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

Written by:
Cazzy Magennis
/
Last updated:
September 14, 2019
Travel stories
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
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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 I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about driving the Ring of Kerry yourself!

Table Of Contents:

What is the Ring Of Kerry? 

The Ring of Kerry (also known as 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. 

ring of kerry

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

The Ring of Kerry is 179km (111 miles) long which means driving the Ring of Kerry would take you around 3.5 hours to drive without any traffic or stopping at any of the amazing sights. So, if you’re stopping at ALL the best sites to see on the Ring Of Kerry (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. 

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

You 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 is a great little town perfect for a quick stop to look at the shops or make up some snacks for your trip around the Ring of Kerry! Whilst in Kenmare you can check out the Kenmare stone circle which is located within the town itself. 

kenmare town

Stop 2: Check out Rossmore Island

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

Stop 3: Check out Sneem village

Sneem village is a cute place to visit and there are a few B&Bs if you want to stop for the night. 

Stop 4: Staigue Stone Fort 

One of the many stone forts to check on the Ring of Kerry. You may want to visit them all, but if you only visit one then this is the most popular choice. 

Stop 5: Lunch by Cove Beach 

We loved Cove Beach. It’s blue, it’s beautiful and there is even a restaurant that overlooks it. You can get some lunch there or do what we did and pull over and make a picnic lunch with some awesome views! It’s a good photo op near the restaurant too. 

inch beach

Stop 6: Caherdaniel Stone Fort

Another cool fort you can check out. If you’re on a tour bus, it's unlikely that they will stop at this one so it could be quite quiet when you visit. 

Stop 7: Viewpoint of Scariff Island 

If you want a beautiful viewpoint, then this is one of the many on the Ring of Kerry! 

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

lookout

Stop 9: Loher Stone Fort

Another cool fort to check out that dates back to the 9th century. It’s a unique design and it’s worth a visit. 

Stop 10: Eightercua Stone Row 

This is quite an interesting site, and unfortunately Bradley and I didn’t stop at it. But it’s  a four stones alignment and the tallest stone is over 9 feet in height. In Irish mythology, this represents the burial spot of the wife of Sceine who was the Milesian bard-magician Amergin. Apparently she died at sea just before they invaded Ireland...interesting! 

Stop 11: Charlie Chaplin statue

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 festival every year! 

Stop 12: Birthplace of Daniel O'donnell

This is a funny one, and if you don’t know who Daniel O’Donnell is then I’ll forgive you as you won’t be Irish. But anyway, this is included as a nod to my now passed away grandmother who was obsessed with him, and she would have loved to have visited his birthplace. Well granny, I did it for you! 

Stop 13: Dingle peninsula viewpoint 

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. It’s a very beautiful spot. 

ring of kerry

Stop 14: The Glenbeigh Towers Castle

This is an old irish castle that’s currently in ruins. There isn’t much left of it, but I actually love finding half of a castle, it allows you to create with your imagination and it’s hard to phantom anyone actually lived or ruled there. 

Stop 15: Derryanee Abbey 

The ruins of a 6th century Abbey which makes for a good photograph and an interesting history point. 

molls gap

Stop 16: The Kerry bog village museum 

Recreating traditional Irish thatched houses, this unique museum focuses on local irish history and culture. If you’re visiting Ireland for the first time, then I think it’s a great place to pop in and learn more about Irish life. 

Stop 17: Drive the Skellig ring 

Everytime 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” ring on the Ring of Kerry that takes you off loop for a little bit but you reloop back onto the original Ring of Kerry road. 

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

Stop 18: Admire the Kerry Cliffs

They Kerry Cliffs are located in Portmagee. When Bradley and I visited the Kerry Cliffs it was raining, foggy, misty and windy, (basically “normal” Irish weather) and I wasn’t convinced that we would see a great view of the Kerry cliffs. It’s a 4 euro entrance and you walk to the top and I can imagine that it’s stunning on a clear day. 

I’ve seen the pictures of it when it’s clear, or simply dry and it looks AMAZING! Of course you’re welcome to check it out if it’s misty, but up to you.

Stop 19: Day trip to Skellig islands 

The Skellig islands are beautiful and they’re now very famous thanks to Starwars. 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 100 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 around 30-40 euro. 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. 

Stop 20: Other beaches 

I actually only mentioned one beach above, but there are lots of other beaches that you will discover when driving the Ring of Kerry. So stop at as many as you want, it’ll be even better if the weather plays nice! 

water in ring of kerry

Stop 21: Visit Valentia island 

This is a popular spot on the Ring of Kerry, but technically it’s off the route (just a little bit!) This is a great island with amazing views (stunning cliffs), great food, great people and a great lighthouse! You can find out all the information about visiting here. 

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

It’s their tagline, not mine! But this cute restaurant 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 spots around there too. I’ve listed them below, but I have not gone into detail as you can check out the full details on my “Things to do in Killarney” post! 

  • Muckross House and Manor 
  • Troc 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 

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 seen 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

spacshps rental

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. 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! 

I've listed a few below which may be useful for you...

Ring of Kerry and Valentia island tour

Ring of Kerry tour from Killarney

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 included 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 great prices on all accommodation in the Ring of Kerry by using booking. Com 

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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