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Ireland Travel Guide

Best Places to Visit in  Southwestern Ireland

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            Best Places to Visit in Ireland    Detailed Map  

 

 

 

  

Best Places to Visit in Ireland's Southwest

 
Ring of Kerry         
Blarney Castle   Cork   Dingle Peninsula  Drombeg Stone Circle    
 Gougane Barra    Killarney National Park     Kinsale    Skellig Michael  
 

The views you will see while driving the ring of Kerry are spectacular

The Southwest of Ireland is often thought of as "scenic" Ireland, for it is here that you will see incredibly beautiful seascapes along four peninsulas surrounded by the moody Atlantic Ocean.   The region we call Southwestern Ireland is comprised of County Cork and County Kerry.

The scenery in County Kerry is by far the most popular attraction in the area and we start our coverage with drives along the Inveragh (Ring of Kerry) and Dingle Peninsulas.

While the tour of the Ring of Kerry is the most popular, the crowds on the Dingle Peninsula have increased over the last few years.  The towns and villages along both routes are modest in size, although you will find no shortage of pubs, places to eat and tourist shops. Most attractions are modest, but the views are the reason for visiting.

While many visitors approach both drives as an endurance race, zipping from one end to the other with limited stops, we urge you to take your time and inspect your surroundings.  One of the best things about  Ireland is that is it not like your home. We recommend that you take the time to explore the differences. Finally, like the rest of Ireland, many of the attractions in the Southwest are open only in summer, so check locally if you are going to visit in other seasons.

             

Ring of Kerry

The Ring of Kerry has some fabulous views

The Ring of Kerry drive is downright crowded in summer and you may find yourself behind a convoy of tour buses at almost anytime of the day.  Most of the tour buses drive the Ring in a counter-clockwise direction and some tourists who drive themselves prefer to drive the same route in a clockwise direction to avoid the crowds.  In addition, many drivers prefer to take the clockwise route because you will be driving on the left in Ireland and this means you will be driving on the side of the road that will give you the most direct views of the ocean.

Below is our overview map of the Ring of Kerry.  For a more detailed road map of the Southwestern Ireland, click on this symbol .  When used in the following text, the map symbol will link to a detailed road map centered on the location mentioned in the text.  Zoom the interactive map to for more detail, or use the hybrid view to see satellite imagery of the area.  If you get lost, simply zoom out to find your location.  For now, the overview map below) will work just fine.

    Generalized map of the attractions along the Ring of Kerry

 

This is the sign that you will see will driving the Ring of Kerry
The Ring of Kerry circuit, an approximately a 103-mile route (173 km), is the most famous "drive" in Ireland. It runs along the coastline of the Inveragh Peninsula. Along the way, you will see picturesque villages, historical sites, beautiful landscapes and spectacular coastal scenery. Traffic on the road can be congested in high tourist season, so start your tour early in the day. Driving the route and seeing sights of interest to you along the way will take most of the day, so budget your time accordingly.

Killarney

Although Killarney is the logical start/stop for the Ring Drive, the town has become about as touristy as you will find in Ireland.  There are good quality restaurants and numerous pubs, as  well as toe-tapping music. In summer, however, the crowds are large and the town is a continual traffic jam.  On the other hand, how could say you visited Ireland and didn't stop in Killarney?  For more information about Killarney, visit the Killarney Chamber of Tourism & Commerce website. 

Killarney is also the gateway to Killarney National Park.  Although you could simply drive through the Park on your Ring of Kerry tour, we recommend that you give it a closer look and consider spending a day there if its attractions appeal to your interest.  Since there are a number of attractions at Killarney National Park, we cover it n the second page of our guide to the Southwest of Ireland.

Beautiful seascapes abound

Most of the tour buses drive the Ring in a counter-clockwise direction from Killarney and some tourists who drive themselves prefer to drive the same route in a clockwise direction to avoid the crowds.  In addition, many drivers prefer to take the clockwise route because you will be driving on the left in Ireland and this means you will be driving on the side of the road that will give you the most direct views of the ocean. If you want to take the clockwise approach, set out towards Kenmare and follow the N70 all the way round to Killorglin and then take the N72 to return to Killarney.  If you have time, you may also want to include a visit to Valentia Island, which requires a minor deviation from the official Ring of Kerry Route.

As we noted above, the main reason to visit the Ring of Kerry is to experience the natural beauty of the Inveragh Peninsula. With the exception of Killarney (population 13,427), most towns are quite small; however you will find no shortage of tourist facilities, pubs, shop and good fun.  We list the "main" towns and attractions that you will pass through during your tour (presuming you are traveling the route counterclockwise from Kenmare around the peninsula.  If you desire to start from Killarney and head clockwise to Killorglin, the list is reversed.

Kenmare (pop. 1701) was named one of Kerry's first Heritage Towns.  It is a small known for its golf course, Lace Museum and the Kenmare Stone Circle, another of Ireland's mysterious, prehistoric burial grounds.

Sneem (pop. 279), a popular destination for families, is a colorful little village that has an "artsy" orientation.  You will find several galleries here, as well as sculptures placed around the town.

Staigue Fort is regarded as one of Ireland's largest and best-preserved round, stone forts.  It is located north of Staigue and is about 12 miles (20km) south of Sneem.   Only the walls survive today, but it is believed that this fort is  the typical model for a chieftain's fort.    It is thought that the fort is at least 1500 year old and once enclosed the homes of the clan's members.   The fort is unusual in the height and thickness of its walls.

The Ring of Kerry, near Derrynane National Park

Derrynane House  (and National Park - near Cahirdaniel) was the home of Daniel O'Connel, the Emancipator, who was a heroic figure in Ireland's fight for independence.  The house is has been turned into a museum of O'Connell's life. The grounds are extensive.  See the Heritage Ireland website for information on hours and facilities.  

Waterville (pop. 546) is known for its, golf, sport-fishing and nested position between Lough Currane and Ballinskelligs Bay. The area is one that has been popular with movie stars and golf professionals.  You may be able to see Skelling Michael Island offshore this area.  If you are interested in the Skelligs, we cover a visit to Skellig Michael here.

                  

Valentia Island  (Knightstown  pop. 156) can be reached by diverting south of the Ring of Kerry Road and crossing the bridge to the island at  Portmagee (pop. 376).  Many visitors to Valentia Island travel here to see the Skellig Experience or to take a boat trip to Skellig Michael.

Cahirciveen (pop. 1294), the capital of the Inveragh peninsula,  lies on the eastern reach of Valentia Harbor and is a center for sports fishing.  Daniel O’Connell, known as the Liberator for his role in the pursuit of Ireland’s freedom from England, was born in Carhen near Caherciveen and is a local "son",  but see Derrynane House near Cahirdaniel for his home and museum.   If you have missed Valentia Island earlier in the route, you can take a ferry to Knights Town on Valentia Island from here.

The “Old Barracks” (late 19th century) is a popular local attraction. It was the Royal Irish Constabulary Barracks and now serves as an informal heritage center for the Inveragh Peninsula.  The building itself is quite unusual, but the heritage center is a little underwhelming.  For more information see the official site of the Old Barracks.

Those of you interested in the ancient, round, rock forts that are scattered across Ireland will find two to explore quite near Cahirciveen.  Cahergall Fort    is a partially rebuilt circular stone fort, located just to the northwest of Cahirciveen.  It is worth seeing if you have the time.  While in the area, see the Leacanabuaile Stone Fort, just a short distance northwest.  Dates for both forts are indeterminate, but some archaeological evidence suggests they may be over 1500 years old.   

Finally, in the area of Cahirciveen you will find some fine views of  Blaskett Island and the Dingle Peninsula.

Glenbeigh (pop. 280), located at the foot of Seefin Mountain, is known for its sandy beaches (popular with walkers) and panoramic views of the Bay of Dingle and the  Dingle Peninsula. Trekkers might be interested in testing the Glenbeigh Horseshoe (from Seefin Mountain to  Drung Hill) reputed to be one of the best mountain walks in County Kerry.  Along the way, you will see glacial lakes and some pleasant mountain scenery.  Expect wet weather and soggy vegetation - dress accordingly.

Killorglin (pop. 1627) is known to many as the doorway to the Ring of Kerry.  The town is situated on the River Laune and is a noted sport-fishing center.  In addition, Killorglin is known for its Puck Fair held annually on August 10 - 12., during which a wild goat is captured, crowned King Puck and reigns over the fair.  Popular folklore is that fair is the modern continuation of  a medieval fair (others say it originated with the Celts somewhere in prehistory).  In any event, it is yet another time for drinking, singing and dancing.  Hard to believe, but the event attracts over 100,000 visitors each year.  

At this point, you can head back to Killarney or continue west to the Dingle Peninsula, if you are in the mood for more of nature's beauty.  In the next section, we cover two "side-trips"  (Killarney National Park and Skellig Michael)for those traveling the Ring of Kerry, then move on to the Dingle Peninsula and other attractions in the Ireland's Southwest.

More Places To Visit in Southwest Ireland

Click here for page 2 of the Southwest, featuring Killarney National Park and Skellig Michael.

Or, here for page 3 on the Southwest, featuring the Dingle Peninsula.

Or, here  for page 4 on the Southwest, featuring Blarney Castle, Cork, Gougane Barra and the Drombeg Stone Circle.

Using the Jump Bar at the bottom of the page will take you directly to the articles on each of the attractions shown.

If you want to learn about another area of Ireland, use the link menu that can be found on the right-hand edge of this page.

 

If you need information about another travel destination, try our Destination Guide Index or Googling ThereArePlaces.


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Cork, Killarney, Ring of Kerry, Dingle, Blarney Castle and more.

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Introduction to Ireland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dublin and Vicinity

The Southwest
Cork, Killarney, Ring of Kerry, Dingle, Blarney Castle and more.

The West
Galway, Connemara, Burren, Cliffs of Moher, Aran islands and more.

The Southeast
Waterford, Rock of Cashel, Jerpoint Abbey and more.

The North and Northern Ireland
Donegal, Sligo, Giant's Causeway, Dunluce Castle, Belfast and more.

Introduction to Ireland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
3-Day Cork, Blarney Castle, Ring of Kerry and Dingle Peninsula Rail Tour

From Viator Tours

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
 Ring of Kerry 
 Blarney Castle   Cork     Dingle Peninsula    Drombeg Stone Circle    
 Gougane Barra    Killarney National Park      Kinsale     Skellig Michael  
   
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