The Ring of Kerry
The Ring of Kerry is a world class driving route that traverses the entire 179 kilomentre (111 mile) length of the Iveragh Peninsula. From the town of Kenmare in the south to Killlorgin in the north, every stretch of road is full of views to die for. The majority of the route showcases rocky peninsulas, beautiful beaches and out-of-this-world islands before gaining altitude and heading inland towards the greenery and lakes of the Killarney National Park.
The Ring of Kerry can be driven in three and a half hours but it shouldn't be. The discerning ring tamer should take one's time and make a day of it. There are hundreds of places to stop, including pretty villages, secluded beaches, visitor centres and roadside cafes. The Ring of Kerry could be driven again and again with a different collection of highlights making up the day.
A lot of money has been spent on improving the roads and laybys for photo stops which means you can relax and enjoy the views rather than over-stress about staying alive (to a point, of course). There are hundreds of points to safely pull in. Each have their own special views but most you will never even learn the name of. After splurging at the beginning it will take strength of character keep the car going for longer than fifteen minutes. A number of viewing points have become rightly famous. Molls Gap and Ladies View are the closest to Killarney and overlook a tapestry of hills, forests and lakes below their elevated positions.
From all over the western end you can look out onto the Skellig Islands, whose beehive huts have become famous throughout the world as the place where old Skywalker mopes around for bit in the latest Star Wars movies. They were fascinating before this though and more can be learnt at the Skellig Visitor Centre on Velentia Island. From the centre there are boat tours that circle around the island and also those that land on the island but these are more limited and far more expensive as the island is protected. The Skelligs however should really get their own day and not be shoehorned into a first adventure on the Ring.
The highlights are well signposted but also keep a look out for the little brown signposts advertising hidden gems down tiny off-shoot roads. Peaceful beaches like at Kells Bay and St. Finian's Bay can provide a tranquil rest from the perpetual motion of the balance of the day.
There are plenty of little towns to stop at with each having their own charm and a bucket full of places to eat and drink. The colourful shops and houses of Sneem are just the cutest, Waterville's position in the bottom of a large bay is the envy of the rest, Kenmare's abundance of pubs and cafes is an oasis at the end of long day of driving, and Killorglin sits prettily on the River Laune.
It wouldn't be us without a little bit of cold hard realism and for the Ring of Kerry we have the oft repeated tourism adage: expect crowds. In summer it's easy to get stuck in a convoy of coaches that not only create bottlenecks on the road but also clog up the viewing points. However, if visiting in summer there's absolutely no harm in starting mid-afternoon and finishing in the evening. (I'd say that there's no harm in getting up super early and finishing at lunchtime but the harm there is quite obvious). There are no opening times for unmissable attractions to aim for as there are no unmissable attractions outside of the natural ones. In fact, the morning would be better spent in Killarney visiting Muckross House, Ross Castle or enjoying a jaunting car ride.
Possible traffic apart, this is a famous attraction that really does live up to it's reputation.