Ring of Kerry is a scenic drive in County Kerry. It is more than 179km (111miles) long circular tourist route. The drive from Killarney should start clockwise along N71. There are a lot of variations that can be done to make it tailor fit to your interests. The route passes through Killarney National park, crossing Molls Gap and going towards the coast.
There are a lot of places to see along the way and to see everything, you have to push yourself by rushing around which is not recommended. It's better to plan ahead and note down the places which you like to visit with a sufficient amount of time.
This is a very popular tourist route and expects it to be very busy. The tour buses leave in a clockwise direction and if you are starting later than 9 pm then you will be stuck behind the buses. It's better to start early.
Here are some interesting places along the Ring of Kerry drive
All of the above places can be visited from Killarney on a very long day especially the cliffs of Kerry in Portmagee are far but if you are taking the Michael Skellig tour which departs from Portmagee then its better to combine it with Ring of Kerry by staying overnight in Portmagee after visiting the Kerry cliffs and taking the tour to Michael Skellig next day. Otherwise, I suggest skipping a few of the places.
There are a couple of variations to the Ring of Kerry drive. The big loop will take you through the mountains of Killarney National Park to the coastline but the smaller route goes deep into the national park and stays near the Killarney town. I prefer the latter version to explore the national park without spending a lot of time behind the wheel. Moreover, I didn't want to miss the Dunloe Gap.
I started the day in Killarney. It was a beautiful day so I decided to go first to the Dunloe area to see the mountains, an absolutely beautiful area and shouldn't be missed. There are many different ways to explore the area. You can either drive all the way and later join the main Ring of Kerry road or just drive to Gap of Dunloe parking lot, park the car and walk up to the Dunloe Gap. Near the car park, is an excellent Irish bar and restaurant.
There are three or four lakes (Black Lake, Cushvalley lake & Augher lake) and some beautiful small old bridges in the area. The tradition horse carriages to take tourists up the Gap and back. The road is very small just one lane with some designated areas to stop and allow the cars coming from opposite directions to pass.
After spending almost half the day exploring the Dunloe Gap area. I drove back to Killarney bought some sandwiches and headed off to 18th Century Ross Castle, which is a tower fortress on the edge of Lough Leane.
If you don't have enough time, skip going to the Ross Castle and drive directly to Muckross House.
It is a 19th Century mansion in Killarney National Park. The best thing about this mansion is not just the incredible architecture but the stunning gardens. It is next to two lakes Lough Leane and Muckross Lake. Take some time to walk around and admire the beautiful gardens.
It is the best spot to have some rest especially if the weather is good.
An old Irish Monastery which is turned into a Graveyard and only five minutes pleasant walk from the Muckross House car park. It is worth visiting and takes only a few minutes to see the remains of the Monastery. Due to violent history, it has been damaged and reconstructed many times.
After Muckross House, another mandatory stop is at Torc Waterfall which is only a five minutes walk from the Parking through the forest of Killarney National Park. There are a number of hiking trails in the area and if you are interested to do any hike then drive up to Killarney hiking parking lot and check the information about the trails.
As you leave Torc waterfall behind, slowly the thick forest of Killarney National Park will start to disappear, opening up the views to the surrounding mountains and lakes. During the day the whole area was very crowded with tourists and big buses so I decided to drive in the afternoon and see the sunset on Molls Gap. I was lucky that the road was not busy, only a few tourists around. The drive up to Molls Gap and towards the coast is breathtaking with panoramic vistas of the mountains and lakes.
Carrauntoohil, the highest Irish mountain is in Kerry not far from Killarney. There are several routes to the top of the mountain and it takes 4-6 hours to complete the hike.
Next day, I planned to visit Mizen head cliffs so I continued driving passed Molls Gap and stayed overnight in Glengarriff.
Ring of Kerry and Dingle Peninsula both are spectacular but if I have time for only one drive then I would prefer to do Dingle Peninsula, driving through Conor Pass over to Slea Head towards Dunquin Harbour.