I know I already told you about the roads in Ireland, but driving the Ring of Kerry was so extreme that my mom decided it should be called the Ring of Scary! The Ring of Kerry is part of the Wild Atlantic Way – an incredibly scenic road that follows the coastline of Ireland. The Ring of Kerry runs around the Iveragh Peninsula in southwest Ireland. Because of the narrow roads, all tour buses drive counter clockwise around the ring. Perhaps it’s recommended that cars do the same, but I was advised to avoid the frustration of getting stuck behind a bus and drive the ring in the opposite (clockwise) direction. We took the advice of Rick Steves to start early in order to avoid taking on the tour buses who typically take off from Killarney. The night before I read that the rule is that if you come to a part of the road where two cars (or worse, a car and a bus) cannot fit, it’s the responsibility of the smaller, more nimble car to back up to a part of the road where both vehicles can pass! That was an experience I was looking to avoid all together!
Along the way, there are some small towns and miscellaneous sites to see. As well as A LOT of viewpoints! We wanted to see one of the ancient ring forts, so we chose the Staigue Ring Fort. When we turned off the main road, we started laughing at the size of the road! It felt like we were driving up someone’s driveway. There were so many hills we went over praying that no one was on the other side!
They speculate that this ring fort was built around 300 or 400 A.D. as a defensive stronghold. The scenery around it is rugged and beautiful, and I was shocked that they let you climb all over it. In fact, there’s just a little honesty box before entering where you’re to put 1-2 euros!
Next, we stopped at Derrynane House. It’s the home of Daniel O’Connell, a politician who fought for equal rights for Catholics.
I didn’t think the house was anything special, but it did house one of the largest chariots I’ve ever seen! Apparently, the chariot was purchased by the people of Dublin to ride him around when he was released from prison in 1844.
Even though the house wasn’t particularly special, it had access to a gorgeous beach! No wonder Daniel loved spending so much time here!
The Coomakesta Pass lookout point was another place where we just had to stop! I’m so grateful that we had a sunny day for this drive! For one, I wouldn’t want to be driving on those tiny roads in the rain, and secondly, it made everything that much more beatuiful!
We took a break in the little town of Waterville. It sat right on the water, and it’s a town Charlie Chaplain & family used to come for summer holidays. We browsed in a few of the little shops, took the obligatory picture of the Charlie Chaplain statue (and chuckled that I live in another small town with a very similar statue), and enjoyed tea & scones at the Butler Arms Hotel in the Charlie Chaplain Lounge. This is where he & his family would stay while visiting Waterville.
For the record, I think this was the best scone of the trip!
At this point, we were taking a smaller road out to the end of the peninsula, which meant no more tour buses! Only because they can’t fit (which tells you how small the roads are)! I managed to only pass a few all day, which was a relief! Along the way, we could see Skellig Michael – the rock formation that sits eight miles off the coast. Monks inhabited the island between 1,300-1,500 years ago, but now there are only a few tourists a day who are taken out by boat for a visit. Puffins live there, which would’ve been really fun to see, but alas, we could only take it in from a distance.
However, there is a chocolate factory that is named after it. You read that right…Skelligs Chocolate Factory. I heard they had free samples, so OF COURSE, we were on the hunt to find it. And OF COURSE, we bought something.
We knew the “Best View in County Kerry” was coming up, but before we could get there, we had go up and over a small mountain with an extra terrifying road. (You can understand why my mama named this drive the Ring of Scary. The scariness never let up!) But, I think the road was worth it, because the Cliffs of Kerry are simply breathtaking!
They even had replicas of the little hives that were used many, many years ago as shelters!
After scones and chocolate, we didn’t need much lunch. We stopped at a pub in Portmagee for a cup of seafood chowder.
After all of that excitement, we were tired and ready to get to Dingle. We had to drive quite a bit more, and while the incredible coastal views were mostly over, there was still beautiful countryside in all directions!
We made it to Dingle in the early evening. We stayed at Dingle Benners Hotel, the oldest hotel in town. It felt a bit more like a rustic cabin than expected, but it was charming. We had an hour or so before our dinner reservation, so we took the opportunity to walk around town and stretch our legs after a day in the car.
For dinner, we went to Idas Restaurant, and it was delicious! Such an unusual combination of flavors!
Before dessert came, my mom challenged the social norm and started talking to the people at the table next to us. Thank goodness they were friendly! We learned they were from Atlanta, and we spent the next 20-30 minutes swapping stories about the the beautiful country, the friendly people, our favorite sites, and of course, the scary roads.