Essential Ring of Kerry Guide
The Ring of Kerry drive is one of the world’s most picturesque roads. Along the route there is much to see including ancient abbeys, historic castles, neolithic stone forts, and miles of cliff-crashing surf. Our Ring of Kerry guide has all the essential information you need to make the drive.
Part of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, the drive will take you from the lively pubs of Killarney to the stark landscapes of Skellig Michael. Our Ring of Kerry guide will help you learn about when to go, which direction to drive, and things to do. Experience the history, lore, and Celtic culture of County Kerry, Ireland on this remarkable drive. For information on what to visit along the route read our Stops on the Ring of Kerry Drive .
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WHAT IS THE RING OF KERRY
The Ring of Kerry is a circular scenic highway in southwest Ireland. The loop is part of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, a 1600-mile coastal route stretching along the country’s western seashore.
WHY IS THE RING OF KERRY FAMOUS?
County Kerry, Ireland has been drawing tourists to its lakes, mountains, and wild Atlantic landscapes for centuries. There are many beautiful scenic routes in Ireland, but few can compete with County Kerry’s fabled Irish countryside.
Driving a paved road that can be completed in one day, visitors will find a wide array of terrains and cultural heritage sites. Along the route there are pristine beaches, sheep farms, glacial fiords, and craggy foothills as well as Victorian mansions, monasteries, and stone forts.
It is the blend of spectacular geography, rich Celtic culture, and easy accessibility that makes the Ring of Kerry drive so sought after, special, and famous.
WHERE IS THE RING OF KERRY
The Ring of Kerry drive (loosely) follows the coast of the Iveragh Peninsula in County Kerry, Ireland. The county is about a 3-hour drive southwest of Dublin. The traditional start and end point of the Ring of Kerry is the town of Killarney (although, the route can be initiated and finished at any spot along the way).
HOW LONG IS THE RING OF KERRY
The traditional Ring of Kerry drive follows highway N70/71/72 around the coast, and through the towns of Killarney, Kenmare, Sneem, Caherdaniel, Waterville, Cahersiveen, Glenbeigh, and Killorglin. This route is 111-miles (179km). In addition, there is a popular extension to the route called the Skellig Ring.
The Skellig Ring shoots off the Ring of Kerry just after the town of Waterville, and rejoins it before Cahersiveen. The extension adds about 11 miles (18km) to the drive. Many travelers enjoy this portion of the road as it is too narrow and bumpy for tour buses to navigate. Towns on the Skellig Ring include Ballinskelligs, Portmagee, and Knightstown.
BEST TIME TO DRIVE THE RING OF KERRY
Season: In summer the foliage is lush, sunset is later in the day, and attractions stay open into the evening. Summer is also the most crowded time of year (particularly July and August). In the winter, attractions close early and/or close for the season (especially after the holidays). Spring and fall are ideal for a Ring of Kerry drive.
Time of Day: As a general rule, the earlier in the day you can hit the road, the more relaxing your driving experience will be. Try to begin the drive between 7:30 and 9:00 am. If this is not possible, plan your day to visit your favorite stops between 3:00 and 5:00 when the tour traffic begins to dissipate.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO DRIVE THE RING OF KERRY
To drive the traditional Ring of Kerry route without stopping (starting and ending in the same location), the 111-mile drive would take about 3.5 hours. Keep in mind the road is narrow, curvy, and traffic slows as you pass through the towns. With stops along the way, it is not unusual to spend 6-10 hours to finish the loop.
To estimate how long it will take you to complete the Ring of Kerry drive think about where you will stop, how long you will spend at each location, and whether you will include the Skellig Ring. Then, build out your time line.
SHOULD YOU DRIVE THE RING OF KERRY CLOCKWISE OR COUNTERCLOCKWISE
Almost every day legions of bus tours drive the Ring of Kerry loop. Tour buses generally depart from the town of Killarney between 9:30 and 11:00am, and drive counterclockwise. Tour buses all drive the same direction to minimize the need to reverse direction on narrow portions of the road.
Drive Counterclockwise: Follow the tour buses if you do not want to risk needing to reverse direction should you encounter a large vehicle coming at you on the narrow, curvy road. (Drive toward Killorglin.)
Drive Clockwise: If you do not want to be “stuck” following large vehicles that impede your view and slow your drive time. (Drive toward Kenmare.)
Leave Early: Whether you drive clockwise or counterclockwise, be on the road between 7:30 and 9:00am to beat the tour bus traffic. Plan to do your Killarney National Park attractions at the end of the day (or better yet, on a separate day).
RING OF KERRY DRIVING TIPS
If you are unfamiliar driving on the left-side of the road, take a day or two to familiarize before tackling the Ring of Kerry drive. The road is two-way, but in places it narrows to one lane and there are few shoulders to utilize. This is even more pronounced off the N70/71/72.
If you are skittish about driving – don’t! There are many tours that follow the Ring of Kerry route. Day tours range from coach-style buses, to mini-buses, to private cars.
When reserving a rental car, book the smallest vehicle that will fit your party. The Ring of Kerry drive (and most roads) in Ireland are narrower than the US. Parking spaces are smaller as well. When squeezing onto a shoulder to let another vehicle pass, you will be grateful you went with the smaller model.
If you are used to driving an automatic car, reserve an automatic rental car (even though the cost is higher). Most cars in Ireland are electric and standard, so reserve early. Reserving an automatic will save you from having to learn to drive on the left side and to shift gears on left side at the same time.
Be prepared for inclement weather. Even if the sun is shining in the morning, you are apt to encounter wind and rain throughout the day. Bring a hat, sweatshirt, hiking sneakers, sunscreen, and a rain jacket. Also, be prepared to slow down when the roads get wet.
Be aware of animals as you drive. It is not uncommon to encounter sheep, red tailed deer, and other critters crossing the road.
RING OF KERRY MAP
RING OF KERRY STOPS & THINGS TO DO
Ring of Kerry stops include scenic overlooks, heritage attractions, and pretty coastal towns. Here is a list of popular things to do on the Ring of Kerry:
Gap of Dunloe
Village of Kenmare
Village of Sneem
Derrynane National Historic Park
Village of Waterville
Village of Portmagee
Skellig Experience Visitors Center
Village of Knightstown
Cahersiveen Forts and Castle
Town of Killorglin
Taisteal sábháilte (safe travels), Laura and Randy
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