Part 4 of 5
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Out at the very edge of Europe, on South West Ireland’s wild Atlantic seaboard, the Ring of Kerry circles the Iveragh Peninsula. The Ring of Kerry drive is arguably one of the best drives in Ireland. The route leaves Killarney and follows the N71 to Kenmare Village before taking the N70 out and around to Killorglin. If you were driving the Ring of Kerry from start to finish without stopping, it’d take you around 2 and a half hours but in order to give you sufficient time to get out of your car and explore, allow at least 7 to 10 hours.
Although it’d be better to tackle the Ring of Kerry drive over the course of 2 days (especially if you add in the Skellig Ring), it’s doable over the course of 1 day. It’ll just be a busy day. And there’ll be a lot of driving about. But it’s doable if you’re visiting Kerry betwee April and September, when the days are nice and long.
You should drive clockwise around the Ring. The reason for this is that tour buses drive anti-clockwise around the Ring of Kerry route, and you’ll avoid getting stuck behind them if you go clockwise. Having said that, the earlier you leave the better as you will find less traffic on the narrow roads.
Our aim was to start our Ring of Kerry drive by visiting the Torc Waterfall. Unfortunately for us, it was raining quite heavily so we decided to give it a miss and proceed to the charming village of Sneem via the Killarney National Park. On our way, we passed by the Ladies View, which we had seen the previous day, and Moll’s Gap but unfortunately, the visibility there wasn’t that good.
Once in Sneem, we stopped for a toilet break and to take some photos. With a population of less than 600 people, Sneem is a charming and beautifully maintained village that has everything going for it. Nestling between the mountains and South Kerry’s wild and rugged coast, Sneem has long been associated with a remote and relaxed way of living. The village itself is famed for its colourful houses and characters and has won many Tidy Towns Awards.
In fact, Sneem is a beautiful village that looks like all the idyllic postcards from Ireland. Pretty houses, beautiful landscapes, small and safe. It’s definitely worth stopping here, even if just for a short while. Few villages are surrounded by the same rugged beauty as the picturesque village of Sneem, which is split in two by the Sneem River.
Our next stop was arguably one of the best beaches in Ireland, not that we could see much of it in the pouring rain! You’ll find it near Caherdaniel, a 30-minute spin from Sneem. This is one of the most frequently missed Ring of Kerry stops, for some reason. There’s free parking (note the height-restriction barrier) right next to Derrynane Beach but it does get busy in the summer. If you visit off-season, chances are that you can have this place all to yourself.
Derrynane Beach is reasonably sheltered and boasts a natural harbour, and there’s a lifeguard on duty during the summer months. Park up, hop out and head for a saunter along the sand, although in our case it was in our rain jackets!
After taking a rather miserable wet stroll around the beach, we headed back to the car and made for Portmagee via the Skellig Ring. Portmagee is a small picturesque fishing village of brightly painted houses at the south west tip of Valentia Harbour. The area was once a haven for smugglers and pirates who preyed on the trade ships from the Continent and North America. It’s definitely more peaceful today! Here we stopped for a coffee and a light snack before crossing the bridge to Valentia Island.
Despite the fact that most travel guides recommend taking a detour and driving along the Skellig Ring and then onto Valentia Island, I personally wasn’t that impressed. Probably, it was because of the typical dreary Irish weather we were experiencing that day as it was not really favourable for viewing anything close by, let alone in the distance!
Once at the other end of Valentia Island, we boarded the small ferry to cross over to the mainland once again. The Valentia Island Car Ferry runs a continuous shuttle service from Easter to early October. The roll-on roll-off ferry takes approximately 10 minutes to cross from Reenard Point to Knightstown. A single ticket for car and passengers cost us a total of €8.00. The attendant asking us for payment tried to charge us €10.00 but I was having nothing of that and pointed out that €8.00 was the official fare on their website!
Once back on the mainland, we headed towards Rossbeigh Strand, a sandspit with beaches on either side. The golden sand at Rossbeigh Beach stretches for 7 beautiful kilometres offering breathtaking views of the mountains on the Dingle Peninsula, that is, if the weather is in your favour! There is ample free parking at the start of the beach.
After walking around taking photos, we headed towards the Gap of Dunloe but couldn’t help stopping by the beautiful Behy Bridge. This old bridge, built in 1862 and repaired in 2016, passes over the Behy River on the road from Rossbeigh Strand to Glenbeigh Village.
Gap of Dunloe
Some ten minutes later, we drove off to what we thought was our last stop of the day, the Gap of Dunloe. A visit to the Gap of Dunloe is one of the most popular things to do in Killarney and it has been for quite some time now. Part of the official Ring of Kerry route, the Gap is a fine place for a walk or cycle, and the beauty that it boasts from beginning to end is simply stunning.
Visible for miles around, the iconic Gap of Dunloe, between the highest mountains in Ireland has been attracting attention for centuries. The river running through the gap is the river Loe from where the Gap gets its name. The road, narrow in many places, winds through the pass and descends into the Black Valley passing five lakes, Coosaun Lough, Black Lake, Cushnavally Lake, Auger Lake and Black Lough.
Many people may tell you that you can’t drive through the Gap of Dunloe. The truth is, however, the Gap of Dunloe IS a public road and technically you CAN drive it. The question is, though… should you? The road is extremely narrow (only wide enough for one car) with sharp curves and extremely limited places to pull off. In our case, it was fine as we did not encounter any walkers or cyclers along the road and most cars coming the other way gave us right of way! Perhaps, it was because we were in a large car!
Black Valley Waterfall
Exhausted but thoroughly satisfied after another enjoyable drive, we headed back to our hotel in Killarney via Black Valley but, as fate would have it, we came across a small waterfall here and stopped to take some photos. So we missed seeing the Torc Waterfall but at least got to see another one, albeit a smaller one, instead!
Is the Ring of Kerry worth it? Definitely! We really enjoyed the Ring of Kerry road trip even though we almost had a head-on collision with another car coming at full speed from behind a blind corner as we made our way back to Killarney! It’s such a scenic area and there are so many interesting places to explore. There is really nothing like breathing in the fresh Kerry air as you drink up the incredible views around you.
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