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Ring of Kerry/County Kerry, Ireland

Great Destination:

Value for Money:

Total Stars:

Personality Types that Like it Best

Did you know … ?

  • The Ciarraighe Celtic people gave their name to County Kerry.
  • The first transatlantic cable station was located on County Kerry’s Valentia Island.
  • The movies “Ryan’s Daughter” (1970) and “Far and Away” (1992) were shot in County Kerry.
  • Fungi, a Dingle Bay resident since 1983, has been playing with humans longer than any other dolphin.
  • Ireland’s St. Brendan — patron saint of the U.S. Navy — was born near Fenit in 484.

Heavenly opportunity

County Kerry is often referred to as the Kingdom on the grounds that it is the closest thing to heaven on Earth. Not a modest claim, but many tourists would agree nevertheless. Its 1,815 square miles in the far southwest of Ireland are characterized by two peninsulas with long and craggy coastlines and much-touted beaches, plus rugged mountains and an inland lake region. That terrain, which translates into the beauty and escape from urban life that some visitors seek, was the work of the last Ice Age of about 10,000 years ago.

This terrain and its setting facing the Atlantic also translate into a paradise for lovers of the outdoors. Visitors can walk or cycle on marked trails, take multiday treks on horseback or head to the bays and coastal waters for fishing, sailing or water sports such as diving and surfing.

County Kerry has plenty for the less frenetic, too, including remnants of prehistoric and early historic periods. Besides, given its relative remoteness from outside influences, Kerry preserves much of traditional Irish ways; it includes pockets where the Irish language is spoken. The county, which has flatter areas as well as mountains, is golf country, too.

The Ring of Kerry, a driving trail of a little more than 100 miles circling the Iveragh Peninsula, handily lets tourists take in the county’s exceptional beauty and other attractions in a relatively small area. At sites along this way, visitors can see old monasteries and still-older Iron Age forts and Ogham stones. The latter are carved with messages using Ogham, the alphabet of one of the area’s Celtic languages. Killarney, called gateway to the Ring, and the Ring itself offer chances to hear traditional Irish music. One of County Kerry’s Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking) areas is on the Ring, too.

Finally, for a change of pace, the Iveragh Peninsula is a prime area for whale and dolphin watching.

It’s this one-place-has-it-all feature that gains top ratings from all personality types for County Kerry and particularly the Ring of Kerry. It doesn’t hurt either that the Irish are notably welcoming.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Cover the scenic Ring of Kerry on foot. But it is 105 miles, so you may take on this project from a bicycle seat.
  • Go deep-sea fishing in the waters off Kerry’s coastline.
  • In August, attend the Puck Fair in Killorglin. It is a traditional horse fair and includes the coronation of a goat (that’s right) as King Puck.
  • Go surfing in places with names like Ballybunion and Castlegregory. County Kerry’s shores also offer options for diving, kayaking and more.
  • Take a ferry to the Skellig islands off County Kerry, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to see the abandoned monastery which dates back to the sixth century. You may see whales and dolphins from the islands, too.
  • Climb Ireland’s tallest mountain, Carrantuohill (3,414 feet). This walk is described as one of the most difficult one-day circuits in the country.

Things to do for Centrics

  • In the morning or late afternoon, plant yourself on a coastal hilltop where you can look for signs that whales or dolphins are feeding in the waters off the Dingle or Iveragh Peninsula. A few dolphins have taken up permanent residence in Irish waters.
  • Fish for salmon on the River Laune.
  • Use a ferry for transportation for the fun of it. Try the run between Tarbert in County Kerry and Killimer in County Clare.
  • On Valentia Island, visit the Tetrapod Trackway — a trail extending about 50 feet — to see footprints of tetrapods, Earth’s oldest four-limbed creatures. Predating the dinosaurs, these prints were made between 350 million and 385 million years ago, making them the oldest prints ever found in the Northern Hemisphere.
  • Say yes to a scenic trek on horseback in Killarney National Park.
  • Do a pub crawl in Killarney or any town in the county that has more than one such watering hole, and scout for sites featuring traditional music.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Drive the route of the Ring of Kerry at a leisurely pace. Make the Muckross House one of your stops along the way to see its gardens and the view overlooking the Lakes of Killarney.
  • Attend the Rose of Tralee International Festival during August in the city of Kerry. At its core, it is a beauty pageant, but how can anyone resist attending a fest with that name?
  • Play golf. Killarney has several courses.
  • See a production at Siamsa Tire, the National Folk Theatre and Arts Centre, in Tralee.
  • Stay at the Lake Hotel in Killarney and soak in its outdoor hot tub.
  • Ride the Tralee and Dingle Steam Railway, these days a tourist attraction rather than commuters’ transport and available spring through part of autumn. Board in Tralee and ride to Blennerville (end of the line now) and see the Blennerville Windmill and an exhibit on famine and emigration.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult Tourism Ireland at www.ireland.com