Over the last several years, the Wild Atlantic Way has become one of the most admired and desired driving routes in the world, but the Ring of Kerry has been an inspiration for locals and visitors for considerably longer. The good news for readers who have added both routes to their Irish bucket lists is that the majority of the Ring of Kerry is part of the larger Wild Atlantic Way — so you can see both on the one trip. This guide can’t possibly do justice to the wild and rustic charm of Kerry’s coastal areas, but we hope it’ll offer ample inspiration for those of you planning your dream Ireland vacation. And if we do manage to inspire you, we’d like to invite you to consider our range of Multi-day Ireland Tours and our more bitesize Ireland Day Tours.
Killarney National Park
While the Ring of Kerry and The Kerry portion of the Wild Atlantic Way are mostly the same, only the Ring of Kerry passes by Killarney National Park. This spectacular national park is worth spending at least an entire day in. With breath-taking scenery spanning this 25,000-acre natural haven, avid hikers will be in paradise. However, you don’t have to climb the mountains as there are plenty of lowland areas worth exploring. Wherever you go in Killarney National Park, the views are some of the best you’ll find in Ireland, which makes it easy to understand why Killarney became Ireland’s first-ever national park; because an area of such astounding natural beauty deserves to be protected, and celebrated!
Looking like something straight out of a Tolkien book, Torc Waterfall is a must for nature lovers. Whilst this spectacular waterfall is in Killarney National Park, we felt it was important to give it its own spot on this guide. This epic waterfall is 110 metres long and you’ll find it at the base of Torc Mountain, which is also one of the best hiking spots in the entire park.
The Loher Fort
The Loher Fort is the perfect spot for history buffs who are looking for something rather unique. The fort was likely built in the 9th century to function as a farm’s fortification, protecting humans and animals from attacking forces — most likely Vikings. With Ireland’s violent past it’s no surprise that farmers built small forts to protect themselves; over the centuries, we’ve been invaded by the Vikings, the Normans, the English, the Spanish, the Dutch, and the French. You’ll see no shortage of grand, impressive castles in Ireland, so the Loher Fort offers a great opportunity to appreciate something altogether smaller and more humble.
Ross Castle was built in the 15th century by O’Donoghue Mór, a powerful local chieftain. It is widely believed to be one of the final strongholds to surrender to Oliver Cromwell’s forces, and there is plenty of other history here to unpack. The castle itself is in remarkable condition — a testament to the original stonemasonry. You don’t even have to be a big history buff to appreciate Ross Castle!
The Village of Kells
Kells is an idyllic little seaside village packed full of character. The people and buildings in the village itself make it worth a visit, but the local Blue Flag beach, Kells Beach, makes this an absolutely must-see for anyone who is happiest walking on a beautiful beach, with sand between their toes and wind in their hair. From this incredible beach, you’ll enjoy views of Blasket Island and Dingle Bay.
The Skellig Islands
The two Skellig Islands are also often referred to as ‘the Skellig Rocks’ or ‘the Skellocks’. They consist of two small islands, Skellig Michael and Little Skellig, which look like sharp, jagged rocks jutting out of the ocean just off the western coast of Kerry. Both of the Skellocks are important for birdlife, making them the ideal destination for birdwatchers. That said, only the larger, Skellig Michael, can be visited on foot, with a small, limited number of visitors by boat each day to protect the area. Skellig Michael was also thrust into international fame as the filming location for Luke Skywalker’s home in the most recent Star Wars trilogy. There is also an old monastery on the island, located 160m above the sea.
Cahergal Stone Fort
Cahergal Stone Fort was built around 600 AD and it’s arguably the best example of an Iron Age ringfort in Ireland. Many other ringforts are in considerably worse condition or they have been built and rebuilt over many eras, losing the original Iron Age features. There has been some reconstruction on the site, helping visitors appreciate the main structure. The remains of the ringfort give you a good idea of how the original circular fortification would have been laid out.
One of Ireland’s most westerly points, just off County Kerry’s Iveragh Peninsula, Valentia Island is regarded by those who visit it as one of Ireland’s best-kept secrets. What’s really handy (especially for people prone to seasickness) is that riding the ferry isn’t the only way to reach Valentia as you can cross the Maurice O’Neill Memorial Bridge at Portmagee. With rural scenes, jaw-dropping cliffside views, the excellent Bray Head Loop Walk, the charming Valentia Lighthouse, there are plenty of worthwhile things to see and do on Valentia!
That’s all we have time for today. If anything about the Ring of Kerry or the Wild Atlantic Way discussed in this guide appeals to you, consider our Wild Grande 14-day Tour of Ireland or our Kingdom of Kerry 4-day Tour. And if you have any questions for us, please feel free to get in touch. Plan your unforgettable trip to Kerry today!