Driving The Ring Of Kerry: Everything You Need To Know!

Cazzy Magennis
Written By:
Cazzy Magennis
Last Updated:
December 11, 2023
Thinking of driving the Ring of Kerry on your Ireland roadtrip? Then keep reading to find out all you need to know about this beautiful route in Ireland..
driving the ring of kerry

Ah, the famous Ring Of Kerry. I’m sure when you’ve heard of people road tripping Ireland, or even visiting Ireland on holiday, they’ve mentioned the Ring Of Kerry!

Bradley and I drove the Ring Of Kerry in the summer of 2019 with our SpaceShips campervan, so know a fair bit about this amazing route.

In this guide, I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about driving the Ring of Kerry yourself!

That includes the best places to visit, how long it will take, and some other top tips, to ensure you make the most of your visit.

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What is the Ring Of Kerry?

ring of kerry

The Ring of Kerry (also known as the Iveragh Peninsula) is a famous driving route (loop) located in County Kerry!

It’s one of the most popular things to do in Ireland and it’s filled with natural beauty, stunning views of the ocean, cute towns and much more. 

How long does it take to drive the Ring Of Kerry?

The Ring of Kerry is 179km (111 miles) long which means driving it would take you around 3.5 hours without any traffic or stopping at any of the amazing sights.

So, if you’re stopping at ALL the best sites (including Kilarney sights) then it would take you around 6 hours, if not longer. 

It’s true that driving the Ring of Kerry is totally doable in one day, but I recommend you stay a night in Killarney, or even half way through the Ring of Kerry on the coast to truly experience the beauty and take it slow. 

READ: Best campervan rentals in Ireland

Driving the Ring Of Kerry clockwise or counterclockwise: which is better?

I know this doesn’t really matter scenic views wise, but most of the bus tours of the Ring of Kerry actually start in Killarney town which means they head out anti-clockwise.

So if you want to see less tour buses and avoid getting stuck behind them, then head clockwise. 

We did it clockwise and didn’t have many “human” interactions and felt like we had the whole scenic trip to ourselves. 

Ring Of Kerry Itinerary

Below I am going to take you through our Ring of Kerry itinerary and all the best spots to visit. 

This is presuming you’re starting in the Kenmare direction.

But the order isn’t exact of what we did, so just decide what you’d like to do then create your own route for driving the Ring of Kerry. 

Stop 1: The Colorful town of Kenmare 

kenmare town

Known for its colorful houses, unspoiled scenery, and delicious food, there are so many reasons to visit this charming town.

First of all, Kenmare is a great little spot, perfect for a quick stop to look at the shops or to grab some snacks for your trip around the Ring of Kerry!

If you have the time, stopping off at one of the towns traditional pubs is a great option, as some of them serve delicious food.

Whilst in Kenmare you can check out the Kenmare Stone Circle which is located within the town itself. 

There's also the opportunity to explore Kenmare Bay on a seal-watching cruise and visit Kenmare Farmer's Market (the latter takes place on Wednesdays).

Stop 2: Check out Rossmore Island

Just a 20-minute drive from Kenmare, you'll find Rossmore Island.

Although technically “not” an island anymore as it’s joined to the mainland via a bridge, it’s very pretty, scenic and a great place to drive by. 

There's only around a dozen houses on Rossmore, and the road is all single-track so you'll need to keep an eye out for passing places. Luckily, not many tourists tend to frequent this island as there isn't much to do.

However, in our opinion, the views alone are enough of a reason to visit, as well as the island's tranquility.

The Ring of Kerry is a popular road trip route, and you won't find many spots as quiet as this!

Stop 3: Check out Sneem village

Sneem Village, Ireland

Nestled between mountains and the rugged coastline, you can expect some striking natural landscapes in Sneem.

The Sneem River also runs through the village, making it a great place to just relax and take in the views. It essentially splits Sneem in two, and there's a public square on each side (the North Square and the South Square).

Sneem village is a cute place to visit and there are a few B&Bs if you want to stop for the night. If that's the case, then spend the evening in D O’Shea’s Bar, a traditional Irish pub where you can grab a pint and some food.

This Ring of Kerry coach tour stops in Sneem if you don't fancy hiring a car yourself.

Stop 4: Staigue Stone Fort 

Staigue Stone, Ireland

Staigue Stone Fort is located around a 25-minute drive from Sneem.

Although there are plenty of stone forts located along the Ring of Kerry, this is perhaps the most popular. It's also the best preserved, considering it's thought to date back around 2,000 years! 

With a height of around 5 meters (16 foot), and 4-meter (13 foot) thick stone walls, this place really is impressive. Not to mention, you'll be treated to stunning views of Kenmare Bay from this spot.

There's adequate parking at Staigue Stone Fort and toilets too, but just be mindful of the road when driving up as it's a bit uneven.

Stop 5: Lunch by Cove Beach 

inch beach

We loved Cove Beach!

Also known as O’Carroll’s Cove (or Glanbeg Beach), this beautiful beach offers pristine white shores and stunning turquoise waters.

Overlooking the beach is O'Carroll's Cove Restaurant & Bar, a great place to grab some lunch as this place is known for its fresh seafood dishes.

If you're on a budget, you can just pull over and enjoy a picnic lunch with some epic views (this is what we did).

Either way, you'll be treated to stunning vistas of the beach, so make sure you've got your camera handy.

If you're not having food, you won't need much time here but walking along the sandy shores is a must.

Stop 6: Caherdaniel Stone Fort

Caherdaniel Stone fort, Ireland

Just a short drive from O’Carroll’s Cove, you'll come across Caherdaniel Stone Fort.

This impressive fort is well-preserved, considering it dates back to around 600AD.

This is one of the quieter spots along the Ring of Kerry. If you’re on a tour bus, it's unlikely that they will stop at this one.

That's why we recommend hiring a car when driving this incredible route (if you can), as you can enjoy places like this without the crowds.

For those who are short of time and can't visit every place in this itinerary, Staigue Stone Fort may be the better option as it's one of the best preserved stone forts in Ireland.

Stop 7: Viewpoint of Scarriff Island

Scariff Island, Ireland

Continuing on from Caherdaniel Stone Fort, there's a fantastic viewpoint under a 5-minute drive away!

Located along the N70, you'll come across the Scarriff Island Viewpoint. If you want a beautiful viewpoint, then this is one of many found along the Ring of Kerry! 

From here, you'll get an epic view of Scarriff Island (and the neighboring Deenish Island). Both of these islands were inhabited in the 1800s, but today they're deserted and very difficult to reach.

Luckily, you'll get breathtaking vistas from the pull-in. However, there isn't much parking and spaces can be pretty tight if other cars are already there.

Stop 8: The Ring of Kerry Lookout 


Basically when you’re driving through the Ring of Kerry there are countless opportunities to pull over and check out the amazing views that surround you.

But to make things easier, a large car park has been established here and this is where the coaches pull in!

You'll be pulling in opposite Scarriff Inn which boats striking sea views and traditional Irish dishes (such as stew, Irish steak, and local salmon). It's also a B&B so you can stay here as well.

It’s a great view, but if you don’t want the crowds, then just pull in somewhere a little further up (or wait until the coach goes!) 

Stop 9: Loher Stone Fort

Loher Stone Fort is thought to date back to the 9th century (so, early Christian times).

Its purpose was to defend a farmyard, with the fort walls being over 2 meters high (6.5 feet), and it has a unique design. Inside, you can see the remains of two buildings, one circular and one square.

There's a small information plaque where you can learn more about Loher Stone Fort, and we'd certainly recommend giving it a read while you're here.

The great thing about this fort is that it's off the beaten path so you won't encounter the crowds. Just be mindful that the road down to the fort is pretty narrow.

Stop 10: Eightercua Stone Row 

Eightercua stone, ireland

This is quite an interesting site, although unfortunately Bradley and I didn’t stop at it.

Eightercua Stone Row is a four stones alignment and the tallest stone is over 2.7 meters (9 feet) in height.

Dating back to 1200 BC, this place is believed to be the burial spot of Sceine, who was married to the Milesian invaders leader. Apparently she died at sea just before they invaded Ireland!

The only thing to note is that on Google, some reviews suggest that this site is now on Private Land while others have still been able to visit. However, some reviews do state that the home owner is happy for people to visit, but it's always best to check.

Stop 11: Charlie Chaplin statue

Charlie Chaplin Statue, Ireland

You’re probably wondering why there is a statue of Charlie Chaplin in the Ring of Kerry (I did).

Well, basically it’s because he and his family used to love visiting the town of Waterville and they built the statue as a nod to that.

They even have the right to hold a Charlie Chaplin themed comedy film festival every year! 

The statue itself is a cool place to visit, but it also overlooks Ballinskelligs Bay, so the scenery here is jaw-dropping.

Of course, you only need a quick photo stop here and then you can move onto our next destination!

If you don't fancy driving the route itself, then this iconic statue is included on this full-day coach tour.

Stop 12: Birthplace of Daniel O'Connell

A monument to Daniel O' Connell can be found on the Ring Of Kerry overlooking his birthplace.

If you're interested in Irish history, this it's a good place to drop by and read some of the information.

He was born in Carahan, just outside of Cahersiveen, which is where you'll find this monument.

Known as the "Liberator" for successfully campaigning for the right of Irish Catholics to become Members of Parliament, he played an important role in Ireland's history.

As such, we highly recommend playing this place a visit. Not only is it very peaceful, but you'll get to learn so much more about Daniel O'Connell.

Stop 13: Dingle peninsula viewpoint

ring of kerry

As I mentioned earlier on, the Dingle Peninsula is another beautiful drive in Ireland (actually probably my favourite!) and from this viewpoint you can see the peninsula perfectly.

On Google Maps, you'll see it as Mountain Stage Viewpoint. From here, you'll get fantastic views of the peninsula, as well as Dingle Bay. Trust us, It’s a very beautiful spot. 

Better yet, you can head out on short stroll from the car park, perfect if you're looking for a place to stretch your legs.

The great thing about this viewpoint is that there's plenty of parking, although coaches do stop here so it can get busy.

Stop 14: The Glenbeigh Towers Castle

The Glenbeigh Tower, Ireland

Although this old Irish castle is currently in ruins, it's a great place to stop off at along your Ring of Kerry road trip!

Also known as Wynn's Castle, you'll find this awesome place just outside the village of Glenbeigh.

Its walls date back to the late 1700s, although only half of the castle is still standing. However, that allows you to use your imagination! In my opinion, it’s hard to fathom that anyone actually lived or ruled there, but I bet it looked pretty grand in its day.

You'll only need a quick stop at Wynn's Castle, but it's certainly worth a visit.

Stop 15: Derryanne Abbey 

molls gap

Dating back to the 6th century, Derryanne Abbey is situated on the appropriately named Abbey Island.

These ruins are certainly very impressive, and so is the graveyard as it overlooks the Atlantic Ocean.

If you want to visit Derryanne Abbey, then you'll need to time your visit. The Abbey (and the island) can only be accessed when the tide is out, so just keep that in mind. However, you'll get fantastic views of this historical building from Derryanne Beach.

Boasting blue flag status, this gorgeous beach is worth a visit on its own if the tide is too high.

Stop 16: The Kerry bog village museum 

The Kerry Bog Villiage Museum, Ireland

If you’re visiting Ireland for the first time, then I think this is a great place to pop in and learn more about Irish life. 

The Kerry Bog Village will give you a unique insight into what 19th century life in Ireland would have looked like. It's one of the most popular attractions along the Ring of Kerry and is the only one of its kind in Europe, making it a must-visit.

Recreating traditional Irish thatched houses, this unique museum focuses on local history and culture. These cottages are fully furnished, and feature figurines and sound effects.

The Kerry Bog Village also features plenty of rural farm equipment so there's a lot to see.

Stop 17: Drive the Skellig ring 

Drive the Skellig Ring, Ireland

Every time I hear the word “Skellig” I think of sharp rocks, and that’s kind of what the scenery looks like.

It’s dramatic, it’s got the “wow” factor and it’s pretty damn beautiful! The Skellig Ring is another “mini” road trip route on the Ring of Kerry that takes you off loop for a little bit (but you will loop back onto the original Ring of Kerry road, don't worry).

It doesn’t add too much time onto your Ring of Kerry road trip so I recommend you add it on. 

In total, I think the route is around 18 km (11 miles) long and you'll be treated to epic views of the Skellig Islands.

Stop 18: Admire the Kerry Cliffs

The Kerry Cliffs, Ireland

The Kerry Cliffs are located in Portmagee and stand over 1000 meters (3280 feet) tall.

On a clear day, you'll get jaw-dropping views of the Atlantic Ocean, the Skellig Rocks, and Puffin Island. I’ve seen the pictures of it when it’s clear, or simply dry and it looks AMAZING!

However, when Bradley and I visited the Kerry Cliffs it was raining, foggy, misty and windy, (basically “normal” Irish weather).

Of course you’re welcome to check it out if it’s misty, but we'd save this one for a clear day!

To make the most of your visit, allow at least an hour here so you can wander along the clifftop.

Stop 19: Day trip to the Skellig islands 

Skellig Island, Ireland

The Skellig islands are beautiful and they’re now very famous thanks to Star Wars.

If you remember, this is where Rey found Luke Skywalker living. He was living on an island that looks remote, dramatic and beautiful and that’s exactly what “Skellig Michael” is. 

Now, the problem with anything that’s made famous via a movie, is that it drives the price of the attraction up.

It’s around 125 euro to actually get on the island, which for us at this time, wasn’t worth the price. 

But you can also do an eco-tour which takes you “around” the island, and you don’t get off the boat for as little as 45 euro.

This Skellig coast boat tour will also take you past the Kerry Cliffs and Puffin Island.

This is definitely one of the unique things to do on the Ring of Kerry route and if you have the time and money, I highly recommend it. 

Stop 20: Other beaches 

water in ring of kerry

I actually only mentioned two beaches above, but there are lots of other beaches that you will discover when driving the Ring of Kerry.

Derryanne Beach and O’Carroll’s Cove are two of my favorites, but you'll also come across plenty of others.

Coumeenoole Beach is certainly one of the most dramatic, as it's surrounded by striking cliffs.

There's also Rossbeigh Strand which has been designated a Natural Heritage Area, and is known for its extensive sandy shores.

Other popular options include Ballybunion Beach and Ballinskelligs Beach.

So stop at as many as you want, it’ll be even better if the weather plays nice! 

Stop 21: Visit Valentia island 

Valentia Island, Ireland

This is a popular spot on the Ring of Kerry, but technically it’s off the route (just a little bit!)

Valentia Island is a stunning spot, that boasts amazing views (the cliffs especially), tasty food, great people and a charming lighthouse!

It's one of Ireland's most westerly points and although only small, there are plenty of things to do here.

First of all, you'll want to visit Valentia Island Lighthouse, where you can explore the old lightkeeper dwelling house.

Valentia Transatlantic Cable Station is another popular spot, as over 150 years ago, this is where the first successful transatlantic telegraph cable took place!

The island's Tetrapod Trackway is a must-visit for dinosaur lovers, where you'll find fossilized dinosaur footprints, dating back 365 million years.

This Valentia Island tour is relatively new, and allows you to admire the island on a boat, offering you the chance to spot marine life too.

Stop 22: The Restaurant with the best views (when it’s not cloudy)

It’s their tagline, not mine! But this cute restaurant (Scarriff Inn which we mentioned before) does offer great views over the Ring of Kerry and you can even get a bowl of Irish traditional stew (at a hefty price!) on your route.

We just parked up for the views, but there is a gift shop inside too if you need to pick up some souvenirs. 

These are just some suggested spots when driving the Ring of Kerry and when you get to Killarney, there are some fantastic places to visit around there too.

I’ve listed them below, but I've not gone into detail as you can check out the full details on my things to do in Killarney post! 

  • Muckross House and Manor 
  • Torc waterfall 
  • Killarney national park and lakes 
  • Molls Gap 
  • The Gap of Dunloe 
  • Ladies View 
  • Meeting of the waters
gapp of dunloe

Is the Ring Of Kerry worth it?

Absolutely. I was worried it wouldn’t live up to the hype or that the roads would just be so busy that you were stuck in traffic and all the best sights would be filled with people…

This was NOT the case.

The scenery at the Ring of Kerry is beautiful, but I do think there are other drives that are even more amazing such as the Ring of Beara and the Dingle Peninsula.

But, the Ring Of Kerry is home to some stunning sea views and of course all the amazing sites located next to Killarney, so don’t skip it! 

Read also: Top Things To Do In Kerry

Ring Of Kerry Drive Map

Below is a sample route of driving the Ring of Kerry. It’s basically the same route for everyone, but it’s up to you whether you stay on that exact track or venture into less popular roads. 

Driving the Ring of Kerry tips

spacshps rental
  • Bring some decent photography gear: When packing for Ireland, be sure to include a decent camera, or even a drone, to hep you capture the most stunning shots of this incredible drive.
  • Be wary of the season: If you’re wondering when is the best time to go driving the Ring of Kerry, well I would say June/early July. This is when we visited and the weather was great and it wasn’t busy on the route. We saw 1 or 2 other coaches the whole time and that was it! If you go out of season in the winter, there is a good chance roads will be closed due to bad weather, so I’m not sure whether I’d risk it. But the shoulder season months of June and September still bring a good chance of decent weather! 
  • Fuel up before you go round: There are places to fuel up whilst driving the Ring of Kerry, but actually the prices are higher and I think this has something to do with tourism. It’s not a massive difference, but if you’d like to save some extra euros, then fuel before you go! 
  • Be aware of sheep: Sheep are cute, fun and they’re everywhere on the island. But they can be a danger to a driver. Sheep can be in the most awkward positions, so if you come across them, make sure you slow down and beep your horn to let them know you’re there (if they haven’t already worked it out yet!). 
  • Start early: You’ll be surprised at just how much there is to see and do when driving the Ring of Kerry, so make sure you start the day early, and beat the coaches. This means you can finish in time for some dinner and live music in the lively town of Killarney. 
  • Bring a jacket: Even if the sun is shining, when you’re driving the Ring of Kerry you’ll find you are driving high up and the higher it is, the stronger the wind and the colder it gets. When Ireland gets warm, it’s lovely- but that doesn’t mean there aren’t areas that just always stay cold! 
Read also: Hiring a campervan in Ireland: Everything you need to know

What if I can’t drive the ring of Kerry myself?

If you can’t rent a campervan (which I highly recommend), a motorhome, or even a car for a few days, then Ring Of Kerry tours are possible.

These tend to last around 4-5 hours and there is a set itinerary for them, although some last for 7+ hours.

Whilst I think you get far more from the experience if you do it yourself, you will still see a lot of the great sites with a tour! 

This full-day coach tour from Killarney lasts for 7 hours and will take you to some of the route's most popular locations, including Waterville Village, Sneem, and Killarney National Park.

You won't have to worry about transportation with this tour, and you'll have a guide with you at all times who will teach you about the area's history.

Alternatively, you can book this full-day Ring of Kerry tour on Viator.

Is driving the Ring Of Kerry dangerous?

No, but you have to be a cautious driver. You’re driving on roads that are close to the cliff edge and if you go over, you’ll go under.

So take it slow and be very aware of all the animals (sheep) that tend to be walking on the road whilst you’re driving.

Be careful with bends, and you may encounter some traffic if there are coaches in high season (although we didn’t!).

Where to stay when driving the Ring of Kerry

Some popular places to stay whilst driving the ring of Kerry include the lively town of Killarney, a perfect spot if you want to experience Irish nightlife at its finest, and the cute, quaint, colorful town of Kenmare! 

As you drive around the Ring of Kerry, there are other little towns you can find a local B&B to stay in.

These may be booked up during high season, but on the lower seasons you can just find one you like and knock on the door for availability! 

You can find the best accommodation in Kerry here.

So there you have it, I hope you’ve enjoyed my post on driving the Ring of Kerry.

It’s a truly beautiful place and should be included on every Irish road trip.

But remember some sites may not be as beautiful if you visit when it’s misty.

A lot of the amazing views around the ring depend on at least decent weather. 

But what’s really amazing about driving the Ring of Kerry on your own is that sense of freedom to create your own route, stay at the places you love, and discover new places that have little to no tourists at them! You’ve got your own Ring of Kerry self guided tour with you and your friends. 

If you’ve got any other great spots you think we should include on this guide to driving around the Ring of Kerry then drop your suggestions in the comments below. 

Happy travels!

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