In Ireland, the Ring of Kerry is called “The Kingdom.” When you tour the Ring’s placid lakes, majestic mountains, mysterious ruins, and charming villages, you’ll understand why. This 112-mile drive on the Iveragh Peninsula is an exploration of Ireland’s spectacular beauty, from the Lakes of Killarney to the ancient stone forts of Cahersiveen.
Here are the Top Ten things to see and do, in order, on the Ring of Kerry route.
Killarney National Park and Muckross House
Killarney is as well-known for its warm, Irish hospitality as it is for its spectacular lakes and mountain views. Stroll through Killarney National Park, home to a diverse world of flora and fauna, including the only red deer in Ireland. Situated further into the park is Muckross House, a 19th-century Victorian mansion with luscious gardens; it once was host to Queen Victoria. Tour the house and imagine the stories of people who came through her doors, dined, fought,, and loved here.
In the shadow of mountains, on the banks of Lough Leane, Ross Castle has a mind-boggling setting. A medieval stronghold, Ross Castle dates from the 15th century, and was once home to an Irish Chieftain named O’ Donoghue Ross. From Ross Castle, take a boat onto the lake and visit Innisfallen Island; it has ancient monastic ruins, built in the 7th century.
The Gap of Dunloe
A mountain pass carved out of ice over two million years ago, The Gap of Dunloe sits between mountains and is surrounded by lakes. Beginning at Kate Kearney’s cottage, the Gap follows a winding path along narrow roads and old stone bridges, one of which is known as the ‘Wishing Bridge.’ According to local lore, any wish you make while standing on this bridge is guaranteed to come true. Insider tip: Drop into The Strawberry Field—a Pancake Cottage. Delicious!
A traditional Irish town, Kenmare is known for rainbow-colored buildings, unique charm, and fine food. Founded as a plantation town in 1670, picturesque Kenmare has won the titles of Irish Tidy Town and was named Kerry’s first Heritage Town by the Irish Tourist Board. While in Kenmare, enjoy the breathtaking views of Kenmare Bay and visit Kenmare Stone Circle, which dates back to the Bronze Age.
Your next stop along the Ring of Kerry should be the tranquil village of Sneem, between the towns of Kenmare and Waterville. Sneem is small, but it is home to a number of unusual attractions, including a coral beach—only one of two such beaches in Ireland. Also visit The Way the Fairies Went. This unique stone structure, inspired by ancient Gaelic lore, has brilliant views across the River Sneem.
After an invigorating walk on the golden sands of Derrynane Beach, visit Derrynane House. It sits beautifully on 300 acres of National Park. Once home to the celebrated historic figure Daniel O’ Connell, Derrynane House underwent a major renovation in 2015, and you are welcome to discover it!
A favorite holiday spot of film star, Charlie Chaplin, this pretty Irish town by the sea celebrates the best of comedy with movie screenings, workshops, street entertainment, crafts, and food stalls. Along with gift shops, there are unique places to eat and drink here. With views that stretch for miles across the sea, Waterville also has two top-rated golf courses.
Valentia Island has a mild microclimate that creates long, warm summer days. Connected to the mainland via bridge or ferry, the island has numerous attractions, including historic hiking trails such as Bray Head Loop. Get back to nature and head to Glanleam Subtropical Gardens. This is an exotic paradise of tropical plants that thrives on Valentia Island’s unique climate.
The Skellig Islands
These islands achieved star quality after they appeared in the movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens. A trip to the Skellig Islands is the number one destination for many travelers who tour the Ring of Kerry. Skellig Michael, which has an ancient monastic site 600 feet above the sea, also appears in Star Wars: The Last Jedi!
The Stone Forts at Cahersiveen
For your final stop on the Ring of Kerry route, step back in time to medieval Ireland. Located on the banks of the River Fertha, the town of Cahersiveen has the ancient stone forts of Cahergal and Leacanabuaile, dating to 600 AD. The symbolic value of these stone forts, or cashels, is immense. They bind the cultural identity, down through the years, of the people who lived here and protected them as best they could.