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  • Writer's pictureDaniel Bates

Road trip on the Ring of Kerry and the Dingle Peninsula

I have done a lot of road trips around the world and I was at it again in Ireland. Before this visit to this western part of the island, I had never heard of the Ring of Kerry or what there was to see and do on the 179km (111 miles) circular route and I had to check it out. Starting off in Killarney I headed south to Kenmare, west to Waterville before heading north-east back to Killarney. The Ring of Kerry is the second most popular driving route in Ireland after the Wild Atlantic Way (which I hope to do one day). Also nearby to the north west of Killarney is the Dingle Peninsula which is another great one-day road trip with stunning rugged coastline views and rolling hills. 

Ring of Kerry

Killarney, this has to be my favourite town in Ireland (to date), not because it's a major tourist attraction (but to local standards it is a huge touristy place but hey, the population around here isn’t big and sometimes a deer may wander into town looking for a good time), but because of its charm, how the locals want to engage with me. have long conversations and the restaurants here are simply amazing. Did I also mention that the town has a bar or two? 

Daniks Ring of Kerry Map
My simple map of where Ring of Kerry and Dingle Peninsula is (copyright - Google)

Well the sights, I didn’t actually check any out in the town but the area is a good place to get some sleep, eat and drink. Here is what I checked out in my short time in this amazing city. Regarding food, I couldn’t try out all the places to eat, if I did, I would’ve come away weighing an extra few kilos. Here are my favourites. Tatler Jacks on Plunkett Street, a great place to get a good drink but the food here is excellent. There may not be a lot of seating so make sure to have a reservation or get there early like we did. Serves a variety of food from the usual meats, pastas, chicken meals, burgers to curries. O’Donoghues Public House on Plunkett Street was amazing. From the warm welcome, the customer service, to the food was stunning. I had problems getting through the main meal as I had a starter but hey, I was enjoying myself here in this cozy bar.

Treyvaud’s, a very well run family restaurant where I met one of the owner’s who knew what sort of food I should be served. The food here just melted in my mouth and I came away with a very big grin on my mouth. The restaurant also has a letter near the main entrance (in a frame) from St James Palace in London, in a response to the restaurant owner about inviting Prince William and company across to Killarney for a meal. For a quick snack (or an ice cream shall I say), on Main Street there is Murphy’s which has ice cream from the nearby harbour town of Dingle. I tried this place twice as their main product was ice cream with gin (also from the town of Dingle).  

Murphy's, Ring of Kerry
Ice Cream at Murphy's - Killarney

My favourite bars in the town, I only checked out a few (but managed to stay for several hours in each). All of them have fantastic staff, great drinks on offer and to be honest, not too expensive.

There is also a theme bar on Lewis Road called The Shire, which is based on the hit motion picture “The Lord of the Rings”. When I was there I kept getting a few surprises from the one and only Gollum who kept sneaking up on me or grabbing my shoulders as I waited at the bar for a pint of the local brew.

On Main Street there is Reidy’s which back in the day was a sweet store which rumours have it (or maybe true), that alcohol was served at the rear. However when I went to the place it was huge and like a maze to walk around. It has several different small rooms and a couple of bars dotted about to keep the customers happy. I loved this place when the music kicked in by a local band which got the locals rocking. 

Ok, saying that there weren't really any sights in town, well, that’s not true. My favourite place to check out was the Killarney Brewing Company where I got to try out a few samples of the beer brewed on site before being taken on a tour. Check out my review on the brewery here.

Killarney Brewing Company is located on the Ring of Kerry
Killarney Brewing Company

Now back in the car I headed south and first stop was Ross Castle which is situated on Lough (Lake) Leane and has stood here since the 15th century. Guided tours do take place but a lot of visitors come here for hikes as it is also situated in the Killarney National Park and boat tours on the lake. To go inside the castle, visitors must take a guided tour and can't go by themselves.

Torc Waterfall was the next stop and is situated just off the Ring of Kerry (by a parking lot). The tall waterfall is situated at the base of Torc Mountain and there is a fantastic hiking route to the summit which starts from the steps next to the waterfall to which I did (thinking that I was going to get a view of the waterfall from above but never came across it!)

Heading south on the N71 (the road) I passed many viewpoints on the southern side of Loch Leane and I just had to capture these amazing moments. It was so peaceful, not a soul in sight and it felt like I had the whole national park to myself. This was a truly amazing moment for me.

Further up the mountain I came to an area known as Ladies View. The view overlooking the Loch Leane and the surrounding mountains down below was once again, a truly amazing moment and again, I had the place to myself. To celebrate, I just had to grab a beer and some cake at the cafe which is also situated here.

The next town I came across was Kenmare, a charming little town with charming high streets dotted with small boutique shops, small restaurants and local bars. It can get busy here but I was lucky and managed to get a table to sample more cakes and the delicious hot drinks on offer.

The road then rings west towards the Atlantic Ocean and (as I did the Ring of Kerry over two days) the best place to get breakfast was in a charming small town called Sneem. The Village Kitchen is located just west off the bridge which goes over the River Sneem. Here I was  treated to a full Irish breakfast which was simply divine. The cafe does however get busy as the word got about but if you can get breakfast, then come here.

The next sight I came to was the Staigue Stone Fort which was about 4km north of the main road before reaching Castlecove. Here I came across a ruined stone ringfort which was probably built during the late Iron Age (so around 300-400AD give or take) and was built as a defensive stronghold for a king or a local lord.

Then I just drove, drove, drove, capturing amazing views over towns and the Atlantic Ocean. There are several viewpoints (which are safe to stop in) but not too many. Driving in low season, I found that there were many coaches to avoid on the road so my advice is, don’t drive too crazy. There are other amazing places to stop at like Muckross House, Gap of Dunloe, Molly’s Gap...but I didn’t have the time to do everything and I hope to come back and check out the rest one day. When exploring western Ireland, make sure Killarney and the Ring of Kerry is on the list. The views simply blew my mind and my breath was taken away. 

Dingle Peninsula

Now I am going to have to admit that I never heard of the town of Dingle and the Dingle Peninsula until arriving on this trip to Ireland. It wasn’t until I was speaking to a local in Killarney that they told me to take a road trip around the peninsula, take in the views, the town of Dingle, check out the quaint villages and the rugged coastlines. If I had a moment, check out the fresh seafood on offer in the restaurants. I had a spare day so why not? And after the road trip, this is one of the best drives in Ireland I have done so far. The Ring of Kerry is amazing but I totally loved this drive more. It was such an amazing experience to visit. 

Dingle Peninsula, Ring of Kerry, Ireland

As Killarney is not too far away, I didn’t need accommodation in this area which was a bonus. However if any visitors want to come here from Dublin, which is about a four drive away, then accommodation is needed. Dingle is the biggest town on the Dingle Peninsula and located on the southern coastline, looking out into the Dingle Bay. The bay is famous for its cliffs and a great place to go seal watching. There is an option of taking a ferry out into the bay during the summer months from the town of Dingle to get amazing views of the bay area, however this I didn’t have time for but others I spoke to said it is worth doing whilst in the area. 

Dingle Peninsula, Ring of Kerry, Ireland

I start with Dingle as a lot of visitors will stop here. The town started off as an important trading post during the sixteenth century where merchant ships traded wine (which was the most important trading item back then) with ports in Britain, France and Spain. If you look closely whilst walking around in the town, you can see traces of the trading that used to happen here. However the town is bursting with life with its cultural background. Irish culture is very strong here. There are a heck of a lot of pastel-coloured homes all over the town, and I mean, all over the town, not just the centre. 

Now heading westwards from Dingle towards the Atlantic Ocean, the road here is known as the Slea Head Drive (Slí Cheann Sléibhe) and also forms part of the Wild Atlantic Way which is the scenic road which goes from south to north of the island of Ireland. This drive has to be done. A handy tip for my readers outside these islands is that Ireland drives on the LEFT hand side of the road and not the right. Driving is the best way to explore the peninsula (even though in the summer months there are guided tour buses from Dingle and Killarney). Just to note, it is best to do this in a clockwise direction due to the narrow road and passing places so please bear this in mind.  Whilst driving this crazy bendy road I saw a lot of colourful homes, lush green fields, beautiful villages, saw a lot of sheep and nearly hit the car in the many stone walls which were right against the road (it’s not that bad but it felt like it at the time). 

Dingle Peninsula, Ring of Kerry, Ireland

The Slea Head Drive can be done in one hour without stops however I took forever and stopped off at some incredible places, taking in the views and getting that picture postcard moment with the camera. There were also so many beautiful beaches to take in as well like Inch Beach, a long stretch of golden sand which goes on for miles.

Dingle Peninsula, Ring of Kerry, Ireland,

Before the Beehive Huts (which is a popular stop off on the Slea Head Drive but I didn’t stop off here as I stupidly forgot about the place on my list of stops and didn’t see the big blue sign for it…doh!) is the Dunbeg Fort (Dún Beag Fort). Dún Beag fort is a small but impressive and elaborate example of a promontory fort and its location makes it one of the most dramatic archaeological sites on the Dingle Peninsula. Built on a sheer cliff which projects South into Dingle Bay at the base of Mount Eagle, this was an incredible place to stand and soak in those Dingle Bay views. Worth a stop off if you have time.

The first major stop I made was Dunmore Head, taking a side road off the Slea Head Drive when I reached the village of Coumeenole. Here is the western most point of the mainland of Ireland and also got to see the Blasket Islands out in the ocean, whilst a strong gale force wind tried to blow me into the water below. 

Further along the drive I came across the Gallarus Oratory (Séipéilín Ghallarais) which is a chapel and overlooks the harbour at Ard na Caithne. The chapel has stood here since the twelfth century and is worth checking out before heading back into Dingle. 

After doing the Slea Head drive in the morning, I took in another road as I headed eastwards back towards my base in Killarney. The road is known as the Connors Pass and should only be done in good weather. I did have a lot of clouds the day I drove so I took a chance. Heading northeast out of Dingle on the R560, the road is like the Slea Head, very narrow in places and be careful of oncoming traffic as well as a lot of cyclists, cows and sheep. The drive is so worth it when reaching the summit, 450 meters above sea level, the views in all directions are amazing. I also checked out the small waterfall known as Connors Pass Waterfall. Not as stunning as Torc Waterfall on the Ring of Kerry, this is still worth a stop. Just to note that the Connors Pass is open all year round however check the weather forecasts before attempting and it is a public road (12 km in distance) so there is no toll fee to pay.,

A question I get asked a lot is…..

Ring of Kerry or Dingle Peninsula?

That is a tough question to answer and all I am going to say is, allow the time over a couple of days to do both. This part of South Western Ireland is truly amazing and it was a delight to explore it. I will always treasure the views and take the memories home with me. The Dingle Peninsula can be done in a day with the Connors Pass however the Ring of Kerry which is around 190km long, needs a couple of days as it has so many sights to see and the towns of Kenmare, Killarney and Sneem are worth checking out. I can’t wait to go back and take my family with me, for me, this area is Ireland and what I imagine from the country. The people are so lovely, the views are stunning and the seafood I eat is some of the best I have come across in Europe.  

Don’t forget to check out my blog post on Limerick which is further north of Killarney and is worth checking out also. Click here to view.

Dingle Peninsula, Ring of Kerry, Ireland,

Essential Information

How to get there: Flying into this area? Then I would recommend using Skyscanner to find flights as that is my first point of call. Then if necessary use the airlines directly to find a good deal. I sometimes use Momondo as well to compare prices before booking. Killarney (the main town on the Ring of Kerry) is a pretty easy town to get to. Killarney's nearest airport is Kerry Airport, 17km from the town centre. Cork and Shannon Airports are a distance of 90km and 135km from Killarney respectively and are great for no-frills airlines as well as Air Lingus whilst the town is located 300km to the south west of Dublin Airport for international flights to USA and most major European capital cities. 

If coming by ferry, the nearest ferry port to Killarney is at Cork, approx 90km away. Further afield is Rosslare port (250km). Rosslare is also well served with connections from the UK and France.

By train, the Killarney Railway Station is located right in the town centre with connections from Tralee, Cork and Dublin. Check the Irish Rail website for timetables and information. A regular bus service to and from Dublin also operates daily from Mission Road in the town centre.

Need insurance? Safety Wing offers coverage for a lot of adventure activities as well as emergency medical, lost luggage, trip cancellation and so forth. I never travel without travel insurance. I highly recommend them for those who need travel insurance.

Car Rentals - as I do a lot of road trips around the world, I use which is very reliable for booking car hire in advance. I also use Turo (the airbnb of car rentals) and never had a problem with them. The cars are insured, owners vetted and never had an issue.

Currency: Republic of Ireland uses the Euro and is the currency for most countries in the European Union (and is accepted as well in Monaco, Andorra, San Marino, and the Vatican City).

Language: English has been the predominant first language since the 18th century. A large minority claims some ability to use Irish (Gaelic), and it is the first language for a small percentage of the population. Under the Constitution of Ireland, both languages have official status, with Irish being the national and first official language.

Watch out for: getting yourself drunk after a great time in the bars and the live music which comes with it. 

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Please note that while I was working with some of the companies mentioned in this blog post, my review and experiences written about in this post are 100% genuine. I value my readers too much to lie to you. My blog would be nothing without you and your continued support! There maybe some links above which are affiliate and are at no additional cost to you. If my readers use them, I earn a commission to buy their products and remember, I only mentioned products and companies I use. The income from this keeps this website going. Thank you. 

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