Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Ring of Kerry
Ring of Kerry View slideshowThe largest of the peninsulas which project into the Atlantic in Kerry, in the southwest of Ireland, is the Iveragh Peninsula, bounded on the south by the estuary of the Kenmare River, on the west by the Atlantic and on the north by Dingle Bay. At the east end of the peninsula Macgillicuddy's Reeks tower up above the Killarney lakes.A scenic road, the famous Ring of Kerry, encircles the peninsula, keeping close to the coastline for most of the way. Starting from Kenmare at the southeast corner of the peninsula, the route (here on the N70) runs west to Waterville and then north and northeast to Killorglin; from there the R562 goes inland to Killarney, from which the N71 leads south to Kenmare.The total length of the round trip is 100mi/158km; a detour to Valentia Island at the northeast corner of the peninsula will add at least another 25mi/40km. In suitable weather the Ring of Kerry is a road of extraordinary scenic beauty; it is not really possible, therefore, to do it justice in a day trip. It should be remembered also that at the height of the season traffic is very heavy on the roads.
Ring of Kerry
Kenmare is a good base from which to drive around the exceptionally scenic Ring of Kerry, encircling the Iveragh peninsula.
Kenmar - Ring of Beara
From Kenmare, a drive through the Ring of Beara around the peninsula of the same name in Glengarriff is worthwhile, even if it is less well-known and not so spectacular as the Ring of Kerry drive.
Kenmare Heritage Center
The Kenmare Heritage Center is situated in a restored old building in the square of Kenmare. The entrance is through the tourist information office. It covers lace, nun, history and landlords of Kenmare.
From Kenmare the N70 runs west along the north side of the inlet known as the Kenmare River. On the right can be seen the foothills of Macgillicuddy's Reeks, on the left, over the water, the Caha Mountains.
At Templenoe is a church of 1816. Beyond this, at the ruins of Dromore Castle, is a viewpoint and parking lot. In 7.5mi/12km the valley of the Blackwater (salmon and trout fishing) opens up on the right. The river plunges down to the sea in a deep gorge; from the road a footpath leads down through dense, almost tropical vegetation to the shore. A charming little road ascends the valley and over an 850ft/250m pass to Glencar and Lough Caragh.
4mi/6km from Templenoe is Tahilla noted for freshwater and sea fishing.
4mi/6km from Templenoe is Tahilla and, beyond this, Parknasilla, a beautifully situated holiday resort with a mild climate all year round in which palms, pines, bamboos and jasmine flourish.
The road turns inland from Parknasilla, coming in 2mi/3km to Sneem, a fishing center in a narrow inlet. The Protestant church (16th C., much altered) has an unusual weathervane in the form of a salmon. There is good walking and climbing in the hills to the north and west, which rise to 2,166ft/660m.
At Castlecove, 8mi/13km west of Sneem, a very narrow road leaves the N70 on the right and comes in just over 1mi/2km to a large stone fort on a hill between two valleys. This is Staigue Fort (National Monument), a circular structure of drystone walling, 90ft/27m in diameter and over 16ft/5m high, surrounded by a ditch. The walls are 13ft/4m thick, with staircases on the inside and small chambers in the thickness of the wall.
At Castlecove, 8mi/13km west of Sneem, a very narrow road leaves the N70 on the right and comes in just over 1mi/2km to a large stone fort on a hill between two valleys. The N70 then continues for some distance along the sea with its many small islands and then turns inland to Caherdaniel (trout fishing, swimming, surfing), near which is a small stone fort similar to Staigue.
Derrynane National Historic Park
Southwest of Caherdaniel extends the Derrynane National Historic Park. Nature trails with explanatory signboards conduct the visitor through the dunes which are bordered by a long sandy beach. The tiny Abbey Island offshore can be reached at low tide. Within the grounds stands a fine mansion where Daniel O'Connell (1775-1847) lived. The building now houses a museum. The park is always open.Derrynane House is the ancestral home of Daniel O'Connell who was a lawyer, statesman and politician. The House displays the relics of O'Connell's career and life.
Address: National Historic Park, Ireland
After passing through Caherdaniel, southwest of which extends the Derrynane National Historic Park, the N70 climbs to the Coomakista Gap (690ft/210m), from which there are magnificent views, and runs down to Ballinskelligs Bay. To the right, in a beautiful setting, lies Lough Currane. On Church Island in this freshwater lough are a destroyed 12th century church (National Monument) with a Romanesque doorway, remains of monks' dwellings and a number of gravestones with Christian symbols. From a narrow road which follows the south side of Lough Currane can be seen the ruins of a castle which has been engulfed by the lough. On the west side of the lough are the horseshoe-shaped stone fort of Beenbane and the ruins of a thick-walled beehive hut (both National Monuments).
Waterville (An Coirean, "The Little Whirlpool") lies some 40mi/64km west of Kenmare on the narrow strip of land between Lough Currane and Ballinskelligs Bay. The abundance of fish in the local rivers and loughs and in the sea makes this a popular center for both freshwater and sea fishing.From Waterville two lonely and beautiful minor roads, which later unite, traverse the middle of the Iveragh Peninsula and then descend to Killorglin. The more southerly of the two passes a number of loughs well stocked with fish.To the west of Waterville there are good beaches in Ballinskelligs Bay. Across the bay is the village of Ballinskelligs.
The N70 north from Waterville has a road branching off on the left to Portmagee. From here a very beautiful but narrow road leads south to the Coomanaspig Gap (1,080ft/330m), from which there are splendid views of the bays and bird-covered islands of the Atlantic.
The N70 north from Waterville has a road branching off on the left to Portmagee. From Portmagee a bridge (1970) crosses a narrow strait to Valentia Island. This bare rocky island offers excellent opportunities for sea fishing. From Bray Head (788ft/240m) at its western end there are magnificent views of the Atlantic cliffs. At its eastern end is Knights Town, from which there is a ferry to the mainland.
A relatively new tourist attraction on Valentia Island is the Skellig Experience (near the bridge). The Visitor Center (opening times given) provides information about the Skellig Islands and about the life and work of the monks who lived there from the sixth to the 13th centuries. Another exhibition is devoted to the seabirds and the underwater world of the islands. From Valentia Island comfortable excursion ships make regular trips around the islands, which tower above the water like the summits of sunken mountains.
Address: Skellig Heritage Centre, Ireland
Skellig Islands (Skellig Rocks)
The boat tour around the Skellig Islands first passes Little Skellig, an island inhabited by tens of thousands of seabirds of many species, particularly gannets. The dense swarms of birds taking off from their nesting places, soaring up, swooping down again and all the time uttering their harsh cries form a sight - and a sound - not to be forgotten.
The N70 north from Waterville has a road branching off on the left to Portmagee. 1mi/2km from Portmagee is Cahirciveen, at the foot of Bentee Mountain (1,227ft/374m). From here boats sail (in good weather) to the celebrated Skellig Islands, which rear out of the water, 9mi/14km out to sea, like the peaks of sunken mountains. Facing Cahirciveen across the broad Valentia River can be seen the ruins of Ballycarbery Castle. To the northeast of the castle, reached on a side road which leaves the N70 on the left, are two good stone ring-forts - Cahergall (National Monument), 105ft/32m in diameter, with two stone structures within the walls; and, commandingly situated on a hill, Leacanabuaile (ninth century: National Monument), with staircases, chambers in the thickness of the walls and underground rooms.The N70 continues northeast from Cahurciveen up the wide valley of Kells. On the left rises Knockadober (2,230ft/680m), on the right a range of peaks of much the same height. Between them are fine views of the sea and the hills. The road then keeps close to the foot of Drung Hill, running high above the sea at some points, passes an old coaching inn, with magnificent views of Dingle Bay and the hills of the Dingle Peninsula, and descends to Glenbeigh.
From Cahirciveen the N70 continues northeast up the valley of Kells, then keeps close to the foot of Drung Hill, finally descending to Glenbeigh. The beautifully situated little holiday resort of Glenbeigh has good fishing. 1mi/2km west is a beautiful sandy beach, Rossbeigh Strand.
From Glenbeigh it is 9mi/15km through an undulating morainic landscape to the little town of Killorglin, where the famous Puck Fair is held every year on August 10-12.
Killorglin Puck Fair
This annual three-day festival dates as far back as 1613. A goat named King Puck is the festival's main feature. The goat is paraded through the town on opening day and is put on a platform for the rest of the festivities. The events offered during the three days include a live-stock sale, as well as informal dances and concerts.
Address: Seanscoil, Sunhill, Ireland
After crossing the River Laune (salmon fishing) the road forks. The N70 continues straight ahead to Milltown, west of which are the ruins of Kilcoman Abbey (13th century: National Monument), and Tralee, while the R562 turns east and, following the river, continues on the Ring of Kerry. 4mi/6km from the road fork, 0.5mi/800m away on the banks of the river, stands Ballymalis Castle (16th C.; National Monument), the picturesque ruin of a four-story tower. Extensive views of Macgillicuddy's Reeks.
After crossing the River Laune the road forks. The N70 continues straight ahead to Milltown, west of which are the ruins of Kilcoman Abbey, while the R562 turns east and, following the river, continues on the Ring of Kerry. 4mi/6km from the road fork, 0.5mi/800m away on the banks of the river, stands Ballymalis Castle. The road now traverses the Killarney lake district and climbs, with fine views to the rear, to Moll's Gap, and then descends through beautiful scenery, with many bends, to Kenmare, the starting point of the drive. (Killarney to Kenmare, 21mi/34km).
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