How to Drive the Ring of Kerry

Ireland is a great country for a road trip. There are many iconic drives on the Emerald Isle but none as famous as the Ring of Kerry in the southwest. The 179km route winds past beautiful beaches, shimmering lakes, islands, green fields, medieval ruins and rugged mountains. It is Ireland in a nutshell. It is fabulous.

You can easily do the Ring of Kerry in a day trip. Most tourists base themselves out of Killarney. Killarney is an excellent little town and home to great accommodation choices such as the impeccable Fairview, quaint restaurants offering up fresh seafood and a pleasant place to walk around.

From Killarney, you can start your loop around the Ring of Kerry in one of two directions. You can go the way of the tour busses toward Killorglin, the home of Puck Fair or you can head through the gorgeous Killarney National Park toward Kenmare.

As I am an impatient driver, there was no way I was going to be stuck behind a ton of tour busses so we headed toward Kenmare and I 100% recommend doing the same thing. The only thing to be wary of is tour busses barreling around blind corners right at you. The roads are very narrow so be alert. How to drive the Ring of Kerry is as important as actually doing it so you enjoy best.

The ride through Killarney National Park is spectacular. There isn’t a better word to describe it. There are stunning views around every corner. Lakes and mountains meet along with wildlife and forest. The 32km windy drive is a great introduction to the Ring of Kerry.

From Kenmare, you get onto the actual ring and head toward Sneem. After Sneem the road heads to the coast as you drive to Castlecove. Around Castlecove, there is also a little side trip about 4km off the road to Staigue Fort.

Staigue Fort is OK at best but cool to see. The best part of it is the actual drive through the small narrow roads where you just pray a car doesn’t come the opposite direction.

Continuing south toward Caherdaniel is where the amazing beach views come in. These views are the jewel of the Ring of Kerry. I had no idea Ireland had such gorgeous beaches with azure water. The views from the cliffs above are all encompassing and very panoramic.

I couldn’t help but stop and stare for a while as emerald green sheep fields led down to the white beaches below. Mixed with clear blue skies which is a rarity; it was breathtaking and a real WOW moment.

From Caherdaniel we headed up to Waterville; which is a cute little town and is the gateway to the Skellig Ring. This is an 18km ring inside the ring that links Waterville and Portmagee via a Gaeltacht area or an Irish speaking area. It is little visited and there are no other cars.

After the Skellig Ring you head north and just enjoy the scenery up to Caherciveen, Kells, Glenbeigh and up to Killorglin. From Killorglin, we made our way back to Killarney and eventually on to Cork abut 100km away.

However, the Ring of Kerry was fantastic. We were fortunate to have amazing weather; which in Ireland is very unusual, as you probably already know. I didn’t know where I was half the time. The only parallel that came to mind as I was driving at times was Tasmania in Australia with rugged landscapes and beautiful beaches plus a great drive.

But make no mistake, the Ring of Kerry stands alone in Ireland and I highly recommend it. There are other area drives from Killarney including Dingle; which many people like. I have heard it’s fairly similar but for my money, the Ring of Kerry is a great way to spend a day!

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  1. Very nice write-up, Lee! My wife and I would love to travel here one day and the Ring of Kerry will definitely be on our list!

  2. Wow this place looks amazing Lee. I would love to visit Ireland as I always claim to be Irish. Obviously American Irish but still…

  3. Dude, that’s awesome…looks sick!

  4. Definitely on my bucket list

  5. Always wanted to visit Ireland. This made me want to more. Beautiful pictures Lee.

  6. I’ve only been to Dublin a few times. Always too drunk to leave the city sad to say!

  7. That looks really cool. I love road trips. Just did one through Utah, Arizona, Wyoming and New Mexico. It was amazing! Have you been out there? I am sure you have!

  8. We did the ring of kerry from Cork and loved it too! Also, it was fun driving the car on the opposite side of the road, with the reverse car too! glad you had a great time.

  9. You were very lucky with the weather Lee!!!
    It is keep on rainning since you have left 🙁
    Glad to know that you found The Fairview nice place to stay.

    Good luck with your travels and you are most welcome in The Fariview in Killarney if you ever coming back to Ireland.

  10. I can’t wait to go to Ireland next year! So glad I found this blog! Thank you for sharing.

    • mandy rigley says

      We recently returned from a holiday in southern Ireland this was my first holiday, my partner had been many times. we did the Ring Of Kerry and he took me over the conor pass

  11. I really enjoy your blog. My wife and I are going to drive the Ring of Kerry based on your experience this summer. Are there many places in which to pull over, get out of the car and enjoy the view?
    We visited Ireland a few years ago, and found it difficult to pull over very often. (We were driving north of Shannon, up to Cong.)

  12. Thank you this post! My husband and I drove the Ring of Kerry tour about 20 years ago, now we are going back with our 13 year old daughter to show her what a gem Ireland is. Of course at the time we did it with fold-out road maps and guide books (getting motion-sick while trying to read in a car)! Now with the internet, it can be a bit overwhelming. Your post just really simplified things for us all over again. We plan to stay overnight half-way (in Waterville – to hopefully see the dark night sky (living in Crows Nest, Sydney Australia we don’t see it being so close to a large city) but I saw AMAZING photos and really hope it can be possible. Then we plan to drive the Skellig ring, across to Valentia Island, cross at the ferry crossing and continue on up, the Ring of Kerry from there. Then probably head on over to Cork and Waterford.

  13. reading this post is awesome me and my partner go to Ireland in June 2016. we are staying in Kilkenny for a family wedding so we will be driving from there and then around the ring of Kerry we want to maybe stay a night in a hotel or b&b but because neither of us have done it before none of us know what area would be best to stay in over night, we don’t want to go there and find a place we really like but not have enough time there because we have to drive on to the place we’re staying.
    It’s nice to see a detailed route though 🙂

  14. thanks. plan to use this itinerary this June.

  15. Gene Clarke says

    Great intro to Ring of Kerry…..been to Ireland many times….seen much of it but never done ring of kerry…but plan end of this month…Know it takes most of a day….how many hours approx? days will be getting shorter in end of August…starting from Killarney ….

  16. Plan to spend a couple of days visiting the Ring of Kerry but don’t just drive the ring be brave head into the middle of the ring there is some spectacular roads and scenery. Drive over Molly gap, find Lickin Woods amazing!

  17. Kelly DuPont says

    Great post, we are planning a trip to Ireland this summer. I do have one question for you. How hard was it to drive the skellig ring.

  18. Myself and my husband are eating our tea in a restaurant in Kenmare having stated out from Cork at 8am this morning to drive the ring, it truly is spectacular and the weather us awesome today, best way to spend any Sunday

  19. Loved your suggestions, photos, and all the information you have provided has been a tremendous help and influence! definitely taking the opposite way of the tour busses and hitting up the National Park and splitting our drive into 2 full days of beauty!

  20. This was really helpful in planning our trip through the Ring of Kerry from Cork!!! After making the drive, does anyone have recommendations for places to stay in Killarney!! Thanks!!!

    • Stanley W. Beesley says

      Which is preferable by car in one day?
      Cork to Killarney, Ring of Kerry, back to Killarney?
      Cork to Bantry, Ring of Kerry, to Killarney?
      Thx for your help. Stanley

  21. Extremely helpful… I’ll be planning my kids summer holiday on your advised

  22. Hi Lee, I’m hoping you can help me. I’m a little time poor before I go on my trip as well as on the trip!

    Do you think the below is a manageable itinerary for early/mid November?
    We will be driving ourselves with a rental car.

    Day 1:
    Dublin to Howth, Slane Castle, Leap Castle, Limerick (if time) and finishing/staying overnight in Adare.

    Day 2:
    Adare to Kate Kearney’s Cottage and Gap of Dunloe (maybe if worth it to visit those two?) onto Killarney town and following the ring clockwise as you suggested via Killarney national park, Molls Gap, Kenmare then along the coast to finish/stay overnight on Valentia island (we plan to do the Dark Skies tour that evening which is why we can’t do the entire ring in one day/staying near the bottom end, as the tour will be in the dark sky reserve).

    Day 3:
    Valentia island to Ballycarbery Castle then along the coast to Killorglin.
    Then heading back towards Killarney, onto Blarney Castle, Cobh and (if time but not essential) either/both Wateford and Kilkenny castle.
    We don’t mind what time we arrive back in Dublin that evening, but obviously Kilkenny Castle’s last entry will be 4pm. So if we didn’t make that, we’d either just pass through Waterford, or skip those altogether and just drive straight back to Dublin after Cobh.

    On a separate day, we were considering Titanic Belfast but not sure if it’s worth giving up another day to drive up and back from Dublin which would only give us one full day to explore Dublin.

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