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Ireland Road Trip — The Ring of Kerry

by Suzanne Fluhr on April 11, 2013 · 24 comments

After our visit to Kinsale on the southern coast of Ireland, we had a relatively easy driving day to Kenmare where we spent the night at the comfortable Watersedge B&B to rest up for tackling the Ring of Kerry. Once again, I managed to find us a B&B that was a good hike out of town across a bridge over an estuary and then along an unlighted narrow road with no shoulders. Fortunately, it was still somewhat light at 9:30 p.m., so we were able to walk into town for dinner and make it back without becoming road kill.

Scenic view while driving the Ring of Kerry
A Landscape View Towards the Coast Along the Ring of Kerry

I realize that Rick Steves is not in need of any blogger love, but we heavily relied on his Ireland guide book during our trip to Ireland, so he deserves a shout out. The section of his book which covers the Ring of Kerry provides a kilometer by kilometer guide to driving the Ring of Kerry and living to tell about it. It is ominously entitled, “Driving the Ring of Kerry (Made Less Scary)”. We also used a Road Atlas of Ireland and Google Maps on my husband’s I-Phone (when there was coverage).

Scenic view from the Ring of Kerry in Ireland

The Ring of Kerry Landscapes are Intensely Green

The Ring of Kerry is a loop road that follows the coastline of the Iveragh Peninsula in the extreme southwest of Ireland. Many parts of the road are narrow, windy (both kinds of windy), hilly and to make it more frightening interesting, they allow two way traffic, much of which consists of tour buses. If you are from a good deal of the rest of the world, you will also be driving on the wrong side of the road. (Please remember to stay on the wrong side!)

Staigue Ring Fort along the Ring of Kerry in Ireland

The Entrance to the Staigue Ring Fort Near Sneem on the Ring of Kerry. Thought to Have Been Constructed Between 300 and 400 A.D. for Defensive Purposes Using No Mortar.

Interior of the Staigue Ring Fort, Ring of Kerry, Ireland

The Interior of the Staigue Ring Fort With 18 Foot High Walls, 12 Feet Thick at the Base, With Staircases

We spent an entire day driving the Ring of Kerry and the adjoining Skellig Ring from Kenmare to Dingle. This is one of those places in the world where the journey itself  is the there there. My husband hero, Steve, did all the driving. Because driving this route requires the driver to keep his eyes on the road and the passenger is likely to have her eyes squeezed shut in terror (I’m exaggerating — kind of), you will want to give yourself plenty of extra time to stop and take in the views and perhaps to refresh yourself with a pot of tea and scones (with clotted cream and jam, of course) along the way.

Tea and Scones Along the Ring of Kerry, Ireland

A Well Deserved Tea and Scones Stop

If you think you will be too petrified to enjoy driving the Ring of Kerry on your own, I personally would not think less of you if you were to decide to be one of the passengers on a tour bus. However, whether you drive or take a tour, experiencing the beauty of the rural, and often rugged, Ring of Kerry should be on your list of “things to do” while visiting Ireland.

The Rugged Skellig Ring Adjacent to the Ring of Kerry, Ireland

The Green Meets the Sea Along the Ring of Kerry

If you have driven the Ring of Kerry, how would you describe your experience? If you have not yet visited the Ring of Kerry, do you think you will want to drive yourself or leave the driving to a tour bus driver?

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Viv and Jill April 11, 2013 at 10:42 pm

Great post – we loved driving the Ring of Kerry a couple of years ago. Well, Viv enjoyed driving it and Jill was white knuckled and had her eyes closed unless we were stopped :). Rather scary when all the tour buses start heading towards you on that tiny and windy road.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr April 12, 2013 at 5:59 pm

There seems to be a consensus that the drive can be challenging —- especially for those of us driving on the “wrong side”, but I haven’t heard of anybody who said it wasn’t worth the adrenalin rush.

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avatar santafetraveler April 12, 2013 at 9:41 am

We spent a wonderful week in Dingle. After seeing this, I’m sorry we didn’t take a day to do the drive. We did stay in Kenmare- at a wonderful B & B with a water view. Sadly, I had a 24-hour stomach virus so mostly missed the town. But the loo was lovely and the view from my bed superb. I picked the perfect place to be sick.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr April 12, 2013 at 6:03 pm

Being ill while traveling is certainly a bummer (do people say “bummer” anymore?). You certainly wouldn’t want to be driving the Ring of Kerry with a stomach virus—not many conveniently located “rest” stops.

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avatar Leigh April 12, 2013 at 10:08 am

I’ve hiked the Kerry Way by myself – one of my proudest accomplishments. I took one day off to visit the Skellig Islands – really the highlight for me in 3 + weeks in Ireland. I never did drive any part of the Ring of Kerry but I biked in Connemara and that was scary. Wild drivers in Ireland!!

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr April 12, 2013 at 5:57 pm

I just looked up a website about this hike. How long did it take you to do the walk? Did you do all 200+ kilometers? If you blogged about your hike, I’d be happy to share a link to your blog posts. I’m sure the hike would be a challenge, but some people might find it more relaxing than driving (on the wrong side, for example). On the other hand, some of those roads with no shoulders might be scary for walkers/hikers also.

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avatar Roz Warren April 12, 2013 at 5:19 pm

Stunning photos!

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avatar Jon Jefferson April 13, 2013 at 3:22 pm

Your description of the road reminds me of some of the roads in Okinawa. Tight windy roads that require full focus to drive.

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avatar MD Galvin April 13, 2013 at 6:42 pm

We were on the Ring of Kerry in 2001. It was truly beautiful. I was fortunately a passenger so I got to enjoy all the beauty and glory. Your pictures reminded of what a great trip it was. We also enjoyed the craic in County Clare – lots of live music.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr April 13, 2013 at 8:46 pm

Great music in County Kerry in Dingle also. My next Ireland post will be about Dingle.

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avatar Susan Cooper April 14, 2013 at 9:58 pm

I so want to go there. It was a while back, I went to Scotland and I loved it. Many of the same things you mentioned here what I experienced. However, Ireland is supposed to nothing short of beautiful. So now I really want to go. 🙂

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avatar Jeri April 14, 2013 at 11:13 pm

I would definitely try driving… though I don’t have a good track record on the road. I always feel like I go on auto-pilot when I’m on a tour bus.

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avatar Leora April 15, 2013 at 7:03 am

Looks like a gorgeous part of the world – so lush and green. Thanks for the tour!

I have a hard enough time driving in New Jersey – I let someone else drive in a foreign country.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr April 15, 2013 at 10:41 pm

I totally let my husband do all the driving—on the wrong side. Actually, it took the two of us to drive. My job was to remind him to stay on the left side of the road.

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avatar Arianwen April 18, 2013 at 3:53 pm

It looks beautiful. I can’t believe I’ve travelled so much and still never been to Ireland!

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr April 18, 2013 at 5:14 pm

I’m from the U.S. and Ireland was the 32nd country I’ve been to—way further down on the list than it should be. I think it’s one of those places people figure they can always go to, unlikely to have a revolution — a bank crisis, maybe, but not a revolution.

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avatar vanessa jane holburn April 19, 2013 at 8:37 am

Stunning photos. I love road trips but not sure my kids are quite old enough to appreciate them. About 2 hours drive at once is all we can manage without someone needing to pee, eat, hit a sibling, pick up a dropped toy/pen/food item/sibling…I think you get the idea!!

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr April 19, 2013 at 11:21 am

LOL. Having raised two sons, I totally understand. I certainly don’t recommend the Ring of Kerry as a good road trip. You need to be able to concentrate on the road on the Ring of Kerry.

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avatar homejobsbymom April 24, 2013 at 7:54 pm

Ireland looks amazing. I can’t wait to go there one day.

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avatar Samuel Jeffery June 21, 2013 at 9:35 pm

Wonderful and inspiring photos! One of my dreams is to visit Ireland as it is on my bucket-list.

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avatar Jim August 17, 2017 at 8:26 pm

We visited Ireland in 2016. My wife and daughter convinced me to go with them, I was so glad we did. The ring if Kerry was beautiful and my daughter did have white knuckles while I was driving. I hope some day to go back. Our vacation there was not long enough.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr August 21, 2017 at 5:26 pm

Driving on the “wrong” side on narrow roads with stone walls on one side and tour buses on the other can definitely provide some moments that will increase one’s heart rate, but as you state, it is beautiful and worth the occasional expletive.

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