Ring of Kerry is a nearly 200 km (125 mile) long loop route in county Kerry among Ireland's most stunning landscapes - little, cozy villages, green hills and fields, castles, bare mountains and hundreds of lakes in Killarney National Park. Moreover, along the Atlantic Coast, as a part of "Wild Atlantic Way" - you can enjoy breathtaking views over dramatic cliffs, sandy beaches with surprisingly clear blue water and amazing and off the beaten path Skellig Islands (sometimes called Irish Machu Picchu) which are the home for thousands of colorful puffins that seemingly love to pose for photographs. Most of what Ireland is famous for can be seen concentrated within this little piece of land.
How to get to Kerry Ring
A good point to start is the Killarney National Park near the town of Killarney. It's easy to reach it by bus from Dublin. It takes around 5 hours 30 minutes with one change in Limerick. The fare one way is around 30 EUR (35 USD). You can find more details and a timetable here. Country Kerry also has its own airport, you can fly here from Dublin in less than 45 mins. Apart from Dublin, the little airport receives flights from London, Frankfurt and even a few cities in the US. More information here.
Another, hassle-free alternative is to take a tour from Dublin. If you don't drive or have little time, it might work best for you. However, you won't be able to stop at some amazing places, and it will be pretty rushed.
The best option, in my opinion (especially for a group), would be to rent a car, drive all the way and stop wherever you wish. And, believe me, you will want to stop every couple of minutes! Note, that for Skellig islands you will need an extra day (and no tourist office in Dublin offers tours there).
Best points of the Ring of Kerry
Killarney National Park
Killarney town is usually the best choice for the starting point to explore the scenic Ring of Kerry. You can stop here for a day and take a hike in Killarney National Park which is dotted with beautiful lakes and hills, visit Torc waterfall, Muckross House - a stunning, traditional mansion and Muckross Abbey. On the way down towards the coastal town of Kenmare, stop at the Ladies View - spectacular viewing point. I'll write a separate article about Killarney National Park in the future.
Kenmare to Abbey Island
The Kenmare to Abbey Island section of the route is famous for the beautiful, sandy beaches. Stop at O'Caroll's Cove Beach Bar - the only beach bar in Ireland! If you are lucky with the weather (and brave enough to face the cold), on a nice, summer day, you can take a swim at O'Caroll's Cove Beach - we were surprised with its clear blue water and nice, golden sand.
A little bit further, you'll get to Abbey Island - the surroundings are beautiful and I think the island has the clearest water I've seen in Ireland - all the sea algae and jellyfish are clearly visible just like in an aquarium. There are also ruins of the medieval abbey on the island. When the tide is low, you can easily walk from the shore to Abbey Island and follow a scenic trail there. Abbey Island is famous among locals and not too many tourists make it there - so it retains the authentic and local atmosphere.
Portmagee, Skellig Ring and Skellig Islands
The town of Portmagee is the gateway to Skellig Islands - Skellig Michael and Little Skellig. You can visit "Skellig Experience" center here to find out about the Skellig Islands but nothing compares to actually stepping on the islands by yourself. Abundance of wildlife that can be observed firsthand is astonishing. The most famous birds you'll see here are the colorful puffins that look like little penguins - and are not afraid of tourists. They seem to love to pose for photos!
Apart from the puffins and dramatic, sharp, rocky, pointy peaks Skellig Michael boasts the ruins of an ancient abbey (interestingly resembling igloos made of stone) which is still very well preserved until this day. Some even call it Irish Machu Picchu. Skellig Islands are probably my favorite place in Ireland. Literally unknown to tourists and not that easy and cheap to reach - but one hundred percent authentic and really worth the effort! I've descried the visit to Skellig Islands and how to get there in detail here.
Near Portmagee, you can also admire spectacular cliffs - near what is called "Skellig Ring" - a scenic route around Skellig area.
Portmagee back to Killarney
After visiting Skellig, you'll head back to Killarney. Similarly idyllic landscapes are visible everywhere and you can stop at a long beach of Rossbeigh - which is a stop for most of the tours from Dublin. I chose to stop at Abbey Island and I believe it was more attractive than long and flat Rossbeigh. If you wish to continue your journey and have extra few days, continue up north along Wild Atlantic Way towards Dingle Peninsula. It's also beautiful and well worth a visit.
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