The Ring of Kerry scenic drive is one of the most popular road trips in all of Ireland because within the relatively short 179 km (112 miles) drive you will experience stunning natural landscapes, millennia of history, and dramatic clifftop views which will leave you speechless.
Clockwise or Anti-Clockwise?
As some of you know, Roma and I love a good road trip so we couldn’t wait to set out on the road and explore one of Ireland’s most famous scenic drives for ourselves. However, there was one question which we couldn’t get a clear answer on – should we drive clockwise or anti-clockwise?
We read extensively and basically ended up none the wiser as some travel guides recommended clockwise to avoid the tour buses and others advised anti-clockwise provided more options. I think we spent a good chunk of time going back and forth before making the decision to go anti-clockwise and end our drive in Killarney.
How Long Do You Need?
This is another question which we found difficult to get a definite answer to. Some locals told us the entire drive could be done in a day whilst Lonely Planet recommended a full 4 days. That’s a pretty big difference!
So with the benefit of hindsight, here’s our recommendation – if you’re driving The Ring of Kerry for the beautiful scenery then you can pretty comfortably complete the drive in a day. However, if you’re like us and tend to spend a bit of time at the historical sites (Ok, Roma only does this for my benefit….) and reading every possible plaque then maybe set aside a couple of days.
And We’re Off….
We decided to start our Ring of Kerry scenic drive at Killorglin and head west and then finish at our final destination of Killarney.
#1 – Roadside stop at Gleensk Recreation Area
The one thing which we could rely on during our drive was to expect unexpected rainfall so during one heavy downfall we took refuge at the Gleensk roadside recreation area. It turned out to be excellent decision because once the rain stopped we were able to take in the view…
#2 – The Road Ahead
One of the benefits of driving The Ring of Kerry after the peak months of summer is that you are able to take a photo like this – no cars, no people, just nature at its most wonderful. Take your time and enjoy the view.
#3 – Ballycarbery Castle
If you’re a regular reader of Roaming Required then you know just how much we love castle hunting so there was no chance that we were going to miss a visit to Ballycarbery Castle during our drive along the Ring of Kerry.
One tip if you plan a visit, don’t be put off by the giant Closed sign at the top of the street because the road is still open but the castle itself can’t be accessed. This isn’t really a big issue because you can still take photos from the carpark
#4 – Cahergall Stone Fort
One of my highlights was visiting the Cahergall Stone Fort. It honestly left me speechless. The majority of stone forts are located in the west of Ireland, some are thought to be built during the Iron Age (500 BC to 400 AD).
Cahergall is an awesome example of a stone fort, and I use “awesome” in the truest sense of the world. Standing at the base of the massive stone wall is a humbling experience as you start to imagine what it must have been like to build the enormous structure. You then climb the stone stairs to ascend to the top of the fort and gaze out across the Irish landscape (that’s Ballycarberry Castle to the right) it doesn’t take long til you feel connected to the thousand years of history that you’re standing on. A truly incredible visit.
#5 – Valentia Ferry Crossing
The drive around The Ring of Kerry will provide the opportunity to take the ferry across to the small island of Valentia, population 156. The island is home to an incredible piece of history, fossilised tetrapod footprints dating back 385 million years ago!
#6 – Ballinskelligs Priory
One of the most recent popular tourist attractions in Ireland is the remote outcrop of rocks known as Skellig Michael, made famous by featuring in Star Wars VII. Owing to the immense interest in visiting Skellig Michael now, tours are booked up months in advance which can make it somewhat difficult to visit.
Did you know that sitting atop the 618 stairs at Skellig Michael is a monastery, built by devout monks in the 5th century seeking a life of solitude and contemplation. The monks lived and prayed peacefully there for 700 years until Viking attacks prompted the monks to abandon the monastery and seek a new settlement.
It was here at Ballinskelligs where the monks chose to settle, adopt Augustian rule, and build a priory dedicated to St Michael. The remains of this priory are estimated to date back to the 15th century
#7 – View of Ballinskelligs Castle & Town
The view from the entryway to Ballinskelligs Priory provides the opportunity for a picturesque view of the Ballinskelligs Castle and the seaside town. It’s views like this that make you feel like you’re as far from real life as possible. It’s breathtaking.
#8 – Waterville Beach
Our visit to the town of Waterville was a personal highlight for us because it felt like we have returned home to the NSW north coast of Australia. The feeling we experienced walking through the small seaside town made us very happy, more than we expected. Standing on the beach watching the waves roll in was hypnotic. A definite Must Visit!
#9 – Charlie Chaplin Statue
Did you know that there’s a connection between Charlie Chaplin, the famed silent movie star, and the small town of Waterville, Ireland?
For over 10 years, Charlie Chaplin and his family visited Waterville during the summer holidays and stayed at the Butler Arms Hotel. The town is very proud of this connection and celebrates it annually with the Charlie Chaplin Comedy Film Festival. The bronze statue can be found in the centre of town.
#10 – Eightercua Stone Row
Located nearby to Waterville is the historic site – Eightercua Stone Row, a series of 4 stones aligned in a row formation thought to have originated 3700 years ago. Just take a moment and let that sink in… It’s thought the stones had a ritualistic purpose and the remains of a possible nearby tomb support that hypothesis.
#11 – Ring of Kerry Lookout
As you drive around the winding narrow mountain roads you’ll have the opportunity to gaze out over the North Atlantic Ocean and smile, the views are spellbinding. There is a lookout which will provide plenty of photo opportunities but the Virgin Mary sculpture photo really captured my imagination.
#12 – Ring of Kerry Lookout – The View
I mentioned that the view from The Ring of Kerry lookout was spectacular. I wasn’t lying. It left us speechless.
#13 – Roadside Stop
The views you see when driving around The Ring of Kerry are simply stunning. I can understand why Lonely Planet would suggest taking 4 days to take the entire drive, it’s because you end up stopping all the time to admire the view. There were times when Roma and I lost track of time just standing there taking in the view. I say, enjoy it and take your time.
#14 – Yet Another Roadside Stop
This photo was taken on the side of the road as made our way along the Ring of Kerry towards Killarney. We literally stopped just to take this photo and spend a few minutes soaking in the view. Best. Decision. Ever.
#15 – The Ladies View
On our approach to Killarney, we stopped by one of the famous scenic lookout spots on The Ring of Kerry; The Ladies View. Photo opportunities abound when you visit, we were lucky to time our stop towards the end of the day so the light was just perfect for photos. However, the photos are nothing compared to the natural beauty seen in person.
#16 – Killarney National Park
The Ring of Kerry passes through Killarney National Park and treats you to some spectacular views. There are plenty of places to stop and take a walk which is exactly what we did to take this photo. As we stood there marvelling at the view, it dawned on us that we couldn’t hear anything other than nature. A beautiful experience.
#17 – Torc Waterfall
We arrived at Torc Waterfall just as dusk descended which provided the small window to capture the majesty of the waterfall. In what was a stroke of luck, we had the entire waterfall to ourselves and the last flickers of sunlight to capture the photo. Torc waterfall is best seen after recent rainfall, fortunately not a massive problem in Ireland, and there are two viewing platforms from which to admire the natural formation.
The Ring of Kerry is recognised as one of the world’s most beautiful scenic drives and after spending a full day exploring it, we definitely recommend it to everyone who visits Ireland. There’s something for everyone – those who love stunning sunsets, dramatic landscapes, quaint seaside towns, and of course, fans of history. How much did we love it? As I sit here writing this, I’m already contemplating another visit to the Emerald Isle.