Things to do in Kerry Ireland well I have lived here all my life and the only thing I dislike about the place is the weather. Kerry gets the highest levels of rainfall in the country manly due to the fact that most of the weather blows in from the Atlantic ocean and we are almost surrounded by mountains.
When the clouds are pushed up over the mountains it forces the clouds to release precipitation in the form of rain. Apart from that when the sun does shine I think its one of the nicest places in the country. I once spoke to a man who said when the weather is fine sure Kerry has it all why would you need to go anywhere else.
I think he has a fair point there is a lot to see here and I have lived here all my life and still at times I still find new places that I have not been before. To look at it on a map it might seem like a small place but with the roads (not many highways here) it can hours to get from one side of the county to the other.
Like I spoke to a guy who fixed my car window one day who said they can’t understand it at his headquarters in limerick when he goes to Kerry he had only 3 20 minute jobs in Kerry one in Tarbert one in Ventry and one in Sneem and how did that take him all day. If you were from here you would understand his dilemma especially in the height of the tourist season.
So in no particular order here are some of my favourite places and things to see in the county some are well-known and some are hidden gems but all worth a visit at least once in your lifetime.
The town of Killarney is the tourist capital and for good reason there is so much to see and do it makes a great base for sight seeing and is only 15 minutes drive from Kerry Airport. The town itself is a real tourist town with a big number of hotels guest houses bars and restaurants.
It has a good night-life with bars clubs restaurants and live music all year round. Plenty to see during the daytime too There are boated trips on the lake from Ross castle or walk around killarney house. You could walk from the cathedral to Ross Castle and see deer and Kerry cattle along the way.
Outside of the town a walk up the gap of dunloe and lunch at Kate Kearneys cottage is worth the trip to pass a few hours. Out the mucross road mucross abbey is worth a visit and of course mucross house and gardens have been a long favorite in the county. I would recommend bringing a bike as there are many miles of paths around mucross house and gardens leading around the lake or across to torc waterfall and mountain if you feel like a hike. You can also rent bikes in killarney town.
If you are driving out the mucross road it will take you up molls’ gap where you will arrive at ladies view and you can stop for a coffee and take in the sights of the valley below. There you have a choice of going left to Kenmare or right to Sneem.
Kenmare is what I have heard described as a mini Killarney, It is a little more quaint not as many hotels or guest houses but still has a good pub scene during the summer and is surrounded by beautiful places to visit during the day. If you wanted to see a bit of west Cork (not that you would as Kerry has everything) but if you do then I would recommend heading across the cork and Kerry mountains to Glengarriff but leave the whiskey in the jar as you don’t want to drive off the edge of the road around here.
From Glengarriff you could take a boat out to garnish island would be worth a visit or even drive out the healy pass and old road across the mountains build during the famine years in Ireland. Or you could head on to Bantry and see more of west cork and while it is a very nice part of the country to see its taking you away from Kerry. So if you are back at ladies view and take the road to the right it will take you on to Sneem and the ring of Kerry.
Sneem is one of many quaint little villages on the Iveragh peninsula as you make your way around the ring of Kerry (which is really just the ring of the Iveragh peninsula) but the ring of Kerry sounds better. Sneem is like a mini Kenmare and there are so many places to see and things to see as you go from here its hard to know where to start.
Parknasilla resort is not far from here and a nice place to stay or even stop for lunch and a walk around the Sneem hotel is also area but there are plenty little pubs and restaurants around the village too especially during the summer season. Most places except for Killarney and Dingle are a lot quieter over the winter and spring months.
The Ring of Kerry
As you make your way around the ring of Kerry you will pass through many little villages Castlecove has a really nice horseshoe shaped beach that’s a nice place for a dip during the summer. On towards Caherdanial and in derrynane there is another beach where the water is clear blue and calm on a nice day. There are many camping and caravan parks in the area too if you have the time to stay a bit longer to get to know the area.
As you drive on towards Waterville over beenarourke there is a lookout car park with panoramic scenery of the mountains and Atlantic ocean and many islands off the coast. Waterville itself is another nice little village dependent on the passing tourist trade. It runs directly along the shoreline and is very close to Lough currane lake. There are 2 golf courses near the village hogs’ head and Waterville golf links if you are into that sort of thing. Kerry probably has some of the best courses in the country when it comes to views.
If you are not in a hurry it is worthwhile taking in the skellig ring after Waterville where there is a castle on the beach at Ballinskelligs. Drive out towards Keel and visit the Kerry Cliffs on the left. While they might not be as well-known as the cliffs of mohar in Co.Clare they are worth seeing if you are in the area.
You will arrive at the village of Portmagee where you can drive across the bridge to Velentia island where the main town is called Knightstown. Velentia island is very scenic area and I think one of the few islands in Kerry that you can drive the car onto.
Another island you can get to from Portmagee if you are lucky or wealthy enough is Skellig Michael made famous by the star wars movie. Trips would need to be booked by boat well in advance as places are limited.
On the small rocky island is an old monastery on a rock in the middle of the ocean but if you get out there on a fine day it is a truly memorable experience in one of the most unique places on the planet. If you can get the weather and the timing right in my view it is well worth a visit. The 12km boat trip takes around 40 minutes each way weather permitting
Cahersiveen is one of the bigger towns on the ring of Kerry and there is a nice drive on towards Glenbay. There are a greenway cycle path being worked on at the moment along and old railway track that should be open in the next year or two. There are also a place called Kells bay in Kells before Glenbay that is nice to see if you have young kids or an interest in gardens. There are a place called Jacks Restaurant in nearby Cromane which has great food and its set in a lovely location.
Glenbay is another quaint little village that gets busy during the tourist season in mid summer. Rossbay beach is close to the village which is overlooked by a large dome shaped mountain. There are a narrow little road running up the mountain from the beach with stunning sea views on the way down. Or you can hire out horses from Burkes riding stables to ride along the beach
the way to Killorglin you will pass the red fox inn which is the home of the Kerry bog pony and there is also the Kerry bog village at the same place if you wanted to see the ponies and what Ireland was like many years ago. Carragh lake is also close by which is a nice place for fishing canoeing or even a tranquil peaceful walk.
Killorglin town is one of the larger towns on the ring of Kerry with lots of good pubs and restaurants. It is one of the few towns I know of that still holds a pagan festival every year. On the 10th to 12th of August the catch a wild goat and puts him on a high platform overlooking the town. They then make him king for a few days while almost everyone in town gets merry and drunk.
When leaving the town you could head back to killarney to complete the ring of Kerry or (the ring of the iveragh peninsula) or you could head on towards Miltown and turn off at Castlemaine to drive around another peninsula.
The Dingle Peninsula
Castlemaine you can go over the mountain towards tralee or branch off towards dingle. If you are looking for a scenic route to tralee there is a little known narrow road over the mountain that has 2 viewing points on top from where you can see most of north or south Kerry depending on which car park you are in.
Like the Iveragh peninsula the dingle peninsula is a days drive to see it all making stops along the way. If you take the road towards dingle you will pass through a little village called Boolteens and some cafe style pubs or restaurants and after another few miles you will get to a place called inch strand which is one of my favorite beaches in the county.
Inch beach is where an inch is 5km and 10km if you walk both ways. You can drive the beach as it is a long walk but be careful not to drive too far from the entrance and get stuck in the soft sand. It does happen and there have been a few people over the years caught out by the incoming tide by parking too close to the water when the tide is out and going off on a walk for a few hours.
The beach is a nice walk with great views of both the iveragh and dingle peninsulas with a backdrop of mountains in the distance. Inch is also a great beach for surfing and kite surfing and surf boards and wet suits are available to hire at the beach entrance over the summer months. Anyone not from Ireland I would recommend the hiring of a wet suit for the cost of around 5 euros as the water in the Atlantic is very cold up until at least July or August.
After leaving inch towards Dingle you head inland again and pass through the village of Annascaul where there is a little pub called the south pole inn which was once owned by the famous explorer tom crean of which a very good book was written about his adventures. Another little village Lispole and then you will reach the town of Dingle.
Dingle is a very busy town all year around but especially during the summer when it is becoming increasingly difficult to find a parking space in the town. It has a great pub scene with live traditional music and great food in many pubs and restaurants. While not as big as Killarney it is still one of the busiest tourist towns in the country. It makes a great base for touring the dingle peninsula.
There are lots to see and do in the area. One thing it has lost is Fungi the dolphin who was a wild dolphin who came to visit one year and liked the place so much he stayed for over 30 years. Boat loads of locals and visitors to the town used to go and visit him every day and the people of the town they built a statue in his honer in the town.there are still boated trips and some of the best scenic drives in the country around the area.
As you drive Slea head you will pass Ventry there are superb views off the ocean you will pass a Celtic prehistoric museum stone beehive huts and a stone house restaurant made completely out of stone except for the windows of course nobody likes eating in the dark.
Further on there is a nice small little beach called Coumeenoole and further on again there is a unique place called Dunquin harbor. From here you can get a ferry out to the blasket island and see an abandoned village from around 60 years ago when the last of the Islands aging population were evacuated to the mainland for there own safety as the government at the time felt the island was in an area too risky to send help to the few remaining inhabitants should it be needed over the rough Atlantic sea to the exposed island.
Even though I have lived in Kerry all my life I have never been to the blasket islands yet but it is on my bucket list with a long while now. I have heard it can be a really nice place to spend an evening camping or even in one of the rental cottages there. As with a lot of places in Kerry this would very much depend on the weather. There’s an old saying here that this would be a great country if we could put a roof on it.
Further on there is another little beach called Clogher strand yes there are in fact so many beaches and strands in Kerry that I have not been to half of them. As you drive back inland you will pass through Ballyferriter village and yet another beach called wine strand. After that you can keep on the road back to dingle or turn left and drive further around the coast line towards Feohanagh and Brandon creek.
that point if you are up for a long hike you can climb up a pilgrimage path where you can see as far away as Galway on a clear day. The mountain is called after st. Brendan the Navigator who is said to have climbed it and saw all the way to America. If you are lucky enough with the weather I would recommend the climb I think it is safer and has better views than Carrauntoohil outside killarney which is the highest mountain peak in Ireland.
Be aware that any mountain in Kerry can be dangerous if yo get caught out in bad weather and are unfamiliar with the area. If you have blue skies on a long summers day I would do it but its not a place to be when fog and rain sweeps in off the Atlantic.
The Slea head drive is a task in itself and if you manage to fit all of that into one day including visiting the great blasket and climbing the mountain by the time you get back into Dingle you might be looking for a pint of beer and a bed for the night. This is another reason why I think Dingle makes a good base as its not too far from most day trips or drives on the Peninsula.
When leaving Dingle if you think you have not seen enough of sea views and mountains I would recommend going back via Connors pass. This is a narrow road in parts which runs along the edge of a cliff over the sea. If you don’t like heights or are driving an Articulated truck you might want to rethink this route. Once you are over the mountain pass the road will improve a lot and you will see a sign post to the left for Castlegregory village past the village is an area known as the Maharees which is a popular area during the summer months.
There are two beaches here at either side of small peninsula on one side it is exposed to the Atlantic and is popular with surfers and wind surfing on the other side it is sheltered and the water is much calmer. During the summer a company called splash sports run a water park for kids with lots of activities. You can also hire out canoes or further out at the Pier you could book a boat and try out deep sea fishing.
There are also a small fresh water lake in Castlegregory called lough gill that is almost touching the ocean. Castle gregory and the maharees is a place that you would almost drive past if you did not know about it but its a nice place to stop off and speed a day if you are into water sports.
Glanteenassig Forest park
Another hidden gem that not everyone knows about is Glanteenassig where there are two lakes hidden in a tranquil setting far into the mountains. The place never fails to impress me and its one of my favourite places to go for a walk. I think camping is allowed but the gates are locked at night and the gates are a long walk from the lakes.
It is not the easiest place to get to and to be honest id feel like a true kerryman trying to give directions. At the opposite side of the road from the main road where you turn off to Castlegregory It is sign posted to glenteenassig woods. Drive up that road for many miles until you pass the sheep lying on the road and when you think you can’t go any further keep going eventually you will see the entrance on your left.
Drive in that gravel road over the bridge and past the car park and keep going until you meet a t junction turn left and that road will bring you to the main lake with the timber walkway around it. You will at that stage have driven past the smaller lake but its worth seeing if you can find it.
You would need to walk a path through the woods or you could just use google maps if you can get the phone coverage to work. I did say it was a hidden gem. Once you get there you will see its really not that far out of the way and is worth the trip.
As you head back towards tralee you will pass a village called camp there are a few bars/restaurants here that often have music during the summer months, My favorite is a quaint little bar on the upper road as you turn back towards dingle called Ashes. The food is good especially the sea food and there is always an open fire lighting and a welcome to visitors.
There are a little road beside the pub that leads over the mountain towards the road between inch beach and Castlemaine if you want to go back in that direction or even just like driving over mountains for the views. Not too many know about that drive but I like it.
As you go back towards Tralee you will pass Derrymore beach it is off to the left side of the road and would be easy to miss the turn off if you were not looking for it. Derrymore is another hidden spot but it is a nice little beach and the backdrop of the mountains behind it makes it rather unique.
As you come into Blennerville which has an old windmill near the sea. It was once used for milling grain into flour for bread but is now a visitor centre. Across the bridge there is a walking path leading from tralee out to tralee bay along the lough. It is a nice walk and has views back to Fenit and the of the slieve mish mountain range.
Tralee is the capital and largest town in Kerry. It is more of a business and shopping town than Killarney which is more of a tourist town but there are still plenty nice hotels bars and restaurants around tralee town with some very good places to eat. One of my favorite restaurants is Croi in the square but there are dozens to choose from.
It also has a good cinema for those rainy days and the aquadome swimming pool area which was built around 25 years ago. It is a good place to pass away a few hours with the kids but after visiting places like Tropical islands in Germany or even centre parks they make the aquadome look a bit like a pot hole. That’s not to say its not a nice place it is but it would be nice to see it updated at some stage or more features added .
The town park is nice to walk around during the day too with lots of flowers and fountains and the Ashe memorial hall at the bottom of Denny street is nice to see there is a medieval tour where you can see the town as it was in the middle ages. There are two nice woodland walks one at ballyseedy wood just outside the town and the other is in ballymacelligott in a place known as Glanagenty between tralee and Castleisland.
Around 12km outside tralee is a little fishing village called Fenit which is a nice place for a walk along the shoreline. There are a path that runs parallel to the shore with a good view of the ocean and mountains. There are a nice swimming area in a sheltered spot that is popular with locals during the summer.
The path leads beyond this around past the light house towards Fenit island. There are also a long bridge from the village that is a popular place for fishing. At the other side of the bridge there’s a lot of private boats and Tralee sailing club is also based here.
There are nice restaurants around the area too on the road in from Tralee and in Spa village. Nearby tralee golf course is a nice place for a round of golf or a walk along Banna beach is another great spot to clear the head. Banna beach is one of the biggest in the county at over 10km
I don’t think that I ever walked it all but it stretches all the way from Tralee golf club as far as Ballyheigue village if you are willing to cross a river along the way that separates it from ballyheige beach.
Ballyheige itself is a small village but gets busy enough during the summer as a coastal village I think it has a lot of potential to grow its market in the tourist industry. It would not be as well-known as killarney or dingle and its much quieter and well hidden away in the top corner of Kerry.
The road that leads out of the town around Kerry head is narrow but still offers nice views of the ocean from the Dingle Peninsula around to the west coast of Clare across the mouth of the river Shannon. While it is a short drive compared to the other peninsulas in Kerry and there are not any hotels or cafes along the way it is still worth the drive if you are in the area. I think it would be a great spot for a hotel resort or golf course if anyone could get past the planning regulations in the county.
The loop will bring you around and you can go back to ballyheige village of go across country towards the market town of Listowel or Ballybunnion if you have not seen enough of the coastline. Ballybunnion is yet another coastal town with it own beach and such a nice golf course that the US president came to play there.
There are a statue of bill Clinton on the way into the town. It gets busy during the summer and fine weekends as I think it is one of the closest beaches to Limerick city. While its off the tourist track of south and west Kerry there is nice unspoiled scenery here too and a nice cliff walk high above the ocean.
There’s another nice hidden beach in Beal which is in the direction towards Tarbert which is a small village in the very north of the county. There are a ferry from there that takes your car across the Shannon to Killimer in Co. Clare I would recommend it if you are going in that direction as you will see a lot more than driving along the motorway.
If you are lucky enough as I have been on one family outing you might even get the chance to see dolphins jumping around the boat at sunset which is a sight I will remember for a long time. While Clare is nice too its has its own coastal towns like Kilrush and Kilkee as you make your way up to the cliff of moher or on towards Galway. That would be for another article and I don’t know why you would want to leave anyway as there is so many things to do in Kerry.
I have not even got to mid or east Kerry yet but I think that man had a good point when he said why would you want to go anywhere else. I think if you can drive the its the best way to see the county and stay in different parts along the way. If you have any questions or suggestions please leave them in the comment box below. I will get back to you as soon as I can.
This is a great review of places in Ireland to visit and with most of them close to the airport makes it ideal to visit. Reading your article has highlighted a number of hidden gems (small islands to visit). I do like that there is also area where there is night life so it gives you the option if you choose to go out for the evening to a restaurant. bar ok club you can.
I do enjoy boat trips and I noted there are many of those to keep me occupied during the day and when I what quiet there are a number of green land areas to walk and chill or drive., As a Star Wars fan it would be great to go to Skellig .
Never done surfing but, this may be the ideal place to learn, on a hot day. I would also like to do a bit of deep sea fishing and from your article this is another activity available,
I have never been to Ireland but, have it on my wish list and this article has given me a great place to visit in Ireland.
Great Article, All the best
I think June to August would have the best chance for good weather. The days are longer then too so more time for sight seeing. Skellig islands are worth the visit if you can manage to get out there.