County Kerry

County Kerry, although one of the most heavily touristed regions of Ireland, is also a true outpost of Celtic culture

Ancient Irish traditions flourish in the far-western county of Kerry, from music and storytelling to good pub craic (conversation) and some of the country's few remaining Gaelic-speaking pockets.

The 110-mile Ring of Kerry, a scenic route circling the Inveragh Peninsula, is Ireland's most famous—and most tour bus–engulfed—drive.

You can do the Ring in a day, but I'd give the area two or three in order to spend time in Killarney, tour the less-visited Dingle Peninsula, and see some of the other neglected sights off the Ring.

There's frequent daily train service from Ireland's big cities into Killarney, the region's main town and tourist center. Killarney also houses the region's main tourist office (tel. +353-(0)64/31-633) in the Town Hall off Main Street.

The thing to do in Country Kerry is drive the Ring (a well-signed stretch of route N70), visiting coastal villages, snapping pictures of inland lakes, and gawking at the mountainous heights of the Inveragh Peninsula along the way. Highlights include the Kerry Bog Village at Glenbeigh (thatched cottages recreated for us tourists), Cahirciveen (the main town), Staigue Fort (a well-preserved, Iron Age drystone fortress), and the towns of Sneem (cottages in festive colors) and Kenmare (stop for some lace).

About halfway around the Ring, you can detour onto Valentia Island, connected to the mainland by a bridge and home to the Skellig Island Experience. This video and display center introduces you to the endangered natural habitats and medieval monastery of the dramatic Skellig Islands off the coast. This is as close as you can get to the interiors of these islets, because boats from Valencia out to the Skelligs themselves can only circle the islands. In order to preserve that precarious nature, no docking is allowed.

Most visitors take the Ring counterclockwise from Killarney, and you'd do well to go with the flow. This is prime tour bus territory. The only thing less fun than driving on the left side of a twisty, narrow, two-lane road along a cliff and sharing it with a constant stream of giant buses much too wide for their lane is doing the same thing with all those buses coming directly at you.

Decompress from the white-knuckle driving on the Ring in the touristy city of Killarney, gateway to a beautiful National Park full of lakes; waterfalls; castles; woodlands; bogs; and the manor house, gardens, and romantically ruined abbey of Muckross.

You can buck the crowds by driving a similar, much less touristed, and (in my opinion) even more scenic circle around the Dingle Peninsula, one inlet to the north of the Inveragh. Dingle is the main town, from which you can hire a boat to take you out to meet (if he's feeling playful) Fungi, the resident dolphin of Dingle Bay.

Three miles west of Killarney, near Fossa and right on the Lower Lake, sits the picturesque Victorian-era Hotel Europe ([tel] 800/221-1074 in the United States, in Ireland 064/31-900; fax: 064/32-118), with doubles running £114 to £146 ($139.30 to $178.60). Foley's ([tel] 064/31-217), in Killarney at 23 High St., serves excellent Irish food and seafood from Dingle Bay in a Georgian atmosphere.

Tours Under $995 G Adventures

Related Articles


Related Partners

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

about | contact | faq

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