Irish: Ciarraighe, Ciarrai
On our second day on this weekend trip we left Cork towards County Kerry, some 70 kilometers to the west. Initially we headed to Kerry Airport where we got a rental car to then drive all around this beautiful region in Ireland. You will find all over the internet there is a specific name for a route that passes all over the best places in the area, this is called the Ring of Kerry, and that’s right, this was our aim for today and the reason why we needed a rental car.
I cannot imagine anyone coming here without a car, but is this is the case, (not everyone drive nor want to drive in their holidays), you can take a tour from pretty much everywhere else in Ireland. Those offer this as a day tour, and are available even as far as from Dublin. Other than that, you can only go point to point using public transportation as Killarney, Tralee or Portmagee to name the “largest” cities. I emphasize in “largest” as quite ironic, the size of the cities are more to a villa, being Tralee the largest at around 25000 inhabitants.
But again, this is not a region you come as part of city sightseeing, but for nature and landscapes instead. It is without doubt regarded as the most picturesque region in Ireland and renowned for its scenery and landscapes. Combining the Ring of Kerry with a larger city to the likes of Cork as was our case this weekend; or Limerick and Galway which are at the same distance, is perfect and will work great on a weekend trip.
Not much to be said in this brief introduction. Only that mind the time you allow for the entire drive. It takes longer than you might think knowing the total distance is not that much after all, but there will be many spots along the route, very nice viewing points and too much to see that will take the time without you realizing. Don’t rush and leave early in the morning, don’t wait until is too late or early afternoon. Furthermore the later you start your way, the more busier the road gets and the sight points.
For more information about County Kerry check Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. Ireland’s currency is the Euro (EUR). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in the County of Kerry
- Ring of Kerry This is the highlight and best choice in order to visit the entire region. Without any doubt, something you should do if coming to this region. It encircles 120 miles in total passing beautiful and spectacular scenery and nature, and small villages and charming little cities. From fields to mountains to lakes and the Atlantic coast and cliffs plus the rocky islands off the coast. The starting point is Killarney and the route follows a clockwise southwest direction making a horseshoe around the Iveragh Peninsula. Some of the key destinations to note are:
-Killarney One of the major tourist cities in Ireland because of it being the starting point of the Ring of Kerry. Most tour operators bring the tourists here where they change onto the Ring buses. The city itself has a nice old town with the typical vivid colours painted houses that are so traditional in this region.
-Ross Castle Right by the Lough Leane, part of the Killarney National Park (lough meaning lake in Irish). The city of Killarney lies walking distance to the north.
-Muckross Abbey Is the next sight after the Castle, located in what is called Muckross Lake, immediately south of Lough Leane but the same waters.
-Torc Waterfall In between Muckross Lake and Upper Lake, to the west of the road you will see the signs and car park, impossible to miss.
-Upper Lake The road passes by the south shore offering great views of the National Park area.
-Kenmare Bay Once you reach the village of Kenmare, you will be driving along the bay all the way up to Caherdaniel, with incredible views of the sea and mountains and the beautiful beaches.
-Sneem A very small village famous for its colourful Victorian and Georgian houses. Great for a quick stop along the way either for food or for a coffee or drink.
-Whitestrand Beach To my opinion, the nicest beach in the area especially at low tide when you can walk over large stretches of white sand.
-O’Carrolls Cove Beach Although a very beautiful beach do to its location, at the other side next to the sand there is a large caravan area and thus, not as natural as Whitestand.
-Caherdaniel From here you can take the small road leading to the Rath Peninsula up to Bunavalla where you will have incredible views of the bay, the large sandy beaches and the islands off the shore.
-Skellig Island Off the coast on the western edge of the Ring of Kerry, with the best views in the area between Caherdaniel and Waterville.
-Waterville In this small village, the Atlantic Ocean is at one side while the Lake at the opposite as the road passes in between.
-Cahersiveen Another beautiful city already on the way toward Tralee or Killarney to end the Ring of Kerry. Has a nice port and 2 castles, one of them nicely preserved painted white.
-Killorglin As you drive by, notice the bridge where from one of the sides you will get a really nice picture perfect of the Victorian architecture and colors.
-Tralee The major city in Co.Kerry and actually one of the most beautiful cities in Ireland too. Unfortunately we did not have any spare time left to visit, but as we drive with the car through it, we saw the nice avenues and streets filled with impressive Georgian and colourful Victorian houses everywhere.
County Kerry is serve by its own airport, Kerry, where although it’s not a large one, it has good connections with Ryanair being the largest airline. Other nearby airports are Shannon, Cork and Limerick, all of them easy to reach to/from Kerry, but bear in mind frequencies and time of travel. There are few connections between Cork and Kerry Airport through the day and those take between 2 and 4 hours. A bit longer to Tralee and beyond.
While in the area, the best choice is to have your own transport, either a rental car or be in a day tour from wherever else you came from Ireland. Other than that moving yourself using public transportation will require long time. You can easily do it, but definitely not in one day if you want to do the Ring of Kerry.
Although I cannot recommend any place to stay in the region since I did not have the need to search for a hotel here (we stayed back in Cork, a much larger city with plenty of choice), there are hundreds of Bed & Breakfast everywhere! You do not even need to book something prior to your trip and arrival day, you can pop in at the many you will see along the way. Prices are not over the moon but down to earth and nice. Obviously you will need to compare and judge your feelings, and don’t be of any shame in asking to see the room beforehand.
There are also many hotels all over, but those will most likely set your costs way higher than your expectations. It is in fact that the cost of hotels here were double the cost than those in Cork in average. A good and reasonable point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engine such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms or Ebookers.
The hotel we stayed in Cork was the Rose Lodge Guest House, in Mardyke Parade. Some 20 minutes walk to the Grand Parade. Nicely located at a quieter area to the west of the city but with easy and direct access to the old town either on foot or bu public buses (not really needed, but the bus stop really next door). It was a very nice guest house, with large rooms and all the facilities you would need. It seemed to have been recently refurbished, and the bathroom was extremely nice with a huge walk-in shower. The owner, Chines, was really nice and friendly lady who made us feel comfy straight away. For an extra 5 Euros you can get breakfast, served from 8.30am.