Roses, Dunes and Puck Fairs
From rugged cliffs to ancient monuments, UNESCO heritage sites to sweeping beaches and national parks, County Kerry has plenty to offer. Known for its outstanding beauty, and one of the few places you can hear Irish spoken as a first language, drive the Ring of Kerry and stop off in its many historic towns and villages for a true experience of Ireland, its people and its culture.
Ring of Kerry Drive
The Ring of Kerry is one of the world’s best-known drives, boasting beautiful views of outstanding natural beauty. Well sign posted, it’s easy to follow, visiting a range of sights and landmarks along the way. An insider’s tip is to drive anticlockwise, especially in the summer, to avoid the tour buses – but don’t let this put you off. The drive is worth it any time of year, and it’s never so busy as to be congested – though you may get stuck behind a herd of sheep! Highlights include Killorglin, home of the famous puck fair every August, the sea views from Valentia Island, sweeping sand dunes in Inch Strand and the famous beehive huts on Skellig Michael via a ferry trip from Portmagee.
Steeped in history and heritage, Listowel has a castle in its centre, as well as plenty of museums including Vintage Wireless, Military and Historical, Lartigue Monorail, and the Kerry Writers Museum. Enjoy a pint in John B Keane’s pub, now run by his son, Billy – also a writer – and if you’re lucky, you’ll get to join in with one of the ad-hoc music and storytelling sessions. For outdoor activities, try your hand at golf, fishing or one of the many walks such as Listowel Town Park, where the Garden of Europe houses Ireland’s only holocaust memorial. Lyracrumpane walk, just a short drive away, is 6.5km in length and is where the legendary Fionn Mac Cumhaill, chief of Na Fianna, fell to his death and is buried. If you’re an avid reader or writer, the annual Listowel Writers’ Week is the longest running literature festival in Ireland, bringing Irish and international writers to their audience in a friendly atmosphere.
The gateway to the Dingle peninsula, Tralee boasts historic buildings, beautiful parks, good hotels and restaurants, excellent shopping and pubs. Visit the Kerry the Kingdom Museum at the Ashe Memorial Hall for three superb exhibitions that tell the story of Kerry and Ireland over 8000 years, including a trip by ‘time car’ to the middle ages. Tralee is also home to Siamsa Tire - The National Folk Theatre of Ireland – and well worth seeking out a show. For those interested in maritime history, Blennerville Village near Tralee is the location of a unique experience, The Jeanie Johnston Visitor Shipyard. Here, shipwrights and apprentices are building a full size sailing replica of the Jeanie Johnston (1847-58) famine ship, known for having never lost a single passenger during 16 voyages from Tralee to North America.
Kells, a peaceful and picturesque old fishing village, also boasts a blue flag beach with views over Dingle Bay and the Blasket islands. To get the best views, head to the area called ‘mountain stage’ where you’ll also see the 1892 viaduct. Also worth a visit is Kells Bay Gardens, an old Victorian garden with subtropical plants. And if you fancy yourself as a farmer, or are interested in traditional techniques, visit the Kells Sheep Centre for a wealth of information, including a sheepdog demonstration.
A hikers and walkers paradise, with one of the most dramatic driving routes in the country, Slea Head, the Dingle Peninsula is a gem in the heart of Kerry.
Framed by a fishing port, Dingle’s hilly streets make a quaint but cosmopolitan town, with an arty vibe. A Gaeltacht town, you will hear authentic Irish spoken, lots of traditional music, and enjoy a laid-back but friendly welcome from the locals. There are lots of places to stay and restaurants for all budgets, and for art lovers, a visit to Antonoio Fazio’s stone carving workshop is worth a trip; you can see him at work and buy some authentic stonework to take home. If watersports and beaches are more your thing, take a trip out to nearby Inch Strand (Inch beach for five kilometres of blue flag sand. Its easy gradient makes Inch one of the top places for a variety of water sports including surfing, kayaking, kite surfing and windsurfing. Also great for walking and picnics, the beautiful sand and dunes make for a great day out, whatever the weather.
The highest mountain pass in Ireland, you’ll enjoy dramatic scenery as you leave or enter Dingle via this route. A narrow twisting road, you can see as far as the Aran Islands in County Galway. An insider tip: large vehicles such as camper vans, caravans and trucks cannot travel this route due to length and weight restrictions.
Slea Head Drive
Preferred by many locals, Slea Head is a 47km circular route that begins and ends in Dingle, offering incredible landscapes, sights, viewing vistas and local hospitality – and it’s not as congested as the Ring of Kerry, especially during summer. Highlights include the Gallarus Oratory chapel, historic fort and beehive huts and Dingle Famine Cottage. Ballydavid is a peaceful spot offering a lovely beach and walks, and plenty of traditional music in summer. To hear spoken Irish, stop for a pint in Ballyferriter; nestled in a green valley between Croaghmarhin and Sybil Head, it’s a lively, friendly village, with a two-mile long white sandy beach to its east. Dunquin offers a passenger ferry to Great Blasket and is known for its scenery and gaelic culture. Dunquin roadways are winding and the views dramatic; in fact, you’ll probably recognise the area from postcards and calendars or from the 1970 film Ryan’s Daughter. Blasket Island trips are weather permitting, but well worth a visit. Head on to Dunbeg Fort and Coumeenoole Strand, and visit Slea Head to see the dramatic sea views. Make sure you also stop in Ventry, known for its blue flag beach – perfect for swimming and water sports.
Famed for their Irish-language writers in the 1920s and 1930, the Blasket islands are now uninhabited, but picturesque. Visit the Blasket Centre to learn more about the island’s history, inhabitants and traditions.
The gateway to the Ring of Kerry, Killorglin is also the home of the annual Puck Fair; a Pagan festival dating back 3000 years that’s celebrated on the 10th, 11th and 12th of August every year. Cromane Beach is good for swimming and views, foodies can sample homemade cheeses at Wilma’s Cheese Factory, and if the puck fair isn’t on, remember to stop by the iconic King Puck statue.
Visit Ballycarbery Castle ruins for free and immerse yourself in the pastas you walk its grounds; it can be very muddy so bring your wellies! Cahergall Fort and Leacanabuaile Fort (both use the same parking area) also offer perfectly preserved historic ruins and at night, are lit by torches for an atmospheric trip. The Daniel O’Connell Memorial Church and birthplace are a must for history lovers, while walkers will enjoy the Beenatee Loop Walk; a tough but well-marked trek (approx 4.5 hours) through marshy fields, with excellent views from the top – unless you’re adventurous, only attempt on a dry day. Visit the Cill Rialaig famine cottages; now used as retreats for writers and artists, you can pass through and have a peek. And for something different, try some Clay Pigeon Shooting!
A small but thriving coastal village with plenty of amenities, Waterville was a favourite of actor Charlie Chaplin; there is a statue dedicated to the silver screen great as well as an annual festival celebrating his life and work. The long strand boasts a lovely promenade, perfect for strolling at any time of day when the tides are in. For megalithic monuments, the Eightercua standing stones are a short drive away and the Loher Stone Fort is on the hiking trail, so you can steep yourself in history to your heart’s content. Hire a boatman and cross to Church Island for a stroll and to visit the 12th century monastery ruins. You can expect live music in the local bars and plays, concerts and films in the Tech Amergin Arts & Education Centre. For fishing, you can try your hand at lake, river, shore and deep sea angling; suitable for both newbies and experienced anglers.
Portmagee & The Skelligs
No trip to Kerry would be complete without a stop at the tiny village of Portmagee to sample some excellent seafood. Also the gateway to Skellig Michael, a UNESCO Heritage Site known for its beehive huts and nesting puffins, boat trips are available during May to October, weather permitting; make sure you book early and leave time for a delayed trip. You’ll always be given waterproofs, as the sea can be rough – but the trip is well worth the stunning views and incredibly preserved monuments. The steps up to the top of the island can be tricky, so you’ll need good mobility and a head for heights; wear decent walking shoes. For beaches, Reencaheragh is a short drive away, or try The Glen in St Finan’s Bay. The 300m high Cliffs of Portmagee, are just a 10-minute walk from Blasket View House on the Skellig Ring road, a mile from Portmagee, and from here you can view the islands and observe the thriving colonies of cliff birds. For a short walk, try the 5km Bray Head loop, just a short 3km drive away, famous for its hillside tracks and views – allow 1.5–2 hours.
Reached by bridge, this small but beautiful island boasts the stunning Cromwell Point Lighthouse; take a guided tour to find out the history of the building and see some incredible balcony views. Visit the Tetrapod Trackway and see some real dinosaur footprints; a great adventure for families. Visit Knightstown for its marina, Lifeboat station, the Altazamuth walk and to watch the car ferry. You can also enjoy the sensory garden at St John the Baptist’s church – particularly lovely on a sunny day. There is also a small beach with beautiful views over the Atlantic and the Skelligs. The Island Heritage Centre will give you plenty of tips and directions – to explore the whole island, it’s advisable to rent a bike or car. And for souvenirs, try Skelligs handmade chocolates or visit the candle shop.
On the old butter road, Caherdaniel village is the home of ancient poets and writers, as well as the great liberator, Daniel O’Connell. It’s also part of the Kerry Geopark (teamed with Sneem and Castlecove), a unique landscape of geological, ecological, historical and archaeological interest with red sandstone over 400 million years old. Derrynane House and National Park is a must visit, with 120 hectares of parkland on the coast as well as tropical plantations and an old summerhouse. Derrynane Beach offers a wonderful stretch of sand and dunes, with plenty of opportunity to see local birdlife.
Known for its tranquillity and gourmet food, as well as golf courses, horse riding and unspoiled scenery, there are a multitude of galleries to visit, as well as equestrians centres and spectacular Seafari trips around the bay for memorable seal and eagle watching. Children will also love the Hidden valley Pet Farm, with lots of animals to feed and pet, and the Star Outdoors Adventure Centre offering a range of activities for all ages and abilities, including pedal boats, water trampolines, archery and crazy golf. The Bonane Heritage Park in Sheen Valley is the place to go for a bronze age ring fort, famine ruins, and a fairy trail.
Over 26,000 acres, Killarney National Park boasts rugged mountains, lakes, waterfalls, woodlands, sika and red deer, with plenty of hiking and cycling trails for ages and abilities. Climb Carrauntoohil, Ireland’s highest mountain (over 1000 metres), or for a more relaxing experience, view the incredible scenery by boat or horse drawn carriages (jaunting cars) – great for groups and families. There’s also riding, trekking, and plenty to see at Ross Castle on foot or by boat. Step back in time with Muckross Traditional Farms and explore traditional pre-electricity farming methods with Carpenter Workshop and Blacksmith Forge demonstrations. Killarney Falconry offers birds of prey handling using traditional falconry methods and hawk walks to see the birds perform aerial acrobatics. Whiskey connoisseurs can sample some of this classic tipple at the Irish Whiskey Experience and for some intriguing history, check out the 19th century Muckross House and Gardens close to the shores of Muckross Lake; the guided tours offer an insight into upstairs and downstairs life. There are also demonstration craft rooms and stunning gardens, with extended walks to Muckross Abbey, Torc Waterfall and Dinis Cottage – a picnic in fine weather is highly recommended. Killarney House and Gardens is also well worth a visit; the holiday home of choice for Queen Victoria in 1861, the house includes restored rooms, original antiques, a Visitor Centre, and restored 18thcentury gardens with impressive rhododendrons blooming in May.
Ogham & Stone Circles in Kerry
If ancient monuments interest you, there are plenty of stone circles in Kerry, with the most spectacular in Uragh near Lough Inchiquin. The main stone is over three meters high and there’s also a famine cottage to visit nearby. Like today’s headstones, Ogham (the first form of Irish writing) stones marked burial sites and graves with information about the deceased. To see some impressively preserved inscriptions, you’ll find the eight Dunloe Ogham Stones between Beaufort Village and the Gap of Dunloe.
County Kerry is renowned the world over for its beautiful scenery, including Irelands highest mountain Carrantuohill (1,040 metres 3,414 feet) the Lakes of Killarney, its beautiful sandy beaches, cliffs and rocky headlands. No trip to Kerry is complete without including the panoramic Ring of Kerry drive on the Iveragh Peninsula. It stretches South West from Killarney for 65km (40 miles) and takes you through the towns of Kenmare, Sneem, Waterville, Cahersiveen, Glenbeigh, and Killorglin.
Explore Killarney town centre and take a Jaunting Car (old traditional pony and trap) out to Killarney Lakes, Ross Castle. Visit the beautiful and scenic spot that is the Gap of Dunloe and Molls Gap. Also the Dingle Peninsula stretches Westward for 50 km (30 miles) from Tralee to Dunquin. The western end of the Peninsula has magnificent coastal scenery and is an Irish speaking district. Many famous festival are held in Kerry each year. Listowel has its Writers Week, Tralee offers the famous Rose Festival, Killorglin the Puck Fair.
Kerry Visitor Attractions
Kerry know for its mystical landscape, folklore and history enjoy a visit to Muckross House and Gardens, Killarney National Park, Killarney Lakes, Torc Waterfall and Ross Castle and on in to Killarney town centre and find the Killarney Heritage Trail Hop on Hop off tour bus taking in many of Killarneys sights. Take the Ring of Kerry Tour and drive the Dingle Peninsula coast line. Tralee home to the Rose of Tralee festival and where you can also see the Blennerville Windmill. Caherciveen Heritage Centre located in an old police Barricks is close to Caherciveen's beautiful marina, Caherciveen, is an area with many Neolithic-Bronze pieces of interest ranging from megalithic wedge type tombs and standing stones.
Kerry Festivals & Events
Kerry is a great place for its many festivals, famous the world over for its Rose of Tralee Festival where girls compete from all over the world for this year long title. Kenmare is host to the renowned for its Puck Fair where the family has entertainment throughout the day and evening. Listowel is home to Listowel Races and also Listowel Writers Week. Dingle has its Regatta and its Dingle Food and Wine Festival and Glenbeigh its Festival and Races. Killarney has the International Rally of the Lakes.