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The Ring of Kerry (An Mhor Chuaird in Irish/Gaelic) is a driving tour around the Iveragh Peninsula in County Kerry, Southwest Ireland. How long does it take to drive the 110 mile (177 kilometer)-long route?

Irish/Gaelic and English signs in Sneem
Irish/Gaelic and English signs in Sneem
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

If you make quick stops, you can drive the Ring of Kerry, or take a bus tour, in just one day. But to truly experience the Ring's picturesque villages, coastal views, sandy beaches, archaeological sites, traditional music and festivals takes much longer.

Kerry Way walk

An alternative, for many people who visit Ireland, is the Kerry Way (Sli Uibh Rathach in Irish/Gaelic). How long does it take to hike the 135-mile (217-kilometer)-long trail?

Depending on your fitness level and the time spent at each Kerry Way attraction, the hike can last nine-to-12 days. In places, it overlaps the Ring of Kerry.

Elsewhere, the Kerry Way walking route follows paths and small roads (boreen in Irish/Gaelic) at higher elevations than the Ring, offering spectacular views.

Kerry Way sign in English and Gaelic/Irish
Kerry Way sign in English and Gaelic/Irish
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Cycling tours of Ring of Kerry

The Kerry Way biking route is a third way to see the Ring of Kerry. Cyclists can rent bikes in Killarney (O'Sullivan Cycles) or Glenbeigh (Glencross Caravan and Camping Park).

The bicycle route follows the Ring of Kerry for about one-third of its length. Cyclists travel along abandoned roads and hilly loop trails for the rest of the bike trip.

Ring of Kerry driving directions

Most people begin and end their Ring of Kerry tours in Killarney, but you can start and end the trip anywhere along the route. A Ring of Kerry map depicts the route along N72, N70 and N71.

If you have time, it's worth adding the Skellig Ring loop roads. The drive along R567, R566 and R565 brings you through Ballinskelligs to St. Finian's Bay and Valentia Island.

The Iveragh Peninsula is 37 miles (60 kilometers) long and 19 miles (30 kilometers) wide. To avoid congestion along the narrow two-lane Ring of Kerry roads, buses, cars, cyclists and walkers travel anti-clockwise along the route.

What did we do? We combined the best of the Ring of Kerry driving tour with the highlights of Kerry Way walks.

Murphy's Bar and Lord Kenmare's Restaurant on College Street in Killarney, Ireland
Murphy's Bar and Lord Kenmare's Restaurant
on College Street in Killarney, Ireland
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Killarney attractions

Killarney (Cill Airne in Irish/Gaelic, which means The Church of the Sloes) is a walkable town. It features everything a tourist needs: hotels, B&Bs, pubs, live entertainment, restaurants and shops selling postcards, Irish music and leprechaun dolls.

Our tour group had two delicious meals at Lord Kenmare's Restaurant on College Street, Killarney. The spiced darne of salmon and homemade ice cream with pecans were especially memorable.

The best thing about Killarney, Ireland, is its easy access to the attractions of Killarney National Park—Muckross House, Gardens and Traditional Farms, Muckross Abbey, Torc Waterfall, Ross Castle and Killarney Lakes cruises.

Rossbeigh Beach

From Killarney, the Ring of Kerry follows N72 to Killorglin, home to Puck Fair, with its mountain goat king. From Killorglin, our tour followed the N70 Ring of Kerry road to Glenbeigh.

Horseback riders on Rossbeigh Beach, Glenbeigh
Horseback riders on Rossbeigh Beach, Glenbeigh
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Just a half-hour from Killarney, Glenbeigh is famous for Rossbeigh Beach. Atlantic Ocean surf laps the two mile (three kilometer)-long beach. A kids' playground attracts families.

After a picnic lunch, we walked along the blue flag beach. Horses and riders splashed through the surf, their shadows reflected in the white sand. (Burke's Horse Trekking Centre, in Glenbeigh, offers horseback riding along Rossbeigh Beach).

Ring of Kerry attractions

N70, the Ring of Kerry highway, continues west to Kells, where we watched sheepdog trials at Kells Sheep Centre. Cahersiveen, southwest of Kells, has a great B&B, pubs with bodhran music performances and the 8th-century Cahergall ring fort.

Our guided Kerry tour included a ferry ride from Cahersiveen to Valentia Island, where we viewed ancient tetrapod tracks. Hikes around Geokaun Mountain and Bray Head offered spectacular panoramas of coastal cliffs and islands.

Skelligs Chocolate Cafe bag, St. Finian's Bay
Skelligs Chocolate Cafe bag, St. Finian's Bay
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Skelligs Chocolates

Leaving Valentia Island on the Portmagee Bridge, we drove south on the Skellig Ring road (R566) to The Glen. Irish tourists rode Atlantic waves on surf boards, as we enjoyed a picnic overlooking St. Finian's Bay and beach.

A short walk from St. Finian's beach, Skelligs Chocolate Co. offers free tours and samples of their handmade Cocoa Bean chocolates. A sign outside the shop calls it "the most westerly chocolate factory in Europe."

As women hand-dipped chocolates, a Skelligs Chocolate employee offered us delicious Cocoa Bean chocolate samples. It was impossible to select a favorite from the Irish honey, lemon zest and black pepper, gin and tonic, strawberry champagne and white lemon chocolate flavors.

Our hiking group left Skelligs Chocolate Café with many of these treats, as well as hazelnut praline truffles, dark chocolate-covered orange peel and apricot amaretto milk chocolate. Despite great will power, some of the group's chocolates disappeared before they reached their intended recipients.

Fields near Waterville, Ireland
Fields near Waterville, Ireland
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Waterville Ireland

Shortly after the R567 Skellig Ring road joins the Ring of Kerry, we arrived in Waterville. A statue commemorates Charlie Chaplin, the silent movie comedian, who frequently spent his summer vacation at the Butler Arms Hotel in Waterville.

Other celebrity visitors to Waterville, County Kerry? Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta Jones and Tiger Woods, who played the 18-hole championship golf course in Waterville.

Flowers on stone bridge railing above Sneem River
Flowers on stone bridge railing above Sneem River
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

The routes for the Ring of Kerry drive and Kerry Way hiking tour follow the N70 highway south to Derrynane National Park, near Caherdaniel. The Kerry Way cycling route and the Ring of Kerry road continue east, along the N70, to Sneem, where they overlap with the Kerry Way walking trail.

Sneem Co. Kerry

Sneem is a picturesque Kerry village, built around the Ardsheelaun River estuary, which flows into Kenmare Bay. The winner of several Ireland National Tidy Town Awards, Sneem is known for its bright pink, yellow, green and blue homes, restaurants, B&Bs and souvenir shops.

Flower pots decorate Sneem's old stone bridge, the narrowest part of the Ring of Kerry. A monument to Charles de Gaulle (1890-1970) stands in one of the two town squares. De Gaulle, Chain Herzog, the president of Israel, and Cearbhall O'Dalaigh, the president of Ireland, all had holiday homes in Sneem.

From Sneem, the Ring of Kerry route follows N70 to Kenmare. The highway becomes the N71, which passes through Moll's Gap (a mountain pass) and Ladies View on the way back to Killarney.


Tourism Ireland: www.discoverireland.com

More things to see and do in Ireland:

Derrynane House - Caherdaniel Ireland National Park

Southwest Ireland - Dowsing for Water and Earth Energy

Irish Folk Tours Dublin - Food, Folklore and Fairies

Gap of Dunloe Tours - Hike, Bike or Jaunting Car?

Killarney Ireland Hiking Trail - Co. Kerry