Ireland of Dreams: Ring of Kerry


The Ring of Kerry was lovely... but disappointing. It felt like a more developed, less scenically rugged version of the neighboring Dingle Peinsula.


Oh, things started off just fine. Though we wasted a dull hour touring Muckross House and neighboring Ross Castle outside the small lakeside tourist city of Killarney, we did discover there the €20 Irish Heritage Card, good at 80 major sights across Ireland, which ended up saving us around $25 each on admissions.


A scenic drive from Killarney through Muckross National Park brought us out onto Inveragh Peninsula proper and the Ring of Kerry coastal road to the seaside hamlet of Sneem and Bank House, our B&B ( The first thing proprietors Margaret and Noel Harrington did when we checked in was offer us a pot of tea in the parlor.

Warmed and settled, we walked down the street, over a stone bridge across the village stream, and ducked into the Blue Bull pub to sit on sturdy wooden chairs, dig into hearty Irish stew crammed with chunks of tender mutton and naturally buttery potatoes, and wash it down with a few pints of Guinness.

Actually, even though four pints of Guinness is considered a square meal ’round these parts, I became partial to its slightly less bitter archrival Murphy's, another thick, dark porter which plays an eternal Pepsi to Guinness's Coke. (I duly performed numerous taste tests of both brews, but couldn't determine which was better. More research may be necessary.)

Driving the Ring of Kerry

In all, the Ring of Kerry just didn’t all match up to the Dingle.

Sure, we got to scramble up onto the grassy top of Cahergal Fort, an ancient ring of defensive stones capping a hilltop.

And in the village of Waterville—Charlie Chaplin's favorite seaside resort, a string of colorful houses lining a narrow strand wedged between the Atlantic Ocean and Lough Currane—we stumbled across a lovely lunch at humble Chédéan Café, where two kindly ladies hand-carved us $4 turkey sandwiches, ladled out soup, and generally beamed at the handful of customers over a countertop piled with scones the size of a baby's head.

Perhaps the Ring would have been better if we had visited the island of Skellig Michael and crawled around its ancient drystone monastery complex, instead of just enduring the explanatory plaques and video at the landlubbing Skellig Heritage Centre.

We had stopped in the fishing village of Portmagee and asked at the post office/general store/newsagent—after politely declining one of the marked-down baskets of duck eggs crowding the counter—for the address of a local boatman.

But when we knocked on the mariner's door, we found we were out of luck. The captain just shook his head, mustered all his remaining teeth for a rueful smile, and indicated the waters with his stubbly chin.

"High seas. Can't go today. Mebbe next week?"

» On to: The Aran Islands

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This article was by Reid Bramblett and last updated in September 2011.
All information was accurate at the time.

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Copyright © 1998–2013 by Reid Bramblett. Author: Reid Bramblett.