea.

And it’s not just scenery that’s on offer. Scattered across the route are all kinds of historical sites and buildings, from castles to monasteries to grand mansions, plus numerous charming villages.

Spend as long or as little as you like travelling around the Ring. It could be driven in a day, although we can’t stress enough that it’s better enjoyed on a leisurely visit, with plenty of time allocated for impromptu stops and stays.





Ladies’ View

Many of the highlights of the Ring of Kerry are seen simply by travelling along it. The scenery from region to region – and from one stretch of coastal road to the next sharp bend – is constantly varied and impressive, but there are still some spots that really stand out. Ladies’ View is the most celebrated. Found suddenly between Killarney and Kenmare, this famous viewpoint is named in honour of Queen Victoria’s ladies-inwaiting after the monarch visited in 1861. The panorama unveils the range of scenery you’ll encounter on the route, affording stunning views ofUpper Lake, Purple Mountain, Torc Mountain and much more.



Ballycarbery Castle

There’s no shortage of castles on the Ring of Kerry, but if you only have time for one, make it Ballycarbery. Glaring down from a hilltop perch, this gnarled ruin wears its battle scars proudly and looks all the more dramatic for it. Built in the 16th century, Ballycarbery belonged to the McCarthy Mór Clan and was eventually subject to multiple cannonball attacks, partly explaining its present state. Its weathered shell and solitary location make for an atmospheric visit.




Muckross House and Killarney National Park

As Muckross House is set within the heart of Killarney National Park, it feels wrong to visit one and not the other. Built in 1839 by Scottish architect William Burn, it features opulent rooms that can be enjoyed on a tour, but the meticulously landscaped gardens are the jewel in its crown – check out the Sunken Garden and Stream Garden and stop by the Garden Restaurant for a meal with a view. As for the park, it’s Ireland’s oldest National Park and also houses the country’s highest mountain range (MacGillycuddy’s Reeks), which towers over the beautiful lakes of Killarney. Don’t miss the gentle giant that is Torc Waterfall, measuring around 20m and an enjoyable hike away from Muckross (roughly one and a half miles at its most direct, but with potential for extending).




For anyone who doesn’t yet know, Ireland houses world-class beaches, and some of those dotted around the Ring of Kerry fall within that category. Spacious, sandy Derrynane Beach (near Caherdaniel) is an unarguable stunner and is known for being clean (it holds a prestigious Blue Flag award) and peaceful, as well as offering swimming and seasonal watersports. Ballinskelligs Beach is another goldensanded marvel (and also holds a Blue Flag), surrounded by green hills that look particularly good if you venture into the water. Reen Rua is loved by surfers and is again surrounded by unique scenery in the form of a prehistoric forest. Remember that these are just a few of the beaches you’ll pass – there are more to seek out and enjoy.






This village is overflowing with history after its popularity with smugglers, including notorious 18th-century smuggler Captain Theobald Magee, whose story lives on in the village’s name. Portmagee also became the adopted home of the cast and crew of Star Wars: The Force Awakens when it was being filmed on the nearby island of Skellig Michael – Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) was pictured pulling a pint at waterside hotel The Moorings. If you want to see the otherworldly appeal of the Skellig Islands, Portmagee is also the place to pick up a boat tour.




This tranquil town is a fine place to overnight during your trip. It makes a great base for visiting Ballycarbery Castle or planning hikes, such as the Beentee Loop, which winds up Beentee Mountain and offers outstanding views. But don’t forget to make time for the town itself, which holds worthwhile attractions. Chief of these is the eye-catching Old Barracks, constructed for the Royal Irish Constabulary in the 1870s and which now houses an interactive museum. Cahersiveen also holds more than its share of restaurants, pubs and hotels, meaning it’s never hard to feel welcome here.


An unmissable stop on the Ring for many visitors, Kenmare’s colourful streets have graced countless photographs over the years, but you’ll need to see the rows of independent shops, historic pubs and art galleries yourself to properly get a feel for the place. Hospitality is something that Kenmare prides itself on, and there is an impressive number of lodgings and upscale restaurants, plus – of course – plenty of excellent traditional pubs slinging endless pints of Guinness.



Currency: As Ireland is in the European Union, the currency is the euro, so remember to stock up before you go (from somewhere that offers an attractive exchange rate) and take some credit cards that don’t charge transaction fees.

Getting around: As mentioned earlier, having your own vehicle is a big advantage. There’s a hard-fought debate on whether to drive the Ring clockwise or anticlockwise, as tour buses cover the route anticlockwise, so you need to decide whether to get stuck behind them or navigate around them face on. If you don’t have a vehicle, some great sights can be visited by mapping out local bus timings, including wonderful villages like Kenmare, Cahersiveen and Sneem.

Where to stay: Since the Ring of Kerry is a popular trip, tons of different accommodation options can be found along the route, from homely B&Bs to five-star splurges. Book ahead in holiday months.

Visit: ireland.com/en-gb/destinations/regions/ring-of-kerry for more information.

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