The Ultimate Ring of Kerry Route (Travel Guide & Itinerary)

Written by Janelle Axton for MonaCorona.com

The Ring of Kerry in Ireland is one of the most popular attractions in the country with some of the best hiking trails and incredible nature along the ring of Kerry Route. Ring of Kerry is a 179km-long circular scenic drive around the Iveragh Peninsula that has incredible coastal landscapes, adorable rural villages, and some fantastic hiking trails. 

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The Ring of Kerry Route

The route takes you through some of the most scenic landscapes in the country, with towering mountains (Kerry is known as “the mountain capital of Ireland”), pristine lakes, and rugged coastline. The Ring of Kerry is also home to some of the Ireland’s top attractions, including Killarney National Park and the Gap of Dunloe. For details on how to drive the Ring of Kerry route, see the FAQ at the bottom of this post.

Map of Ring of Kerry

Ring of Kerry Highlights & Top Attractions

The Ring of Kerry has no shortage of incredible sites and scenery. Some of the most popular
attractions include the Torc Waterfall, Muckross House (which has a garden, abbey, and
traditional farm onsite), the 15th-century Ross Castle, the famous Ladies’ View, and the Lakes of
Killarney. The area is also home to a number of bridges, unique ruins, forts, and ancient castles.

For beach lovers, there are a few fantastic Ring of Kerry beaches for walking, swimming, and spotting marine
and wildlife. Rossbeigh Strand and Derrynane Beach are two of the most popular with sandy
stretches of beach and stunning blue waters. Or, take a boat ride out to the Skellig Islands for a
true adventure and to see the well-preserved 6th-century monastic settlement that remains on the
island.

Photo by Janelle Axton

Top 3 Ring of Kerry Hikes

The best way to explore and take in the full nature of the Ring of Kerry is to explore on foot (or
by boat and horse-drawn carriage!). There are some short Ring of Kerry walks through Killarney National Park, or for the the advanced hikers, you can hike the entire Kerry Way which is 133.6 miles (215km) long and takes about 6-
8 days to complete.

The best hikes to get a taste of the Ring of Kerry are:

Torc Waterfall

1. Torc Waterfall
Length: 2.3 miles (4km)
Elevation Gain: 587 feet (179m)
Average Duration: 1 to 1.5 hours
Start: Torc Water Fall Lower Parking Lot in Rossnahowgarry (Loop Trail)

The Torc Waterfall is part of Killarney National Park and is a quick, moderate hike with a rewarding view at its end of the impressive 66ft high waterfall! Along the way, you will have spectacular 360 degree views of Killarney town and lakes, the Muckross House, and the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks.

It’s one of the most popular attractions in the Ring of Kerry with a lovely, wooded trail. Be careful as you climb to the top of the waterfall, it can be a bit steep and muddy, but the rewarding views make it well worth it!

Gap of Dunloe

2. The Gap of Dunloe 
Length: 14.1 miles (23km)
Elevation Gain: 2,175 feet (663m)
Average Duration: 6 to 7 hours
Start: Kate Kearney’s Cottage to Lord Brandon’s Cottage (Out and Back Trail)

Hiking in the Gap of Dunloe is a truly unique experience. The Black Valley is home to several flowing lakes, waterfalls, unique ruins, and the old-time wishing bridge that’s a must-see. One of the most popular and stand-alone attractions in the Ring of Kerry, hiking through the Gap is the perfect way to take in all the beauty of the area.

There are multiple ways to explore the Gap of Dunloe. You can hike one way and take a horse-drawn carriage ride back or take a boat across the Killarney Lakes. Many people love exploring the Gap of Dunloe partially on foot and partially by cycling as well. The hiking trails are well-marked and easy to follow, making it a great option for hikers of all levels.

This particular Gap of Dunloe trail is the full out and back trail and the most popular way to hike through. The trail is a pleasant road that starts at Kate Kearney’s Cottage and runs past the most popular features on towards Lord Brandon’s Cottage. You can either return to where you started by following this same path or take another form of transportation back to the start.

View from the Carrauntoohil summit

3. Carrauntoohill Mountain via Devil’s Ladder
Length: 7.2 miles (11.5km)
Elevation Gain: 3,054 feet (931m)
Average Duration: 4.5 to 5 hours
Start: Cronin’s Yard Campsite Parking Lot (Loop Trail)

The trail is generally considered a challenging climb due to the steep sections and slippery rocks along the way. Make sure to go during favorable weather conditions, and if you make it to the top – you will be rewarded with incredible views of the Kerry landscape.

The Best Ring of Kerry Restaurants

After hiking through and exploring the Ring of Kerry, you will want to reward yourself with some of the most delicious food in the area. Kenmare, Killorglin, or Tralee are three fantastic stops with delicious food and drink and quaint streets. After a long day of exploring, it’s always fun to go pub-hopping in one of the numerous adorable villages scattered throughout the Ring of Kerry region.

The absolute best dining options are in Killarney. The Mad Monk by Quinlans is a top-rated
seafood restaurant with fresh, incredible dishes. Or for a true culinary experience, try out Malarkey with it’s well-plated dishes, lovely ambiance, and fantastic service.

Where to Stay & Ring of Kerry Hotels

Most people stay in Killarney or Kenmare when visiting the Ring of Kerry. Killarney is the starting point of the Ring of Kerry drive loop, and many of the top attractions of the area are within a day trip distance from Killarney.

Killarney is popular for people to stay in to explore the Ring of Kerry and has more options for accommodation. Kenmare is a much smaller, quieter town to stay in, but still has great restaurants, music, and fantastic nature surrounding it.

Best Hotels in Killarney

For the best, most luxurious accommodation options check out The Killarney Park hotel. A 5-star hotel in a fantastic location, guests love the restaurant (that features a walk-in wine cellar) and afternoon tea served in the library.

Other fantastic options are the Great Southern Killarney or the Killarney Royal Hotel. Both are located within the heart of Killarney and have all the amenities you need for both an exciting and relaxing visit to the Ring of Kerry.

Ring of Kerry Itinerary – One Day or More

The most popular Ring of Kerry stops can be done in one day from Kenmare to Killarney (about a 40-minute direct drive) and include Molls Gap and the Gap of Dunloe, Killarney National Park, the Torc Waterfall, Muckross House/Abbey, and Ross Castle. 

To add additional days, you can explore from Kenmare to Waterville (about a 50-minute drive between Kenmare and Waterville and an hour to Waterville from Killarney) in one day to see St. Finian’s Bay, Skellig Island and the Chocolate Factory, Ballinskelligs, Derrynane House and National Park, and end with the town of Kenmare.

On a third day, explore from Waterville to Killorglin (about a 45-minute drive between Killorglin and Waterville and just 20-minutes to Killorglin from Killarney) to see Rossbeigh Strand Beach, Cahergill and Leacanabuile Stone Forts, Ballycarbery Castle, see the Valentia Island, and Portmagee.

Skellig Island

Ring of Kerry FAQ

The most frequently asked questions about the Ring of Kerry in Ireland.

How long is the Ring of Kerry?

The Ring of Kerry is 179km long (111 miles).

How to get around the Ring of Kerry:

To see the majority of the top sites, most people opt to take a Ring of Kerry tour from Killarney,
especially if they are short on time. You can tour ring of Kerry with a tour guide, but you can also opt to rent a car and drive to the stops you areinterested and go at your own pace. Taking a taxi or hiring a private car are also options for
getting around the Ring of Kerry. Driving Ring of Kerry is straight forward and relatively easy to follow.

What is the Ring of Kerry Driving Route?

If you’re planning a Ring of Kerry road trip, you will typically start and end in Killarney, but since the route is circular you may jump in at other points along the way, too. When driving the Ring of Kerry, the best recommendation is to go clockwise (going south from Killarney towards Kenmare), since the Ring of Kerry bus tours go counter-clockwise.

how long to drive the Ring of Kerry:

It takes about 3.5 hours to drive the whole Ring of Kerry route, though it typically takes much longer when you factor in stopping to see and explore the attractions.

Cycling the Ring of Kerry:

You can cycle Ring of Kerry as well, starting from Killarney. The elevation gained is about 1560m (5,118ft) and it typically takes about 3 to 4 days, though some people stretch it out over a full week to take more stops. 

The Ring of Kerry cycling route mostly follows the National roads and during high tourist season it can be quite busy with cars and tour buses, and some of the sections can be quite narrow. A hybrid or racing bike is recommended and bike rentals are offered in Killarney if needed. 

Otherwise, you can cycle through sections of the Ring of Kerry such as the Gap of Dunloe or the Killarney Demesne, Ross Castle, Muckross and Dinis Loop. Some may even enjoy experiencing Ring of Kerry camping along the way.

Best time of year to visit the Ring of Kerry:

Most of the year is favorable to visit the Ring of Kerry. Summer (May to September) is ideal for the warmest weather and longest days, averaging a high of 60-70°F (15-21°C). Though that is the most popular time to explore the Ring of Kerry, and you will be fighting the most tourists.

The shoulder seasons of spring and fall are ideal for less crowds. The weather will be slightly colder, but it never gets too cold in Kerry. The rainiest month is October and the driest is May, though most of the year there is a chance of at least some drizzle to light rain.

Is the Ring of Kerry worth it?

Yes! The Ring of Kerry is arguably the best part of Ireland to explore for an abundance of incredible scenery and top-notch attractions. The nature and history in the region can’t be beat and will be some of your top experiences while traveling through the Emerald Isle!

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One thought on “The Ultimate Ring of Kerry Route (Travel Guide & Itinerary)

  1. The Ring of Kerry looks absoutley beautiful! I love your pics! Thanks so much for the inspiration!

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