Driving the Ring of Kerry in Ireland

Driving the Ring of Kerry in Ireland is one of the Top 10 things to do in this country, in my opinion. One of the most iconic drives of Ireland, your eyes are in for a treat on this 179-km loop that starts and ends at Killarney. Well, since it’s a ‘ring’, technically there isn’t a start and end really but Killarney is a good place to begin your journey – one that is going to take you through rugged countryside, the wild and gorgeous coastline, cute and colourful towns and breathtaking landscapes.

Kerry is a county in Ireland which includes some famous Irish towns such as Killarney, Kenmare, Portmagee, Dingle and Tralee (apart from others). The Ring of Kerry covers a part of this county from Killarney, through Kenmare, Waterville, Portmagee, Cahersiveen, Glenbeigh and back to Killarney. There is a lot to explore and see on this route and thus, if you are driving the Ring of Kerry, I wouldn’t suggest you do the entire drive in one day. If you’re really short on time (like I was), I’d suggest you give it at least 2 days and stay overnight in one of the many cozy towns that you’ll come across. We started our trip in Killarney.

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Driving the Ring of Kerry

Starting point: Killarney

- Muckross House & Killarney National Park

Driving the Ring of Kerry

If you’re a hiking or cycling enthusiast, you might want to spend a day in Killarney National Park. Mountains, lakes, woods, and waterfalls are what make this rugged mountainous region an absolute pleasure to explore. Some of the best loop walks start from Muckross House and Gardens, a 19th-century stately Victorian house located on the banks of a calm and peaceful lake. A 3-5 hour moderately tough walk around this lake (called the Muckross Lake Loop) will take you through small beaches, rocky paths, ferns, and wildlife such as squirrels, deer, and herons. However, if you’re looking for a shorter but a slightly more tough walk, you can take the detour to Torc Waterfall.  Click here to read in detail about these two hiking paths.

Driving the Ring of Kerry
Muckross Estate and Gardens

Alternatively, you can enjoy a horse carriage ride around the Muckross Estate and Gardens. A ticket costing €15.00 will allow you entry to the house, gardens and the traditional farms. The elegantly furnished house is a great insight into the living conditions of the stately families and their house help during the 19th century.

Driving the Ring of Kerry
Killarney National Park

- Optional: Ross Castle

If you’re spending a night in Killarney, you might have some time to visit Ross Castle. This 15th-century castle is located on the banks of Killarney’s lake - Lough Lean. You can stroll the gardens for free and enjoy the beauty of the site or take a guided tour (which is included in the price of the ticket) of the castle for as less as €4.00. Alternatively, you can take a boat tour (weather allowing) to Inisfallen Island, which is right across the castle and takes only 10 minutes to get to. The island as some monastic ruins from the 12th century. For a detailed list of boat tours available on the beautiful lake, click here.

Pit stop: Kenmare (35 min)

While driving the Ring of Kerry, you will come across some very cute and cozy little towns, one of which is Kenmare. It makes for the perfect snack break on your trip. A French artisan bakery called Maison Gourmet, located at one end of the town, lined with colorful cafes, bakeries, restaurants, and pubs, serves amazing hot chocolate and baked items.

Staigue Stone Fort (drive time: 50 min, exploring time: 15 min)

Driving the Ring of Kerry
Staigue Stone Fort

While driving the Ring of Kerry from Kenmare onwards, you will arrive at a town called Sneem, which is just about 10 km before Staigue Stone Fort. At Castlecove, you will see signs for the fort and a very narrow and curvy road (which lasts for about 5 km) takes you to this 'ring' fort located on the hilltop. On a clear day, you will have a view of miles of green countryside and the Kenmare Bay in the south.

Driving the Ring of Kerry
View of Kenmare Bay from Staigue Stone Fort

Even though the fort itself may not seem imposing and impressive, the views from here are gorgeous. There is no entry fee to this fort (although a small tip is requested for at the gate to maintain the area). The 18 feet high stone wall can be climbed on top of and it is impressive to imagine that this structure survived the rough and unpredictable Irish weather.

Driving the Ring of Kerry
On top of the walls of Staigue Stone Fort

Pit stop: Waterville (drive time: 35 min)

Yet another town which makes for a good short break from the long drive, this is also where you’ll find Charlie Chaplin’s statue by the Wild Atlantic sea, simply because he often came here on his vacation. None of Charlie Chaplin’s films were shot here, nor was he Irish but he was a beloved character in the local community because of which his highly photographed bronze statue was erected here. There isn’t much else to explore except maybe take a quiet walk on the seafront path. Waterville, strangely, is the only town on the Ring of Kerry which is actually on the coast!

Ballinskelligs Castle (drive time: 20 min, exploring time: 30 min)

Driving the Ring of Kerry
Ballinskelligs Castle

While driving the Ring of Kerry onwards from Waterville, you need to follow the signs for Skellig Ring Road, an 18-km narrow country road that will take you to Ballinskelligs first. Here, you must visit the ruins of Ballinskelligs Castle, built in the 16th century and more commonly known as McCarthy Mór Castle. This was once a tower house built for the protection of the bay from pirates, more than 3 stories tall. What remains today is minimal. Right across the castle, you will find an abbey which dates further back to the 12th century and is perhaps less eroded by the sea than the castle itself.

Driving the Ring of Kerry
Ballinskelligs Abbey

Skelling’s Chocolate (drive time: 10 min, experience time: 30 min)

Only about 10 minutes further ahead on Skelligs Ring Road is this company that specializes in artisanal handmade chocolates! The small family owned facility where traditional chocolates are made, is the perfect place to have authentic Hot chocolate with marshmallows available in several flavors. Choose from milk, white or dark chocolate with flavors such as caramel, cinnamon, and others when selecting your hot chocolate drink. You can also enjoy some chocolate tasting before you buy excellent chocolates to take back home with you. My personal favorites were – mint chocolate & strawberry and champagne truffles.

Driving the Ring of Kerry
Skelligs Hot Chocolate

Kerry’s Cliffs (drive time: 15 min, exploring time: 45 min)

Driving the Ring of Kerry
Kerry Cliffs

Kerry's Cliffs were the highlight of driving the Ring of Kerry. Although we were very unlucky with the weather, I absolutely was in awe of the majestic cliffs jutting out into the ocean. On a cold, rainy and breezy day like the one we encountered, the winds can be very strong and you need to be prepared with your warm clothes, waterproof jackets, good shoes and something to cover your head. A high, strong railing makes the area secure enough to explore despite the strong winds.

Driving the Ring of Kerry

Driving the Ring of Kerry

A 10-minute walk from the car park (and an entrance fee of €4) brings you to the spectacular cliffs. You have the option of exploring the right or the left side of the cliffs. I found the view absolutely incredible from the left side. A ramp leading to the edge of the cliffs provides an unparalleled vantage point to view the cliffs and the islands across - Skelligs Island and Puffin Island.

Driving the Ring of Kerry

Portmagee (driving time: 10 min)

While driving the Ring of Kerry onwards from Kerry's Cliffs, you will arrive at another town called Portmagee. I would suggest spending the night here as this is a fantastic starting point for boat trips to Skellig Michael Island (also known as Sceilg Mhichíl). Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Skellig Michael is of historical and religious significance as a group of monks settled here, far away from the civilization, in a place that was inaccessible and remote, hundreds of years ago. A monastery was discovered here which dates back to the 6th or 8th century and the well-preserved monastic remains today have made this site a popular pilgrimage.

Boat trip to Skellig Michael

Unfortunately, due to bad weather, we were unable to take this boat trip. Star Wars - The Last Jedi was shot at this spot and this made me want to visit the spectacular place even more! There are two kinds of trips that you can take, depending on the time available to you -

Eco Tour - 2.5 hours

Takes you around both the islands (Great Skelligs and Small Skelligs) but only circles around the islands, bringing you close enough to observe the wildlife and historical sites but does not land at any of the islands. There are multiple departures daily from the marina at Portmagee.

Landing Tour - 5 hours

The landing tour usually takes you to the islands to spend some time exploring the sites on your own. These usually depart early in the morning and return by afternoon.

Unfortunately, the boat tours are dependent on the weather, which is very unpredictable and unstable in Ireland.

Click here for more information.

From Portmagee, we moved onto Dingle, thus leaving the Ring Of Kerry at Killorglin, instead of returning to Killarney. Although I have mentioned the driving time for each of the towns and sites while driving the Ring of Kerry, what you also need to factor in is that you might want to stop at several 'viewing points' on the way to enjoy the lovely scenery! The ideal thing to do would be to spend a day at Killarney before starting the drive and to spend a night in Portmagee to be able to take the boat tour to Skellig Islands the next day. Here are some more lovely pictures of the drive itself - so that you know what to expect when you're driving the Ring of Kerry in Ireland.

Driving the Ring of Kerry

Driving the Ring of Kerry

Driving the Ring of Kerry

Driving the Ring of Kerry

Driving the Ring of Kerry

Driving the Ring of Kerry

Driving the Ring of Kerry

102 thoughts on “Driving the Ring of Kerry in Ireland”

  1. I wish the weather had been good when I drove the Ring of Kerry. The views were all filled with clouds. Based on your pictures, I really need to go back and drive the ring on a nice day. My favorite part was Staigue Stone Fort.

    1. That’s the thing about Ireland, isn’t it? The weather is so unpredictable and it’s so hard to get a nice, sunny day! It was quite cloudy even on the day I drove. You can hardly see the blue skies.

  2. I’ve always heard the Ring of Kerry is a great road trip, but didn’t realize there were hiking options nearby in Killarney National Park. That’s a great way to break up a ton of time on the road!

    1. Absolutely 🙂 I’d say, spend a whole day at Killarney before heading out to drive the Ring of Kerry ’cause that’s a long drive, considering so many places to explore on the way.

  3. I love how green Ireland is! This route sounds like a great trip, but there is so much to do you’re right at least a few days are needed to see everything. Skelling’s Chocolate would be a must-visit for me, and the Kerry Cliffs are stunning!

    1. Killarney deserves one full day before you begin on the drive. If you want to take it easy, you can do this drive in 2-3 days, that’ll definitely give you enough time to explore more hidden gems and spend quality time in each of the places on the route.

  4. OMG! This is devastating for me. I planned on doing this! Almost booked my flight and car for the drive as well. Somehow last minute before booking, my husband got loaded with work and we didn’t manage to go. Now, my UK visa has expired. Let’s see if I get a chance in future…

  5. This just made me want to go back to Ireland! We had every intention of doing the Ring of Kerry but didn’t end up making time to do it! We did drive through a smallllll section of it, but not the traditional, iconic sections. My husband just saw me reading your post and said Ireland might have to be our next trip- ha. Thanks for the reminder!

  6. Wow, this looks like a great road trip. The Kerry Cliff looks so amazing. There are so many places in the world and the more I see, the more vagabond my heart becomes. But reading about the place is equally great! I was infact travelling Kerry with you while reading the post. The pictures are amazing. And yes, Skelling’s Chocolate is a place where I would definitely like to visit, and I think I would take more than 30 minutes there! 😉 Loved reading the post.

  7. Such stunning pictures. Ireland is such a beautiful mix of mountains, see, green valleys and castles…. I am afraid that even a month seems less to explore them all. I sure would like to spend some time driving around, especially here. And maybe even take up hiking in the national park as you suggest.

  8. Your photos are stunning! Made me appreciate Ireland more. It is such a beautiful place that is worth visiting. I would never get tired to travel there once in a while and take a break from daily corporate life.

  9. I loved driving on the Ring of Kerry when I was in Ireland last year. So many places to check out and we totally loved Killarney and the night life there. Love the music in the bars. 🙂

  10. Your photos are glorious and really take me back. Driving around Ireland, including the Ring of Kerry, was one of the first trips I did with school friends (and no adults). We were 17 and had a blast, but also loved the scenery!

    1. Wow, at 17 you were on a road trip in Ireland with friends? That is pretty cool 🙂

  11. I’m in love! I need to book my trip to Ireland right now! If you had to pick 1 thing to do on the drive what would it be?

  12. We drove the ring of kerry earlier this year and it was absolutely amazing. The Muckross estate was a huge surprise to us. We had no idea it was that beautiful. Unfortunately we were unable to see the cliffs but they look amazing. Killarney National Park is absolutely incredible.

    1. Oh, sorry to hear that you missed the cliffs, for me, they were the highlight of the drive 🙂

    1. Ireland is picturesque from one end to the other. You can’t go on a drive and not enjoy beautiful scenes like these 🙂

  13. I love your photos, as if I also travelled with you! I could imagine the cold windy weather near the edge and overlooking the sea. I would prefer walking and savoring the Ireland breeze.

  14. We were thinking of doing this either in August or September but our trip did not have some of the pitstops you have mentioned. Looking at your photos, I feel we may have to modify our route to fit in some of these stops. It is such a scenic route!

    1. It is a beautiful drive Deeptha, and I suggest you consider these pit stops. You’ll not regret it 🙂 And it’s always good to have short (scenic) breaks on a drive.

  15. Oh my! This place is beautiful! I want to pack my bags and go do this drive. I think I would also do it in two days or even more so I can take all the time I need 🙂
    Unfortunately I get migraines from chocolate but if it really is that amazing I don’t think a very small piece wouldn’t hurt.

    1. I wish I had more time, would’ve loved to spend 3-4 days between all these places. But for someone short on time, this itinerary makes perfect sense 🙂

  16. I love all of these stops! Ireland has always been on my list of places to go but gets pushed back. This makes me realize that I need to make it a priority. And thank you for including information about where to park and how much things cost – those of us budgeting really need that information!

  17. I’ve wanted to do an Ireland road trip for so long, and the Ring of Kerry has definitely made it a good reason to go! I really love old ruins, and with the glorious wild backdrop it would be so stunning to see!

  18. I love your photos! I always thought Ireland is such an ideal place, it feels so peaceful and calming. Some of my close friends work there and love it there too!

  19. Medha, first thing that came to my after reading your article and seeing your awesome pictures was, where are the people! 🙂 🙂 So much of greenery and striking landscapes in the Kerry county . Three hot chocolates and one person , that is gross injustice 🙂 🙂 🙂

    1. Haha, I was only tasting all the flavours before handing them over to my parents, who were with me 😉 But I did end up having a LOT of hot chocolate on this trip. And yeah, I loved this about Ireland that it wasn’t crowded at all. Such places are the best to explore, in my opinion.

  20. Kerry Cliffs was a shot! Would also love to go up here! Tho as you’ve mentioned can be windy so warm clothes are highly needed. Skellig Michael was a place where the last Jedi was shot? How awesome is that! unfortunately, you couldn’t go through because of a bad weather! There’s always a next time tho! Oh Ireland!

    1. I was so disappointed that I couldn’t do any of the boat trips to the islands due to the weather. But I had already been warned that it was a possibility because it wasn’t rare in Ireland to have such windy/ rainy/ gloomy weather.

  21. What a scenic drive. I know Killarney but had not heard of Ring of Kerry.
    TBH it looked like the Konkan Coast in some frames but that huge palace changes everything.

  22. During our trip to the UK, we visited Northern Ireland but couldn’t make it to Ireland. Ireland has some of the picturesque locations, the views of Kerry’s Cliffs are spectacular. But the highlight of the trip are the numerous castles, stone forts, and the abbeys, we would love to explore them and a bit of history behind them.

    1. I couldn’t make it to Northern Ireland unfortunately. The time was limited. But yeah, you’re right, the scenery is spectacular and so are the numerous forts and castles 🙂

  23. I think your are spot on at making Killarney your starting point for driving the Ring of Kerry. Such great driving guide with your suggested stop times and the driving times, so very handy.

    The views from Stage Stone Fort are gorgeous, quite camera worthy. Skills Hot Chocolate is a definite must stop. Ireland really is such a beautiful country, and that drive really shows it off.

    1. I spent the evening in Killarney before starting the drive next day. Killarney town is so charming!

  24. Ireland is such a beautiful country. Reading this brought back happy memories of a similar trip I took with my daughter a while ago. Sadly we missed the Skelligs Ring Road and the handmade chocolates. That’s a good reason to go back LOL

  25. Wow that is a great road trip. Great pic of you on Staigue Stone Fort. You got me interested in the ruins of Castle and Abbey there. Skelligs Hot Chocolate looks so yumm. In total a great trip worth experiencing.

  26. What a beautiful place! I was on the west coast of Ireland and I really wanted to make this trip but I didn’t have enough time! The water was so blue and pure green surroundings as well. I need that hot chocolate in my life too…must have been a nice warming treat in the cold! Great post.

  27. What a wonderful post! I am a sucker for long drives and intense conversations and a 179 km long stretch is the perfect way to build/strengthen the understanding with someone! Though i love cycling so I would love to follow Muckross Lake Loop. I have been immensely inspired by Charlie Chaplin so waterville is one place that I would love to visit! So much in just one post! I loved reading!

    1. I never thought about long drives in that way 🙂 But it’s true. I travelled with my parents and it was definitely good quality time spent on the road, chatting and bonding.

  28. Yes, I see why they call it the green island…and the cliffs are amazing. Do you know whether it would be possible to do this tour by public transport, too?

    1. It probably would be Renata but it might be highly inconvenient, considering you’d have to look for a bus/ taxi from every spot you stop at. The next best option to renting a car would be to take a guided tour (like from viator/expedia or a local operator) because at least you will get transportation from one end to the other without the hassle of looking every single time.

  29. Last October I went to Ireland, I mean Killarney to attend TBEX conference. I didn’t stay in the country long and I was there only 4 days :(. I did one day trip to Cork and visited the Ross Castle. But since then I tell my husband that we should go to Ireland and we must take a road trip. We are thinking of driving in the Ring of Kerry too. BTW, your photos are so pretty

    1. Thank you. And yeah, you need to spend a lot more time when you visit again. Renting a car to drive around would be the perfect way to do it 🙂

  30. We did the Ring of Kerry last year and found it a great drive, lots to see and not too much driving. Although like you, we found the weather can be unpredictable whatever time of year it is. We loved the cliffs and dramatic coastline, and as you mentioned, those winds do come rattling of the Atlantic but we think it adds to the rugged beauty of the area.

    1. I was a little disappointed initially when I didn’t get to see the sun on the drive but I agree, it does add to the rugged beauty of the area and the drive is stunning nevertheless.

  31. So many bloggers went to Ireland this year. Every one is a tease for me. Has been many years since I went to Ireland but it must be time to go back. Driving the Ring of Kerry is definitely now on my list to do. The cliff views looked stunning. As per your suggestion, I would certainly want to stay in one of the small towns along the way. A walk in Killarney National Park sounds like a perfect stop on the drive. The views from the Staigue Stone Fort look like it is worth a stop. Chocoholic hubby will certainly want to stop at Skelling’s Chocolate.

    1. I would suggest you spend a day at Killarney before starting the drive, visit the National Park and the town and start with the drive next morning. Skellig’s chocolate is worth a visit 🙂

  32. What a beautiful drive, I would like to do the same one day 😀
    I hope that you enjoyed full time there 🙂 Ireland has one of the best landscapes for me 😀

    1. Ireland is truly gorgeous, no doubt. I loved all the drives. This one was particularly outstanding 🙂

  33. I just loved this part of Ireland! It is such a magnificent landscape. I didn’t drive the Ring of Kerry but did explore many of these locations that were close to Killarney. I went to the Cliffs of Moher not the Kerry Cliffs though – they look wonderfully dramatic. I would return in a heartbeat!

    1. I went to both and found them equally spectacular! There’s a long walk around the Cliffs of Moher though, unlike Kerry’s Cliffs. You can only walk so much from one end to the other.

  34. I was just there! Sort of. We did the loop around Dingle Peninsula and since that was a quick loop, we stopped by a small hike in Killarney – don’t remember what it’s called right now though.

    Your route and pictures looks beautiful! The weather was a bit random for us too. Glad you enjoyed the trip regardless!

  35. What a beautiful drive! Looks like a great way to see Ireland. I have not been there, but the photos were as spectacular as I imagined they’d be.

  36. Driving holidays are some of the best. You get to see so much, even as your driving around. What a way to travel around Ireland. We might steal that idea when we’re in Ireland.

  37. Such a detailed guide, Medha! Your photos are just amazing! I’d love to go on a road trip around the Ring of Kerry too.. 🙂 Too bad about missing the boat trip to Skellig Michael. I’ve seen the Star Wars movie too, and I’m pretty sure it would’ve been amazing to check out the movie location.. 🙂

    1. The weather in Ireland is quite unpredictable. Boat trips get canceled quite often. I guess you’ve to be prepared for that!

  38. I think I would have started with Torc Waterfall, even though it might be a tad more challening. I love waterfalls. Great itinerary, by the way!

    1. It’s a shorter hike than the one around the lake 🙂 But the hikes in Killarney National Park are gorgeous, and not too challenging either!

  39. What awesome scenery. I’ve not thought about this as a road trip before, but the Skelligs Hot Chocolate looks amazing and it’s been book marked for our road trips when we have converted our van.

    1. Wow, you’re converting your van! That’ll be pretty cool for road trips and this one is a must-add to your list!

  40. The ring of Kerry sounds like it is a perfect drive and something my husband and I would enjoy. The Killarney National Park sounds like somewhere I would like to spend some time at. The photos are beautiful and liked that you covered so many different parts around the country all so different

  41. The vistas all along the Ring of Kerry drive are breath-taking. & your photographs are stunning! The hot chocolate at Skelligs sounds amazing, esp. on a cold, windy day.

  42. The blue-grey of the sea and the raw green of the grass look amazing and inviting. This is somewhere I want to end up one day. Would also love to go on the boat trip to Skellig Michael (sorry the weather wasn’t on your side this time)

    1. I was so disappointed to not be able to make it to Skellig Michael. But the trip was absolutely amazing anyway 🙂

  43. What a beautiful place! Sheila and I would be very much at home here because we are mountaineers, and we love wild places. The hills and the sea cliffs are absolutely spectacular. We hope we can visit Ireland in the future—very difficult to get a visa there considering the weakness of a Philippine passport.

    1. I know what you mean. Getting a visa is always a painful job for me as well, with my Indian passport 🙂

  44. I so desperately wanted to do this while we were in Ireland. My husband and I met his family over there while we were traveling and they didn’t want to move around too much, so we didn’t get out and see all that we wanted to see, but that just means we have to go back! Those Kerry Cliffs look amazing! That alone would be worth driving out there for!

    1. Kerry Cliffs and Cliffs of Moher were some of the most spectacular scenes we saw in Ireland 🙂

  45. I had the pleasure of touring Ireland while doing research for my dissertation (bronze age musical instruments in Ireland). We didn’t get do the ring of Kerry drive, but we did go into Kerry and stayed in Tralee, the capital of the region.

    The whole of Ireland is spectacular in my opinion, but Kerry and the West Coast is just something else!

    1. I couldn’t agree more. Driving the Wild Atlantic Way (or a part of it) was such an awesome experience.

  46. I have only one word for your pictures – Splendid. 🙂

    Eating artisanal handmade chocolates must have been a good experience. I always buy handmade chocolates wherever I go.

    1. The chocolates at Seklligs are pretty awesome! I got a bunch back home with me too 🙂

  47. This is such a spectacular drive! The picture of Kerry’s cliffs reminded me of the Cliffs of Moher. Ireland can never stop amazing me, each time I come across a new place it has its own charm and beauty. Thank you for sharing a detailed itinerary on this drive.

  48. You really captured the beauty of this part of Ireland Medha with your words and photos. I absolutely adore Killarney and the county of Kerry and this wild landscape they have. I think we went to the Kerry Cliffs, but yes, they’re quite dangerous especially on a windy day! I love the ruins of the castle, it’s still charming even if there’s nothing left!

    1. At least they had a proper railing to protect the people at Kerry’s Cliffs from being pushed off the cliffs into the sea with those strong winds. I found Cliffs of Moher more dangerous, a part of it had no railings at all!

  49. Excellent pics…Beautiful country. Best Hot Chocolate drinks with Marsh Mellows & Best chocolates.

  50. LOVE these photos! We just got back from Ireland – and this was such a spectacular drive! The Ring of Kerry drive is totally stunning.

    We never made it to Skelligs chocolate and I’m so sad about that.

    I can’t wait to go back and visit!

    1. I wasn’t sure if Skelligs Chocolates were going to be any good or if the place was over-hyped, I had read mixed reviews on the internet before going. But the chocolates were REALLY amazing and the variety of flavours in the Hot Chocolate was superb.

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