Just outside Killarney near the lakes sits Ross Castle. The castle stands intact and now houses a museum and exhibits concerning the history of the castle and life there during the past. The castle can be reached by car, bike, carriage, or boat. Be sure to book in early for tours of the keep especially during summer months as the crowds can be rather big.
There are a number of opportunities for sightseeing, history or just having fun at Muckross. First there is the Victorian era house and gardens which can be seen by guided tour. Be warned - although the tour is excellent it took us more than an hour to complete; a bit long for young kids. Nearby is a farm park which children can visit and pet animals, play and otherwise burn off energy. Horse and cart rides are also offered just outside the house by the lake. A large gift shop, totally packed with people the day we stopped, stands midway between the house and farm park. Finally there are the Muckross Abbey ruins, which seems to be overlooked by most groups rushing between the lake and the farm park.
This site is actually a collection of churches dedicated to St. Brendan the Navigator who supposedly visited the new world far before the days of Columbus. Ardfert is very small compared to most cathedrals and is composed of architectural styles from several different eras. There is a small but interesting exhibit in the entrance to the site including background information on St. Brendan. The are several preserved carvings in the church and a Norman-era entrance door which contrasts with some of the more contemporary elements of the structure. A castle once stood nearby the site but it has long since been burned to the ground and demolished during one of the many conflicts between Irish families in the region.
The Beehive Huts on the Ring of Dingle is a must see. They are on a farmer's land, and they will charge you a small fee, but they are fascinating to see. A must see.
Dry laid stone huts that have survived the test of time... to imagine life in those huts and total commitment to God living in pure humilty is hard to comprehend.
In many places in Ireland, you can see "beehive huts." These huts were constructed of stones, with no mortar, yet remain waterproof today, more than a millenium after their construction. Though many are in ruins now, the hut at Gallarus is in pristine condition.
Gallarus Oratory overlooks Smerwick Harbour on the Dingle Pensinsula and is set in the midst of rolling farmland. The setting alone will take your breath away. Going inside the small building, witnessing its timeless construction and knowing its history will also awe any visitor.
An added point of interest is the standing Ogham stone near the Oratory. These stone slabs were inscribed in Ogham, the ancient Irish method of writing, and were often grave markers. The one at Gallarus is amazing.
Prior to visiting the Oratory itself, there is a short video on the history of the area. This video is well worth the few minutes it takes to watch as it gives information about other monuments on the Dingle Peninsula.
Derrynane House is an interesting place to visit. Derrynane House was the home of Daniel O'Connell who was a lawyer and politician (born August 6th 1775). O'Connell was instrumental in the movement to win political rights for Irish Roman Catholics (forming the Catholic Association in 1823). For his acts that helped Catholics around Ireland he is known as 'The Liberator'.
Entry costs €2.75 and you get an information sheet on all the rooms of the house (available in English, Irish, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Dutch) - many contain impressive gifts from statesmen and religous leaders (as 'thank yous' for his work). Guided tours are available on request. There is also an audio visual presentation that goes for about 25mins.
Plus if you're feeling hungry there is a nice little cafe at the house.
Be sure also to take the short walk down to the beach, it is a nice beach and the surrounding scenery is beautiful (picture of the beach in my Kerry travelogue)
FUN, ECO-NATURE & SEAL WATCHING CRUISES from KENMARE CO KERRY, IRELAND.
Here you will: DISCOVER PARADISE.....
1. MUMS & PUPS (seals)
2. SUNSET CRUISES
3. SEE CASTLES
4. HAVE FUN ON THE BOWSPRIT
5. BBQ & MUSIC ON BOARD
6. SEE CAITLEAN, THE RED HEADED SEAL
7. SEE FELIX, a special seal...
8. ENJOY THE WONDERFUL SCENERY.....
tHIS IS A FRIENDLY, FAMILY-RUN RIVER CRUISE on a comfortable, stable and fully equipped passenger vessel.
The captain is a friendly, humerous person and guide on this informative tour and you will be cruising around the many islands in the bay's sheltered waters between THE BEARA and IVERAGH mountain peninsulas.
See spectacular mountains, forests, islands and castles, tropical plants nurtured by the GULF STREAM......prolific birdlife off the productive sea-water and.....enjoy the over 300 seals who have their home in that PARADISE that KENMORE RIVER is....
EXPLORE THE FULL MAJESTY of KENMARE BAY visiting PARKNASILLA and kilmakilloge on a full or halfday charter cruise including FOOD & MUSIC......
The Gap of Dunloe near the Killarney National Park is a wild and beautiful spot, which is definitely worth a day trip. The scenery is amazing, with the peaks of the Macgillycuddy Reeks rising up on either side, and scenic streams, lakes and bridges along the way.
The Gap itself is around 10km long, and you can walk it, hire one of the pony traps that are waiting at the start of the Gap, or hire a horse and ride through it.
A pony ride through the Gap will cost 30 Euro.
Or you could do this tour as cycle round-trip, as some tour operators offer "Bike on Boat" trips, where they will take you and your bike across the lakes.
The pony traps (or so-called "jaunting cars") cost 80 Euros for a cart and driver, and they can be shared by up to four people. However, at some of the steeper parts of the road you will probably be asked to get off and walk for a bit as it would be too hard for the horse to pull the full cart up the hill. However, my elderly dad was offered the possibility to stay in the cart, if the uphill walk was too much for him, so don't worry about this if one of your party is not very good on foot.
The walk is not a round trip, so if you leave your car at the start of the Gap the problem is that you will also have to make your way back through the Gap. But you could for example take a pony trap one way, and then walk back. Alternatively you could also book one of the tours that are on offer in Killarney, where you will be picked up by bus in Killarney town in the morning, dropped off at Kate Kearney's Cottage, and at 2pm small boats will leave at Lord Brandon's cottage at the other end of the gap to take you on an hour-long boat trip across the lakes of the National Park up to Ross Castle, where the bus will be waiting for you to bring you back into Killarney.
The road through the Gap is a public road and therefore theoretically open to cars, and some people do drive through it, but I would not recommend this, as you'll get stuck behind the pony traps anyway, and it is very difficult to find spots where you can let oncoming traps (or other cars for that matter) pass by without ending up in the ditch. In my opinion this is one place where it is well worth to take the time to explore it at a slower pace, rather than just driving through it. It is also very annoying for everyone else having to step aside and make way for cars trying to squeeze past.
The Ring of Beara is not as busy as the Ring of Kerry, but just as stunning, and I highly recommend to spend at least a day there. The roads are much more narrow and windy than on the Ring of Kerry, which is the reason that no tour buses are allowed here.
Some of the highlights of this tour are
- the Healy Pass over the Caha Mountains
- the little colourful village of Allihies with its beautiful beach, nestling at the foot of the mountains
- the Ardgroom stone circle
If you have more than just one day to spend here, you could take the cable car over to Dursey Island (which looks like an adventurous couple of minutes) and explore the island, and I would also recommend driving to Gleninchaquin Park in the heart of the Caha mountains for some hillwalking around the beautiful waterfall there (see separate "Off the beaten path" tip).
Apparently a Gap in Ireland is what we would call a Pass. The Gap of Dunloe (Irish: Bearna an Choimín) is a very famous one - it is a narrow pass between Macgillycuddy's Reeks and the Purple Mountains near Killarney, Ireland - a distance of approximately 7 miles. The road is narrow and difficult for motorized traffic, so we didn't do it in the bus. We just looked at it from the shopping stop. The most popular form of transport for tourists is the horse-drawn Trap but sometimes people hike it or ride bikes.
One of the main attractions at Killarney National Park is the Torc water fall. We were there in the midst of torrential downpours and the falls were in full fury. I'm sure the falls are impressive even in fine weather. The flora is thick and lush and the area has that mystical feel to it that so many places in Ireland emanate. The short hike to the top of the falls is rewarding.
Gallarus oratory is one of the most beautiful structures I've seen in Ireland. It was built without mortar, yet with the precise angle of the stones, rainwater runs off of it and the interior stays fairly dry. It was a church and it could have been built as early as the 6th century A.D.
There is a visitor's center here, and admission is charged to enter (which seems to be a trend all over Kerry). There is a secret, yet legal way to enter without paying, but I'll let you find that out on your own (hint: waymarked ways).
Ballycarbery Castle is a 15h century ruin that is now beautifully covered in ivy, and in a gorgeous lowland setting with little development around. When I was there, we were able to go right up to the castle and even climb inside a bit where we had a picnic. Apparently this was once a magnificent castle, and its proximity to Caher Gael stone fort makes the visit doubly worthwhile. Both sites can be easily incorporated into a Ring of Kerry trip.
There was no admission fee when we were there. As with all these ruins, it's not necessarily safe to get inside, so use your best judgment.
We were undaunted by the weather as we braved into the Gap of Dunloe in our intrepid little rental car. The Gap of Dunloe is a dramatic drive even on a fair day. It takes you through Macgillycuddy's Reeks, starting (or ending) at Kate Kearney's cottage, near Killarney. The views are breathtaking and rugged, especially near the several mountain lakes you will pass. Of course the road is narrow and windy and not for the faint of heart. You can take a trip via horse and buggy from Kate Kearney's.
I don't know what the car traffic is like on a fine day, as we went in the middle of torrential downpours, having to drive our car through some flooded sections of road. We only passed one other car that day, and of course they were American! I don't necessarily recommend going on such a day, but I do recommend visiting the Gap on a fair day, if the traffic isn't too bad.
These crazy little structures are scattered around Kerry, but there is a good concentration of them along the Slea Head Drive. Several of them are linked together to form little compounds, with walls to enclose livestock. It's fascinating to walk through these structures and imagine actually making one of these huts your home. It must have been a rugged lifestyle, but perhaps the stunning ocean views were worth it. These huts are said to date back at least to the 12th century AD.
There is a small fee to access the site.
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