We drove our way back to Killarney and decided to go back to Muckross for one last look and to see the Torc waterfall, which we missed on our first way around. The waterfall can be accessed at a clearly marked right turn off of the road. There is a small car park and the falls are about a 100 meter walk up an incline. You can also climb even higher up a number of stairs to the top of the falls. We expected another view of the falls from this vantage, but none came about. It is at this point where you can join three walking trails which lead in various directions. A couple we met told us that we could walk all the way to Kenmare if we wanted to. It was then that we decided to come back with our backpacks someday!
Cahersiveen was the next big town on our map. We knew we would be running into some congestion here because they told us about the parade back in Ballinskelligs. And sure enough, we were driving the parade route again. Luckily, a policeman gave us a detour route just above the main road which took us away from the crowds and parade. The remainder of the Ring of Kerry route didn't give us many stops, but we did get some amazing views of the Dingle Bay and Peninsula across the water. The water appeared to be bright blue, it was so beautiful.
The small towns along the Ring vary in size and level of attraction. Some of them are just a few buildings and some have shops, restaurants, and a bustling atmosphere. One interesting experience for us happened while driving through the town of Sneem. As I stated before, it was St. Paddy's Day. A lot of towns in Ireland hold special celebrations for this holiday, including parades. For many of the towns along the Ring, the road that makes up the Ring is their only major road. Therefore, when we drove through Sneem, we were IN their St. Patrick's Day Parade! There were pedestrians everywhere and they were not keen on moving for our car. We pushed our way through the crowds and past the parade and found ourselves on open, empty roads!
We drove our way through the Southern tip of the peninsula with a stop at the coastal town of Ballinskelligs. This town isn't actually on the Ring of Kerry, but it was an important side trip for us. My great-grandmother was born here and lived in the town until her late teens, when she moved to the US and never looked back. Her mother and father stayed behind in the house and her brother later returned to build a new cottage on the site. Their immediate family is now all deceased, but there is a new family in the house. They use the original house as a storage place for their peet. We stopped in the town and got directions to the farm from the most helpful woman and found it with no problems, although the family wasn't there (they were in the next big town at the parade . . . oh great, another parade!) How neat it was to be witness to this piece of my family history. You can get back onto the Ring from here quite easily, so we continued on our way.
It is suggested that you complete the Ring of Kerry drive in an counter-clockwise manner because of the traffic with tour buses. However, we didn't follow the advice and did it the other way. In peak summer months, you actually might want to do it clockwise to avoid having to drive behind the big, slow tour buses.
We set out from Killarney about 8:30am. In the town, there are signs which direct you to the Ring (N71). The first major stop on the route is Muckross House, Farm and Castle. These are located in Killarney National Park and are a must-see!
The Ring takes you through a large majority of the National Park and provides you with stops at Torc Waterfall, Ladies View, and Moll's Gap. Along the way you will also be treated to miscellaneous castle ruins, like this one just inside the park:
Moll's Gap is a barron, rocky area which has some very twisty roads. There is a souvenir shop at an intersection where the road turns left.
The first major town on the Ring in this direction is Kenmare. We traveled the Ring on the St. Patrick's Day holiday so we encountered many interesting happenings in the towns we traveled through. In this town (it was around 10am when we reached it), all of the townspeople were leaving their church services. The roads were a little heavy with traffic here. We stopped at a café for lunch (see "Mocha Cafe" entry) and shopped around a souvenir shop called Quill's.
Please get yourself a map of the Ring of Kerry before setting out. Most maps include reference to sights along the way. This will help you with your sightseeing and helps to plan out your stops for food/gas/etc.
Read about part 2 of the Ring drive in the next journal entry.
The lakes of Kilarney are one of the most spectacular parts of the west coast of Ireland. We drove through the gap of dunloe, although losts of people say not to... l don't see any reason why not. You will find signs advising you not to take your car. I took mine and l had no problems. I did start the trip after 6pm when the drivers with the horse and carts have stopped for the night. Beware of pretty narrow roads.
Some of the places you can see on a drive along The Ring of Kerry are Killorglin, the banks of The River Laune, Dingle Bay and Kells Bay and south to Cahersiveen, Portmagee, Waterville, Ballingskelligs Bay and Kenmare River. Next onto Castlecove, Kenmare, and Killarney and many small towns along the way.
Road trips are 112 miles usually done count clockwise.
We stopped at "Torc Falls" a sixty-foot waterfall in the thick Irish woods. We saw Leprechauns lurking in the mossy ground and trees. That's where Faye found she had no film in her camera (blame it on the Leprechauns).
Now the "Ring of Kerry" is a mountainous road with many tight curves and all passengers should take at least 10mgs of Valium before attempting this ride. Most of the time you are riding inches from the rock walls. I felt like I was riding with a kamikaze pilot. Each time we met a truck or tour bus our lane was reduced to half road and half hedgerow, ditch or rock wall.
The scenery was sometimes distracting from the terror of the ride. Every curve brought different vistas from ocean cliffs, seaside villages with amber and sometimes purple hillsides.
Besides the oncoming vehicles, the other obstacles on the road were the "red necks", the "red butts" and the "patriots" - these sheep had some unusual markings. They seemed totally bored with our presence and weren't in a hurry to get out of our way.
Ireland's major tourist attraction
This is where almost every coach tour in Ireland goes so it can be crowded. When we went it was surprisingly empty and nice... The views are breathtaking, the villages 'dressed up' and the beaches white and sandy!
See the lovely country-side, the Atlantic Ocean, and ruins of old castles.
There are these giant coach buses that take huge groups on tours of the Ring of Kerry. The road is so narrow that they all have to go in the same direction, as there is not room for 2 buses to meet.
We took the train from Dublin, and what started as a disappointment turned into a blessing. We were too late for the last bus. So, we found a company that gave private tours, and for a fairly reasonable price we had our own driver/tour guide and could decide which spots we wanted to stop at, and for how long. I would highly recommend doing the tour this way!
I'm very fond of Kerry and I recommend to visit any of the three main peninsulas there. Iveragh with the Ring of Kerry is very busy during summer, so head for Dingle (pic) or Beara in that case. See my Killarney page for more detailed info about this fabulous destination!
Here you will find all Ireland has to offer: pristine beaches, the wild ocean, steep cliffs, silent forests, green fields, sleepy villages and towns full of friendly folks, food and lots of beer! Need I say more?
Hayfield Manor Hotel Cork
1 Review and 1028 Opinions While the Hayfield Manor was a tad bit more expensive than we like to spend, one gets what one pays...
Ashford Castle Galway
1 Review and 850 Opinions This really is five star luxury. James Bond actor Brosnan hired the whole place out for his wedding...