Ring of Kerry: discover the wonders of this circuit

The Ring of Kerry is a picturesque tour in County Kerry. Whether you follow the road by car, bicycle or bus, you will surely remember the majestic views of The Ring of Kerry. You have to stroll through the small and colourful towns of Kenmare and Portmagee. And between the highest mountains in Ireland, MacGillycuddy Reeks, and Killarney’s Purple and Tomie mountains, sneak in the Gap of Dunloe.

Killarney National Park

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Old Weir Bridge, an old bridge in Killarney National Park. Image by Luana Niemann.

Located in the southwest of County Kerry, Killarney National Park can be the starting point of your trip on the Ring of Kerry. The best way to enjoy the rugged mountains and the famous Lakes of Killarney is on foot or by cycling. Killarney National Park stretches across 10,000 hectares and offers a lot of attractions.

You can choose a walking trail among the 14 walks proposed by the site. Boat trips are available at The Old Boat House near Muckross House and from Ross Castle. If you like horse riding, three horse riding companies operate in the National Park. They will take you to Muckross Forest and the area around Knockreer. Fishermen can cast their hook in Lough Leane for salmon and trout fishing, and competitions are often held on the lake. Want to cycle in the park? You will find many places to rent bicycles in and around Killarney that will also provide cycle maps.

Killarney is home to some of the rarest species on earth as it has been undamaged for many years. Thanks to the park conservation projects, a variety of flora and native fauna can thrive peacefully. You could come across the red deer, one of the last surviving indigenous herds of red deer in Ireland. 


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Henry Street to the church , Kenmare. Image by Norman McCloskey via @normanmccloskeygallery

Kenmare is a beautiful small quiet town located at the head of beautiful Kenmare Bay which stretches 50 kilometres from Kenmare out to the Atlantic Ocean. Kenmare is a unique town full of vibrant coloured buildings. This city is the perfect place for a lunch or a coffee.

You can try Foley’s, an Irish pub with open fires, a large selection of Irish whiskeys and regional craft beers and traditional Irish music seven nights a week. From the Café Mocha terrasse you have a great view of the Kenmare square and park. You can take coffees and teas, tasty desserts, savouries, sandwiches and soups and a full Irish breakfast all day. 

While in Kenmare, you can visit Bonane Heritage Park, which hosts a major archaeological site in Ireland. It is a perfect setting for amateur and professional photographers and history lovers.

Kerry Cliffs

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Kerry Cliffs are located just off the Skellig ring. Image via @kerrycliffs.

Kerry Cliffs are considered the most spectacular cliffs in Kerry. The cliffs stand over 1000 ft above the wild Atlantic. Out the west part, you can see the magnificent Skellig Michael, one of only two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Republic of Ireland.

And, of course, the Kerry Cliffs are the nearest viewing point to the Skellig Michael and Little Skelligs and also the famous Puffin Island, an Irish Wildbird Conservancy. You can climb to the summit of this natural place  and breathe the sea air. You need to allow at least 1 hour for a visit to the Kerry Cliffs. 

Kerry Cliffs Open hours:

Monday – Friday and Sunday: 9.30am – 7.30pm

Saturday 9.30am – 5.30pm


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Portmagee in the morning. Image via @portmageewhiskey.

Portmagee is a very nice town to go for a walk. This fishing village hosts many seafood restaurants placed in front of the sea. Portmagee Pier, a working pier, can take you to the Skellig Islands by boat with a seasonal ferry service. Portmagee pier also gives a beautiful sight on the boats at dock.

Portmagee Whiskey crafts small batches of Irish Whiskey for the world to enjoy. They host a distillery experience and a visitor centre. They offer a typical Irish Whiskey you can try during your trip on the Ring of Kerry.

The Gap Of Dunloe

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The road crosses the Gap of Dunloe. Image via @gapofdunloetours.

You can enjoy the Gap of Dunloe by cycling, walking, horse riding or taking a bus tour from Killarney and a boat ride through the three Lakes of Killarney. If you want to walk, you can park your car at Kate Kearney’s Cottage or take the Killarney Shuttle Bus from Killarney town. The entire road through the Gap is 14km. You will see the Purple Mountain and the McGillycuddy Reeks but also the Upper Lake and Lord Brandon’s Cottage. After the stroll, you can embark into a traditional open boat for an exciting tour through the three Lakes of Killarney back to Ross Castle in Killarney.

Are you a horse lover? You can hire a pony and ride on horseback or take a trip via pony & trap through the Gap of Dunloe. If you are a rock climbing aficionado, you probably know that the old red sandstone of the Gap of Dunloe guarantees the best inland rock climbing in Kerry. The two recorded crags on the east side of the Gap are called Céim and Bothán, but most climbing areas are on the northwest side of the valley. 

Cahergal and Leacanabuaile Stone Forts

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Cahergal Stone Fort. Image by Elena Accardi via @__sistha.

To access Cahergal and Leacanabuaile Stone Forts, you have to find the Old Barracks in Cahirciveen, located down by the waters edge. With the barracks on your right hand side continue over the bridge immediately ahead, turn left at the next crossroads. There, you will find signposts for the forts.

A few hundred metres from Ballycarbery Castle is the stone fort of Cahergal, built around 600 AD. It is well worth a visit. The current structure has undergone some reconstruction. With walls that reach 6 m high and some 3 m thick, this dry stone wall fort gives a good example of early mediaeval stone fort on the Ring of Kerry.

The stone fort of Leacanabuaile Stone Fort on the hillside is a fine, partly-reconstructed stone fort on a massive rock foundation, its stone walls enclosing an almost circular area 70 feet in diameter. It was constructed in the 9th or 10th century to protect the farmstead of a wealthy landowner. 

There are many more sights to see on the Ring of Kerry, so don’t hesitate to go off the main roads!

Marylou Prevost
Marylou Prevost

After a Master's degree in journalism and one year as a journalist in France, I landed in Dublin to write for Babylon Radio. I mostly love writing about cultural events in Ireland.

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