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Things to do – Ring of Kerry

Ring of Kerry

ring of kerry

The Ring of Kerry (Irish: Mórchuaird Chiarraí) is a tourist trail in County Kerry, south-western Ireland. The route covers the 179 km circular road (N70, N71, and R562 road), starting from Killarney, heading around the Iveragh Peninsula and passing through Kenmare, Sneem, Waterville, Cahersiveen and Killorglin. Popular points include Muckross House (near Killarney), Staigue stone fort and Derrynane House, home of Daniel O’Connell. Just south of Killarney, Ross Castle, Lough Leane, and Ladies View (a panoramic viewpoint), all located within Killarney National Park, are major attractions located along the Ring. A more complete list of major attractions along the Ring of Kerry includes: Gap of Dunloe, Bog Village, Rossbeigh Beach, Cahersiveen Heritage Centre, Derrynane House, Skellig Experience, Staigue Fort, Kenmare Lace, Moll’s Gap, Ladies View, Torc Waterfall, Muckross House, The Blue Pool, Ross Castle, Ogham Stones, St Mary’s Cathedral, Muckross Abbey, Franciscan Friary, Kellegy Church, O’Connell Memorial Church, Sneem Church and Cemetery, Skellig Michael, Beehive Cells and the Stone Pillars marking an important grave.

There is also an established walking path named The Kerry Way, which takes its own route, and a signposted Ring of Kerry cycling path which uses older quieter roads where possible. The Kerry Way roughly follows the scenic driving route of the Ring of Kerry.

There are numerous variations to the route taking in St. Finian’s Bay and Valentia Island which the official driving ring misses (the official cycling route takes in Valentia Island). As well as some fine beaches, it also offers the Gap of Dunloe, Bog Village, Derrynane House, the Skellig Experience, Valentia Island, Molls Gap, Torc Waterfall, Muckross House and Ross Castle.

Skellig Ring

Skellig Ring is a predominantly coastal road, that offers panoramic views of its namesake the Skellig rocks. Beginning in Ballinskelligs, we will first visit the ruins of the 16th century MacCarthy Mor tower house, followed by a short walk across the narrow isthmus to the 12th Augustinian abbey.

Bolus Head where on a clear day, one is afforded unparalleled views of Ballinskelligs Bay, the Beara Peninsula, Bull Rock and the islands of Scariff and Deenish. Along the way we will visit a number of interesting sites, including the famine village of Kildreelig, now an artist’s retreat, a bronze age four stone alignment and a 6th century monastic site.

A short drive brings you to two fascinating megalitic structures, a wedge tomb and a boulder burial with asssociated standing stone under the shadows of Canuig mountain. Continuing on to the The Glen, we stop at a WWII memorial in Ducalla, the location of which provides outstandings views of the Skelligs and Puffin Island.

A short break at Finian’s bay where one can explore the beach and surrounding cliffsides at their own leisure, you will visit the remains of a Medieval church, two Early Medieval ringforts, one containing an impressive souterrain and an Early Medieval monastic site containing a gable shrine, decorative cross-slabs and a nearby holy well, a local pilgrimage site to this day.

You can make your way to Puffin Sound for some picture postcard photography opportunities, stopping along the way at Glen Pier and a 6th century boat shaped oratory thought to be the earliest nunnery in Ireland. You can then cross over the pass at Coomaneaspaig, where you can follow a trail to the summit to witness some of the finest cliff sceneny the west coast of Ireland

At Bray Head, follow the pathway to the 18th century signal tower, along the way stopping to explore the remains of some booleying huts and the remnants of a prehistoric trackway and field system. From the signal tower you can continue along the cliffs to the north, with stunning views of the Blasket Islands and Dingle Peninsula, until we reach

and its wonderful rockscape, where we again explore prehistoric field systems, a holy well dedicated to St Brendan and some enigmatic stone crosses. Our bus will meet us here and short drive later, we will visit an impressive standing stone, wedge tomb and a monastic settlement, complete with ogham stone and ceallunach.We highly recommended a visit to Geokaun viewing point, which provides unrivalled 360 degree views of the surrounding countryside, with Dingle to the north, the Skelligs to the west, the MacGuillicuddy Reeks to east and the Portmagee channel to the south.

Skellig Experience

skellig experience valentia island

Discover the Skellig Experience a must see attraction for visitors to County Kerry Ireland

The Skellig Islands, Skellig Michael and Small Skellig, stand aloof in the Atlantic Ocean some 12 km southwest of Valentia Island, County Kerry.
From any angle, or from any vantage point on the nearby Ring of Kerry, they are spectacular pinnacles, which have magnetised viewers throughout all history – and beyond.

These Skellig islands are world-famous, each in its own right: Skellig Michael is known throughout the world of archaeology as the site of a well-preserved monastic outpost of the Early Christian period – now designated a World Heritage Site; Small Skellig is equally renowned in matters of ornithology as the home of some 27,000 pairs of gannets – the second largest colony of such seabirds in the world.

A wisp of cloud often adorning the peaks of these pinnacles creates a volcanic impression! But there is nothing volcanic about these Skelligs rocks; they are created of the same 350–million-year-old Devonian Sandstone that runs right through the backbone of Kerry – from the county’s south-western headlands to the shores of Killarney’s

Valentia Island

Valentia Island Ireland

Valentia Island is South Kerry’s best kept secret, a haven for anyone needing to get away from it all.
There is something for everyone in Valentia!

The combined features and history of the island make it an attractive tourist destination,easily accessible from the popular ring of Kerry route.

Geokaun Mountain and Fogher Cliffs : the highest mountain on Valentia Island and the sea cliffs of 600 feet (180 m) on its northern face.

On the northeast of the island stands Glanleam House amid sub tropical gardens. Protected by windbreaks from Atlantic gales and never touched by frost, these gardens provide the mildest micro climate in Ireland. Starting in the 1830s, Sir Peter George Fitzgerald, the 19th Knight of Kerry (1808–1880), planted these gardens and stocked them with a unique collection of rare and tender plants from the southern hemisphere, normally grown under glass in Ireland. The gardens are laid out in a naturalistic style as a series of walks. There are plants from South America, Australia, New Zealand (the tallest tree fern in Europe), Chile, and Japan. The gardens are open to the public. The slate quarry which reopended in 1998 provided slates for the British House of Paliement. The island also hosts a heritage centre which tells the story of the geology, human, natural and industrial history of the island, with exhibits on the Cable Station, the Marine Radio Station

valentia island boat

Geokaun Mountain & Fogher Cliffs, Valentia Island

Without doubt it is one of the finest views in Kerry. After paying a small admission charge you can drive or walk to the top of the mountain. Fine views of Valentia Harbour, Skelligs Rocks, Cahersiveen and the surrounding countryside. Very informative information panels on route.

St Finian’s Bay and Ballinskelligs Beach

St. Finian’s Bay or known locally as The Glen, is nestled between the villages of Portmagee and Ballinskelligs on the Skellig Ring Drive. It is an area of outstanding natural beauty and each entry point to The Glen offers stunning vistas and winding mountain passes.

Visiting The Glen from the north, Coomanaspig Pass offers you the first magnificent panoramas of St. Finian’s Bay with its views to the Skellig Rocks and Puffin Island and its crescent shaped glen encircled by the rolling mountains and headlands of this beautiful corner of Kerry.

Walk Ballinskelligs Blue Flag Beach which is the site of the ruins of Ballinskelligs Priory of Augustinian Canons Regular, and the remains of Ballinskelligs Catle or have a picnic on the beach or just dive in!


Derrynane house and National Park

Derrynane National Historic Park

A short distance the lodge you will find Derrynane National Park and Derrynane House, the ancestral family home of Daniel O’Connell (6 August 1775 – 15 May 1847), known as ‘The Liberator’, a 19th century politician who championed the cause of the Irish in the British Parliament and succeeded in achieving Catholic Emancipation which he believed would be the first step in achieving Home Rule. The house and grounds have been preserved and are open to the public every day during the summer months and anyone touring the Ring of Kerry should make a point of visiting.

The ancestral home of Daniel O’Connell, Derrynane House is a public museum commemorating one of Ireland’s leading historical figures and arguably the greatest ever Irishman, known by the nation as the Great Liberator.

Skellig Chocolates Factory

Skellig Chocolate Co is the most westerly chocolate company in Europe, producing award-winning chocolates and offering some of the most spectacular views in the country looking over the Skellig Rocks.

Cill Rialaig Arts Centre

Cill Rialaig Arts Centre in Ballinskelligs is an example of the rich history to be witnessed on the Skellig Ring.


Glanleam Gardens

The 40-acre site was created by the 19th Knight of Kerry when exotic plant species were sent to him by plant collectors all over the world, creating a tropical jungle-like garden which is waiting to be explored.

Kerry International Dark Sky Reserve

History and Archaeology

This Ogham stone near Caherdaniel displays a fine example of ancient Celtic Ogham text, a form of writing comprising combinations of parallel and angled lines carved along an edge of a standing stone. There are numerous examples along the Ring of Kerry route. Staigue Fort is over two thousand years old and located at Castlecove near Sneem. Archaeologists are not certain as to its purpose but speculate that it may have been used to protect cattle or as a site of religious significance. It may also have been used as an amphitheatre for some form of spectacle. This ancient monument should not be missed when you are touring the Ring of Kerry. The Ring of Kerry is equally rich in archaeological remains. Fine example of Iron Age forts can be seen at Staigue near Caherdaniel and Cahergal and Leacanabuaile at Cahersiveen. There are also fine examples of medieval castles and monasteries. The jewel in Kerry’s crown is the 7th century monastic remains on Skellig Mhichíl, a world heritage site.