Driving the Ring of Kerry was one of the days I was looking forward to most about our road trip through Ireland and it exceeded all of our expectations! We wanted to dedicate an entire post about the route we took and the sights we saw along the way.
The morning we set out to drive the Ring of Kerry we got an early start in order to make all the stops we wanted to! I had done quite a bit of research on the best route to take and places to see before we left. The most helpful piece of advice that I came across, was to drive the ring clockwise, since most of the tour busses go counter clockwise! This served us incredibly well as we never felt like any of the stops we made were crowded with tour busses.
There are a few worthwhile sights close to Killarney that I would recommend planning to do on a separate day, since the Ring of Kerry has a lot to offer itself. I wrote about these on a separate post which you can read here: Killarney. However, if you have limited time in the area, you can probably squeeze in a few of these on the same day since they are so close together. (If you do want to loop these in with the itinerary below, I recommend starting with Muckross House & Torc Waterfall on your way to Ladies View, and ending with the Gap of Dunloe and Ross Castle on your way back to Killarney from Cahersiveen).
From Torc Waterfall (or Killarney if you decide to skip the first two), you’ll make your way down the N71 about 15 minutes through Killarney National Park to Ladies View. This is a great point to stop and soak in the surrounding views! There is free parking on either side of the road so you can safely pull off and get out of your car to enjoy the sweeping landscapes.
Another 10 minutes up the road from Ladies View, you’ll come across Molls Gap. This is a mountain pass on the Ring of Kerry, but offers stunning views as you drive along. Molls Gap is where you’ll want to switch from the N71 to either the N70 or R568 as you make your way to Sneem. The N71 follows the coast, while the R568 is more inland and about 10 minutes quicker. For time sake, we chose the R568.
The journey is roughly 30 minutes from Molls Gap to the town of Sneem. This village is quintessential Ireland, and charmed us as we walked up the main road to find a pub! It was easy to locate street parking along the main road, which enabled us to stretch our legs for a bit of a break.
Catherdaniel / Waterville
The next town you come across after leaving Sneem is only 20 minutes up the road, called Catherdaniel. While we didn’t stop here, this was the first time you really started seeing some views of the water! Another 20 minutes from Catherdaniel, we did make a pit stop in Waterville for snacks. (From Sneem you are driving along the N70 to get to these towns).
From Waterville, it’s only 15 minutes to Ballinskellig’s Castle, where we stopped next. The Castle is located on a beautiful beach, and lucky for us, the day we visited the weather was nice enough so we could kick our shoes off and make the walk over to see it! To get here, you are technically deviating away from the N70 to the R567, then to R566. You can follow the signs to the castle. There is free parking at the beach as well.
From Ballinskellig’s Castle, you’ll want to follow along Skellig Ring for some of the most stunning views of the water. It’s important to note that Skellig Ring is arguably one of the most difficult parts of the Ring of Kerry to drive, and can be skipped by backtracking to the N70. However, it was home to some of our favorite stops so I don’t recommend missing out!
Only ten minutes along Skellig Ring from the Castle you’ll find Skellig Chocolate. There’s plenty of parking so I definitely recommend the stop. When you go inside, they’ll offer you samples of the various types of chocolate so you can figure out what you like. It was so good we couldn’t resist leaving without some gifts for family and friends! For more information, check out their website here: Skelligs Chocolate.
From the chocolate shop, there is also a great view of the Skellig Islands. These islands are most famous for being a recent filming location for Star Wars, as well as the puffins that call them home! It’s not always easy to see them but we caught it on a relatively clear day. If you have more time in this region, you can also take a boat tour to get closer to the islands, but we weren’t able to do that.
Only about another 15 minutes up Skellig Ring, you’ll see signs pointing you towards the Kerry Cliffs. In my opinion, this was one of the most picturesque stops for us – but be prepared to walk up a steep hill to get to the view. It costs 4 euros to visit and has a parking lot for those driving. It offers an incredible view of the jagged coastline and cliffs. You can truly feel the might of the Wild Atlantic Way by staring down at the waves crashing below.
After spending some time walking around the cliffs, we hopped back in the car and continued on our journey. Less than 10 minutes from the Cliffs you’ll get to a town called Portmagee. Although we didn’t stop here, this would be the location you could take a boat tour out to see the Skellig Islands. From Portmagee, you continue along the R565 until you reach the N70 again.
Our last stop along the Ring of Kerry was quite possibly my favorite. Before we left for Ireland, I did a little snooping with Mark’s Aunt to learn more about where Mark’s father’s family was from in Ireland. Although we didn’t have much to go off of, the one thing she was able to find out for me was that his grandmother was born in Cahersiveen and baptized in the church there. I somehow managed to keep all of this a secret until we arrived! It was special to bring Mark and his Dad back to a place where their family was from. (We also had dinner in Cahersiveen at a cute bed and breakfast called Quinlin and Cooke. I had the best fish and chips of the whole trip here!)
After dinner, we headed back to Killarney. From Cahersiveen it’s about an hour drive. You follow the N70 most of the way, until you switch on to the N71 in Killorgin. This was the longest portion of our drive without stopping, but since our day had been so busy we were eager to get back and rest. (If you wanted to add in the extra Killarney stops, you could visit the Gap of Dunloe and Ross Castle on the way home as well). We were able to catch the most stunning sunset as we left Cahersiveen, which was a fitting way to end such a perfect day.
Stay tuned for some more posts about the Dingle Peninsula!
P.S. Below is the route we took, with a key to visualize all the stops!
- Ladies View
- Molls Gap
- Catherdaniel / Waterville
- Skelligs Ring
- Skelligs Chocolate
- Skellig Islands (now shown on the map)
- Kerry Cliffs