County Kerry, Ireland

County Kerry in southwest Ireland is one of the most popular tourist destinations. Stay at the town of Killarney as your base for scenic drives around the Ring of Kerry and the Dingle Peninsula.

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1 Town of Killarney, Ireland

Killarney has less than 15,000 people. I suspect most residents cater to tourists who flock to this town in southwest Ireland in order to drive the scenic routes called the Ring of Kerry and Dingle Peninsula. This is the perfect central location for those day trips. When you return, enjoy walking among the shops, having a drink in an Irish pub and selecting among its many restaurants. If you are too tired to walk, there are plenty of horse-drawn carriages willing to give you a ride.

Main St & High St, Killarney, Co. Kerry, Ireland
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2 Old Town Hall in Killarney, Ireland

Ever since Queen Victoria visited Killarney in 1861, the County Kerry coastlines, national park and historic buildings has been a magnet for tourism. The area is always listed among the ten best spots to visit in Ireland and is frequently within the top two or three. So add County Kerry to your Ireland itinerary and plan to stay at least two or three days. You won’t experience everything the area has to offer but it will entice you to make a return visit.

39 Main St, Killarney, Co. Kerry, V93 R221, Ireland
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3 St Mary’s Cathedral in Killarney, Ireland

Killarney’s architectural jewel is the Cathedral of Our Lady of Assumption. The Gothic Revival design of the Roman Catholic church was conceived by Augustus Welby Pugin. After construction was stalled by the Great Famine, another architect named J. J. McCarthy finished St Mary’s Cathedral in 1855. Beneath the impressive spire is a rose window accented by three elongated lancet windows. Collectively they create a spectacular entrance.

2 Cathedral Pl, Inch, Killarney, Co. Kerry, Ireland
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4 Introduction to the Ring of Kerry, Ireland

The Ring of Kerry is a 111 mile, circular drive around the Iveragh Peninsula and some of Ireland’s prettiest scenery. Maps are readily available to show you the way. Most of the route follows N70 unless you select the Wild Atlantic Way following the entire coastline or add the Skellig Ring Route extending down to St. Finan’s Bay. This is a beautiful and easy one-day excursion. There are eight villages along the way to explore while stretching your legs plus plenty of turn-offs to exercise your camera. Tour buses travel counter-clockwise and this gallery is organized along that route. But consider following the opposite direction starting at Kenmare if you don’t want to get stuck behind a bus on the windy road.

Ring of Kerry Darrynane Beg, Co. Kerry, Ireland
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5 River Near Glenbeigh along the Ring of Kerry, Ireland

Two rivers – the Caragh and Behy – define either side of Glenbeigh along the northern coast of the Iveragh Peninsula. If the sky is sunny and the temperature is warm, a good side trip is Rossbeigh Beach a short distance from the village. Your toes will enjoy the stroll along the sand dunes and your eyes will like the views of Dingle Peninsula across the bay.

N70 Scartnamackagh Co. Kerry, Ireland
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6 Waterville Beach along the Ring of Kerry, Ireland

The traditional Irish name for this coastal village is An Coireán meaning cooking pot. Waterville is on a sliver of land bordered between Lough Currane and this beach on Ballinskelligs Bay. There is not much to see in this town of less than 500 people. But nearby are historic sites such as the Waterville House (18th century Gregorian mansion), the Hog’s Head Signal Station (built in 1806) plus the ruins of Ballinskelligs Abbey (circa 1210) and the MacCarthy Mór Castle (16th century). Nature lovers enjoy the abundance of marine life (animals, crustaceans and fish), over twenty bird species and an abundance of flora.

4 Ring of Kerry Waterville, Co. Kerry, Ireland
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7 Derrynane Bay near Waterville on the Ring of Kerry, Ireland

When visiting the Derrynane House, take a few moments to enjoy the neighboring bay and beach both called Derrynane. Or if you are pressed for time, at least stop along N70 near Loher Church to enjoy this beautiful seascape. The parish church is close to Waterville.

Ardkearagh, Waterville, Co. Kerry, Ireland
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8 Lambs at Beenarourke Pass along the Ring of Kerry, Ireland

There is a sharp bend in Route N70 next to the Beenarourke Mountain that peeks at 984 feet. It is not hard to miss; just look for a parking lot full of tourist buses. It affords a panoramic view of the Farraniaragh Mountain and a series of islands in the churning waters of Derrynane Bay leading off to the North Atlantic. Sorry I can’t show it because it was covered in fog. So most tourists took photos of these adorable lambs instead. There is also a statue of the Virgin Mary called the Lady of Wayside erected in 1954.

Ring of Kerry Lookout and Car Park Balleen, Co. Kerry, Ireland
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9 Rocky Terrain near Cahedaniel along the Ring of Kerry, Ireland

As you travel along the southern coastline of Iveragh Peninsula between Caherdaniel and Kenmare, the landscape becomes rockier and the seascape shifts from the North Atlantic to the Kenmare River. This panoramic view is near Cahedaniel.

Ring of Kerry Lookout and Car Park Balleen, Co. Kerry, Ireland
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10 Derrynane House along the Ring of Kerry near Caherdaniel, Ireland

The Derrynane House was the residence of Daniel O’Connell. This 19th century statesman was called the Liberator for two reasons. He helped achieve the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829. Plus his early leadership against the United Kingdom’s rule eventually led to the formation of the Republic of Ireland. O’Connell’s descendents lived here until 1958. Then the home became a museum that proudly explains his career and courage. It is located within a 300 acre national park along N70 near the town of Caherdaniel.

Darrynane Garden Village, Darrynane More, Caherdaniel, Killarney, Co. Kerry, Ireland
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11 Grazing Cattle in Iveragh Uplands along the Ring of Kerry, Ireland

The Iveragh Peninsula is Ireland’s largest and best known among day-trippers who drive along the Ring of Kerry. The Iveragh Uplands is also home to people who love farming on the rugged landscape between the mountains and coastline, a tradition began millenniums ago. The most common livestock grazing among the grasses are the Scottish Blackface sheep and the Kerry cow. These small farms don’t rely on fertilizers and big equipment. Instead they follow agricultural practices handed down through the generations. These traditions are rapidly declining. The peninsula’s population has fallen over 35% in the last 100 years.

N70 Caherdaniel Stone Fort Caherdaniel, Co. Kerry, Ireland
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12 Kenmore Bay near Cahedaniel along the Ring of Kerry, Ireland

Halfway between the villages of Cahedaniel and Castle Cove is a crescent-shaped beach along Kenmore Bay. This is where the Kenmore River empties into the Atlantic. The white sand attracts plenty of families and the calm water is ideal for swimmers including occasional seals and dolphins.

O'Carroll's Cove Beach Bar & Restaurant Ring of Kerry, Brackaharagh, Caherdaniel, Co. Kerry, Ireland
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13 View from Bridge along the Ring of Kerry in Sneem, Ireland

A bridge over the River Sneem connects the two squares of Sneem, a village along N70 with less than 700 residents. Although small, this recipient of the National Tidy Town Award in 1987 has a lot to offer from water sports, golf, hiking, a beach and salmon fishing. Adults enjoy strolling among the quaint shops while children favor a small park called “The Way the Fairies Went” or the Sneem Pyramids.

Bridge St, Sneem, Co. Kerry, Ireland
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14 Waterfall along the Ring of Kerry in Sneem, Ireland

Sneem is located on the Iveragh Peninsula at the estuary of the Sneem River on its eight mile course to the North Atlantic Ocean. Below the village is this picturesque waterfall. It is not big or dramatic but it is worth exploring if you need a break from driving along the Ring of Kerry.

Bridge St, Sneem, Co. Kerry, Ireland
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15 Winding Road at Moll’s Gap along the Ring of Kerry, Ireland

This landscape is from the Moll’s Gap lookout. The ridge’s namesake is Moll Kissane, a woman who sold homemade whiskey from her sibin (small pub) during the 1820’s. From here, N71 travels through rough terrain. Along the way are outstanding views of Carrauntoohil, the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks range tallest mountain. It is also Ireland’s highest peak at 3,400 feet. This valley leads to the lake region of the Iveragh Peninsula.

Eirk, Molls Gap, Co. Kerry, Ireland
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16 Looscaunagh Lough along the Ring of Kerry, Ireland

This gorgeous scene is viewed along N71 from atop Looscaunagh Hill. Looscaunagh Lough is the southernmost of lakes within Killarney National Park. Boating on the lakes is limited by permits issued by the KNP and is strictly regulated to six horsepower or under watercraft. Park management also prohibits radio towers and telephone lines. Their preservation policies have resulted in maintaining pristine, natural beauty.

N71 Looscaunagh Hill, Ring of Kerry, Ireland
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17 Ladies View along the Ring of Kerry, Ireland

One of the most picturesque landscapes along N71 is at Ladies View. In the foreground is Upper Lake, the smallest of the three Lakes of Killarney within Killarney National Park. What looks like a river in the background is called Long Range. It channels the flow to Lough Leane and Muckross Lake at the Meeting of the Waters. This lookout acquired its name after the personal assistants to Queen Victoria admired the scenery during Her Majesty’s visit in 1861.

N71 Ladies View Derrycunihy Derrycunihy, Co. Kerry, Ireland
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18 Couple Admiring Upper Lake along the Ring of Kerry, Ireland

Upper Lake is gorgeous from atop Ladies View but is spectacular from the edge of this promontory seating. In the foreground is a couple savoring the dramatic scenery. In the background are the Brassel and Broaghnabina mountains.

N71 Ring of Kerry Gortderraree Co. Kerry, Ireland
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19 Torc Waterfall along the Ring of Kerry, Ireland

One of several highlights of the 26,000 acre Killarney National Park is the Torc Waterfall. The falls are located less than five miles from Killarney off of the N71 Killarney Kenmare Road. After an easy ten minute walk through dense woods, you are treated to this cascading water with a drop of 65 feet. If you prefer a longer hike – almost five miles – then follow the trail up the side of the 1,755 foot Torc Mountain. In Irish, Torc means boar. The name is based on a bewitched boar slain by the folklore hero Fionn mac Cumhaill.

Cloghereen Upper, Co. Kerry, Ireland
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20 Muckross House in Killarney, Ireland

Henry Arthur Herbert was a member of Parliament and the Chief Secretary of Ireland during the mid-19th century. He commissioned William Burn to design this incredible residence. The Muckross House was finished in 1843. Its namesake is the Muckross Peninsula where this 65 room, Tudor mansion stands with a panoramic view of the lake. In 1899, it was purchased by Arthur Guinness, the great-grandson of the famous Irish stout brewmaster. In 1911, the house was acquired by William Bourn and then given to his daughter and son-in-law, Arthur Rose Vincent, as a wedding present. Twenty-one years later, the family gifted it to Ireland. Together with the surrounding 11 acres, the property became the Bourn Vincent National Park. Since then it has become part of the larger Killarney National Park.

Killarney National Park, Muckross House, Dromyrourk,, Killarney,, Co. Kerry, Ireland
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21 Muckross Traditional Farms in Killarney, Ireland

The Muckross House and Gardens often overshadows the adjacent Traditional Farms. Walking through this door is a walk back into farming during the 1930’s and 1940’s. Among the features at this living museum are three farmhouses, furnished cottages and a rural schoolhouse. You will also experience everyday chores such as milking cows, churning butter and a blacksmith hammering over an anvil. Kids particularly like the petting zoo.

Killarney National Park, Muckross House, Dromyrourk,, Killarney,, Co. Kerry, Ireland
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22 Tower House at Ross Castle in Killarney, Ireland

When this tower house was built during the late 15th century, its massive stone exterior provided defense while the interior served as a luxurious residence for the O’Donoghue Mór clan, a family from Cork dating back to Ireland’s 10th century. Apparently the chieftain drowned in Lough Leane (seen in the background) yet returns every seven years for a gallop around the lake. The medieval castle was owned by several families before becoming a military barracks. The stronghold is available for guided tours as part of the Killarney National Park.

Ross Castle Ross Rd, Ross Island, Killarney, Co. Kerry, Ireland
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23 Cannon at Ross Castle in Killarney, Ireland

This cannon at Ross Castle is a silent reminder of when more than 4,000 of Oliver Cromwell’s troops led by General Ludlow stormed the stronghold in 1652 towards the end of the Eleven Year’s War (1641 – 1653). Lord Muskerry’s men successful repelled the foot soldiers but succumbed when English vessels arrived on Lough Leane laden with artillery. Folklore had suggested the castle was invincible until a warship arrived on the shallow lake. The prophecy came true.

Ross Castle Ross Rd, Ross Island, Killarney, Co. Kerry, Ireland
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24 Fishing Boats near Ross Castle in Killarney, Ireland

These fishing boats along a canal on the grounds of Ross Castle attest to the quality of trout and salmon in Lough Leane where angling is free. As a tourist, consider making time for a boating tour. The 4,7000 acre body of fresh water – the area’s largest – is surrounded with beautiful scenery and affords great views of Ross Castle and the ruins of a 7th century monastery called Innisfallen Abbey.

Ross Castle Ross Rd, Ross Island, Killarney, Co. Kerry, Ireland
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25 Introduction to Dingle Peninsula, Ireland

Another popular day trip in County Kerry is the scenic drive on Dingle Peninsula. Most people follow R561 along the southern coastline as far as the town of Dingle. That is about 40 miles one way from Killarney. The journey provides dramatic views of green-carpeted cliffs plunging towards Dingle Bay. On a clear day you can admire Iveragh Peninsula across the water. Plan a minimum of four hours for a round-trip excursion. You will probably spend at least eight with all of the stops and some time at Dingle. If you have extra time, you can extend your journey to the westernmost tip using the Slea Head Route and/or explore the northern coastline on the Wild Atlantic Way.

R561 Gortnanooran, Inch West, Co. Kerry, Ireland
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26 Family Wading at Inch Beach along Dingle Peninsula, Ireland

Despite the cold, overcast weather, this family was delighted to wade along Inch Beach. The long headland defines Castlemaine Harbour on one side and the Dingle Bay portion of the Atlantic Ocean on the other. It extends so far into the water – over three miles – you feel you can almost touch the mountains on neighboring Iveragh Peninsula. As a Blue Flag designated beach, it is a favorite among swimmers and surfers. Inch Strand is also popular among movie producers. “Ryan’s Daughter” and “Playboy of the Western World” were both filmed here.

R561 Ardroe, Co. Kerry, Ireland
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27 Irish Stone Wall along Dingle Peninsula, Ireland

Seeing stone walls in Ireland’s countryside is as traditional as sipping Guinness in an Irish pub. Most people associate Ireland with being green. It is, thanks to lots of precipitation. For example, Dingle only sees the sun 20% to 40% of the time with an average annual rainfall of 55 inches. Just below the green canopy, however, is a thick layer of blue limestone. For generations, farmers have cleared these rocks from their fields and piled them together to border their property. So why don’t they use mortar? For one, just stacking them is easier. Another reason is livestock learn not to get too close to the walls because they will collapse on their hooves.

R561, East Inch, Inch, Co. Kerry, Ireland
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28 Introduction to Dingle, Ireland

The town of Dingle is as delightful as your drive is scenic. But you may be confused by the road signs. Since 2006, it is officially called by its Irish name Daingean Uí Chúis. This coastal village of less than 2,000 residents welcomes tourists with rows of colorful shops, restaurants and pubs serving cold pints along with Irish music. One tavern – Foxy John’s – doubles as a hardware store. Now that’s convenient. You will also find local exquisite crafts such as Irish crystal. No, not Waterford. Dingle Crystal. Since 1998, Sean Daly has been handcrafting his six Celtic designs into stunning glassware. This is his store on Green Street. You will also want to visit the factory on the outskirts of town.

1 Green St Dingle, Co. Kerry, Ireland
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29 Dingle Harbour at Dingle, Ireland

Dingle Harbour is a natural inlet of the North Atlantic Ocean. It became a popular port during the late 12th century and has been an active fishing center since the early 19th century. Now the most frequent catch of the day are tourists. From here you can charter a boat for sightseeing, fishing or the chance to see Fungi the local bottlenose dolphin. Lots more marine life including sharks and penguins are available at the Dingle Oceanworld Aquarium. Popular water sports include canoeing, kayaking, sailing, diving and, if you don’t mind the cold, swimming.

The Pier Strand St, Dingle, Co. Kerry, Ireland
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30 Díseart Institute at Dingle, Ireland

The Díseart Institute is a Centre of Irish Spirituality and Celtic Culture. Its mission since 1966 has been to promote, educate and conduct research on Gaelacht (Irish speaking) history, culture, folklore and religion. Their headquarters are in this neo-Gothic building designed by J. J. MacCarthy. The former Presentation Sister’s convent is adjacent to St. Mary’s Church. Guided tours of An Díseart are available to enjoy the ornate interior graced with stained-glass windows by Harry Clarke.

Presentation Convent Goat St, Dingle, Co. Kerry, Ireland
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31 Presentation Sisters’ Graveyard at Dingle, Ireland

The Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary were founded by Nano Nagle in Cork in 1775. After some sisters of the P.B.V.M. order arrived in Dingle in 1829, they established a convent and school. This is their final resting place beneath a cooper beech tree called the Tree of Life. Notice the blooming white lilies. In Christianity, they represent purity, humility and devotion plus God’s restoration of those who have died. This is a small section of three large gardens surrounding the Díseart Institute and St. Mary’s Church on Green Street.

Presentation Convent Goat St, Dingle, Co. Kerry, Ireland
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