Driving the Ring of Kerry in Ireland

Olivia Leaves | Driving the Ring of Kerry

Need an itinerary for driving the Ring of Kerry?

I read a lot of different opinions about which direction to drive on the Ring of Kerry. Some say counter-clockwise, but you need to leave early to beat the buses, others say clockwise so you’re not stuck behind the buses.

Our day to drive the Ring of Kerry happened to be right after a stormy night, so the route was pretty quiet both directions. We ended up driving clockwise because of where we started, though all the signs for the route pointed the other direction, so I imagine counter-clockwise is the traditional way (and any buses we saw were headed that direction).

Olivia Leaves | Driving the Ring of Kerry

We started our day with breakfast in the sweet little town of Kenmare. Both friends and TripAdvisor told us that the place to be for breakfast is Mick & Jimmy’s. I can confirm their Full Irish Breakfast is worth it.

From there we did the long and winding drive through one of the most picturesque parts of Ireland. In the aftermath of Storm Callum, we got to see why they call it the Wild Atlantic Way.

Olivia Leaves | Driving the Ring of Kerry Olivia Leaves | Driving the Ring of Kerry

The views between Castlecove and Waterville were spectacular. If there is a part of the drive to slow down on and pull over at every viewpoint, it’s between these towns. There are lots of rest stops on this route for you to stop, take photos, and admire how beautiful it is.

We had a few beaches on our list, and they were lovely, but some of the best stops we made were actually little stops along the road where there was only space for a couple cars to pull over.

Olivia Leaves | Driving the Ring of Kerry

Killarney National Park is a sight to behold, and we actually did the full thing on another day. If you’ve got time, take it! We stopped at Muckross House, drove through Moll’s Gap, and nearly died over the views in the Gap of Dunloe, which was the absolute highlight of the entire trip.

Olivia Leaves | Driving the Ring of Kerry Olivia Leaves | Driving the Ring of Kerry

The Ring of Kerry Checklist:

  • Stop as often as you can between Castlecove and Waterville
  • Derrynane Beach – This is one of the most beautiful views you’ll get along the route
  • Ballinskelligs – This spot has it all. A long, gorgeous beach full of relaxed people walking their dogs, the ruins of a castle, and an abbey
  • Portmagee – This is a bright little town with a few cafes and restaurants
  • St. Finian’s Bay – We stopped here for a good while and were able to see Puffin Island and a bit of Skellig Michael (it was pretty misty that day!)
  • Killarney National Park and the Gap of Dunloe

Olivia Leaves | Driving the Ring of Kerry

And a few lowlights worth mentioning:

  • Cliffs of Kerry – We arrived at these cliffs only to realise that the land is owned by someone with great entrepreneurial spirit, and you now need to pay €4 to walk down to the cliffs. I’m not a big fan of paying for a view. It was a grey day and we’d been having trouble seeing too far out, so we decided against paying for the views which were likely dismal.
  • Valentia Island – We drove up and down the island but there wasn’t much to see. You can get to it from Portmagee via bridge, but if you want to cross at the other side there is a small ferry.

We finished our day in Killorglin where we had dinner at Sol y Sombra Tapas Bar. Yes, we had Spanish tapas in Ireland. The restaurant had great reviews so we decided to try it. I’d recommend it even just for the atmosphere – it’s located in an old church!

Olivia Leaves | Driving the Ring of Kerry

If I could change one thing, it would be to plan this drive in the summer to increase the chances of a clear day. Those many beaches along the route have some great potential on a warm summer’s day.

What was your favourite photo stop along the Ring of Kerry?

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