After spending a weekend in Dublin and a day exploring Galway and the Cliffs of Moher, it was time to take a ride along the Ring of Kerry. Whenever I thought of Ireland, I pictured green countryside with rolling hills and coastal views of the Atlantic Ocean. On the Ring of Kerry, you will experience all of that. The Ring of Kerry is a 111-mile circular route in County Kerry in the southwest portion of Ireland which features many beautiful sites and towns. There are many different routes you can take and to see the many stops along the way. We started out from our hotel in Ennis and ended in Killarney and saw many of the Ring of Kerry highlights on a full day’s drive.
Adare Thatched Cottage
Before heading out on the Ring of Kerry, we stopped in the village of Adare. In the 1830s, thatched cottages became a popular home choice in Adare due to the cheap and locally sourced materials to build these homes. Thatching a roof became a trade that was passed down thru the generations from father to son. The thatched cottages are beautiful and look like something out of a fairy tale. There are many that you can stay in while visiting the area.
After leaving Adare, we drove thru the town of Killorglin. This town is known for quite the interesting festival, Puck Fair. Held each year on August 10-12, the centerpiece of this fair is a goat. On the first day of the festival, a goat is brought down from the mountains and is crowned King Puck. The oddest thing about this festival to me is that the goat is crowned King by the Queen of Puck, which is a normally a local school aged girl. The goat is King Puck for the three days of the festival and then at the end of the festival the goat is brought back to the mountains.
The Puck Fair has been going on for centuries and there are many theories as to its origins. From a fruitful harvest celebration where Puck serves as the pagan symbol of fertility to recognition for a goat, “Puck”, who broke away from his herd in the mountains to warn the town of approaching danger. Regardless of the origin of the fair, it’s definitely a one of the kind festival that would be worthy to check out if you are in the area in August.
Kerry Bog Village
The Kerry Bog Village is the perfect stop along the Ring of Kerry to explore a bit of history of this area of Ireland. At the Kerry Bog Village, you can step back in time to see how the Irish lived in the 19th century. Don’t pass this place by if you are like me and love historic tourist spots like this. It’s always great to have a physical depiction of how life was to truly understand the history of a place.
Take a walk thru the thatched houses to see how the Irish lived during this time. There is also old farm equipment and other historic items from the time period on the site. And if you are like me and love animals, you are in luck! From baby goats to Irish Wolfhounds, there are many animals to see at Kerry Bog Village. I could have spent hours with these animals! These would be just the first of many animals encountered along the Ring of Kerry that day.
And not to be missed are the Kerry Bog Ponies! These ponies are local to the area, originally living in the peat bogs of County Kerry. The have a low weight-to-height ratio and are absolutely adorable!
If you need a bite to eat or a beverage, The Red Fox Bar & Restaurant is located onsite. This traditional pub is the perfect spot to grab an Irish Coffee or a Bailey’s Coffee to give you some energy to start your drive of the Ring of Kerry off. Also located inside is a gift shop.
Wild Atlantic Way
A portion of the Ring of Kerry goes along the Wild Atlantic Way. This 1600-mile route spans the western coast of Ireland and features gorgeous views along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, including such sites as Cliffs of Moher. The Wild Atlantic Way can take you weeks to explore in its entirety, so when short on time, it’s great to get a taste of it along the Ring of Kerry.
Mountain Stage Viewpoint
Our next stop on the Ring of Kerry was right on the Wild Atlantic Way at the Mountain Stage Viewpoint. This viewpoint features views of Rossbeigh Beach and Dingle Bay. Photos from this viewpoint don’t even do it justice. It was absolutely stunning, the type of place I could sit for hours and contemplate life while staring out at the ocean.
With so many coastal spots along the Ring of Kerry, it’s surprising that there is just one seafront village along the route. This distinction belongs to the village of Waterville. It’s a great spot to stop for a bite to eat with its many cafes and pubs. There are many activities you can enjoy in Waterville, from hiking to fishing to cycling to golfing and even surfing, making it a perfect spot for the active traveler. Waterville was an annual vacation spot of actor Charlie Chaplin and there is a statue along the water in his memory.
Moll’s Gap and Ladies View
Making our way closer to Killarney we came across some of the most stunning views along the Ring of Kerry. Moll’s Gap is named after Moll Kissane who lived in the area and was famous for her strong alcohol called poitin (pronounced put-cheen) which is distilled in a small pot and is made from potatoes. At Moll’s Gap, you can see Ireland’s tallest mountain, Carrountoohill and the Gap of Dunloe.
Shortly after Moll’s Gap, you will come to Ladies View. From this viewpoint you can see the Lakes of Killarney. In my opinion this was the most beautiful view along the Ring of Kerry that we saw that day. This viewpoint was named Ladies View after a royal visit from Queen Victoria in 1861. During this visit, the Queen’s ladies-in-waiting loved this view so much that Ireland named the viewpoint after them.
Killarney National Park
We finally arrived in the town of Killarney where we were staying for the evening. Shortly after checking into our hotel, we went for a Jaunting Car ride in Killarney National Park.
A jaunting car is a two wheeled carriage led by one horse with a seat up front for the driver and seats in the back for passengers. Jaunting cars were a popular mode of transportation in Ireland dating back to the early 1800s. The carriages reminded me of what you would see in Amish country in Pennsylvania. Seeing the National Park via a jaunting car is definitely a unique experience that is not to be missed.
Of course, the jaunting car ride will only cover a fraction of this 26,000-acre park which has the distinction of being named Ireland’s first national park. If you have more time to explore the park, I recommend you visit the following sites:
- Torc Waterfall – 66 foot high cascade waterfall
- Ross Castle – 15th century tower house
- Muckross House and Gardens – 19th century Victorian mansion
- Muckross Abbey – dates back to 1448
- Hike one of the many trails in the park
- Kayak or canoe on the lake
- View wildlife like the red deer
Animals Along the Ring of Kerry
Not only were there animal sightings at the Kerry Bog Village and Killarney National Park, but all along the Ring of Kerry, there were many opportunities to see animals grazing in the fields or even in the road. As you can probably imagine, sheep are quite common along the Ring of Kerry. You may even notice that the sheep have a color marking on them. These markings serve different uses. One of the main uses is that as the sheep from different farms graze together in the same field, farmers will mark each of their sheep a certain color to distinguish them from another farm’s sheep. They also mark the female and male sheep with different colors.
But the sheep would not be the only animals that we saw. For some reason when I travel there is always some form of animal holding up traffic. I must admit, Ireland wins for cutest animal traffic of all the places I’ve visited.
Beauty of the Ring of Kerry
All along the Ring of Kerry, you will see the many features both natural and manmade that make Ireland the beautiful country we all dream of. From stone forts and stone bridges to rolling green countryside, it truly was the type of Ireland day I dreamed of.
The Ring of Kerry is not to be missed when visiting Ireland. If time allows, take it slow and appreciate all the beauty this wonderful circular drive thru County Kerry has to offer.
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