If you’re debating staying in Ballinskelligs in Kerry, you’ve landed in the right place.
An area shrouded in myth and mystery, Ballinskelligs is also home to ethereal scenery, gorgeous beaches, stunning ruins and a warm welcome.
And if those aren’t reasons enough to visit, then don’t forget that there’s an amazing chocolate factory nearby! But I digress.
In the guide below, you’ll discover everything from things to do in Ballinskelligs to where to stay and where to grab a bite to eat.
Some quick need to knows about Ballinskelligs in Kerry
Although a visit to Ballinskelligs in Kerry is nice and straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.
Located on Kerry’s Iveragh Peninsula on the southwest coast of Ireland, Ballinskelligs isn’t quite a town or a village (there’s no obvious centre), it’s actually an area made up of small villages or ‘Townlands’. Admittedly, slightly confusing for the first-time visitor! The 164km journey is a 2 hr 30 min drive from Cork.
From Bith the Son to Fionn mac Cumhail, the mythology of this area runs deep with a cast of characters full of warriors, lovers and heroes. The tales and legends that permeate through Ballinskelligs give it an aura of mystique and the wild landscape and epic ruins make it a visual treat, allowing your imagination to run wild.
3. Ring of Kerry town
Though Ballinskelligs isn’t on the exact Ring of Kerry route, it’s close by and forms a vital part of the criminally underappreciated Skellig Ring, which we’ll be discussing soon! Having said that, its proximity to the Ring of Kerry is ideal for jumping on the famous 180-kilometre-long scenic route.
A very brief history of Ballinskelligs
Unsurprisingly, given the ancient myths and tales of the area, the history of Ballinskelligs goes way back! The village can trace its origins right back to the monks of the 5th or 6th century who (unbelievably) made their home on the almost inhospitable Skelligs Islands.
Eventually in the late 12th or early 13th century, the monks moved to the mainland and took up residence in Ballinskelligs, where evidence of their buildings still remain.
Constructed in the 16th century by the McCarthy Clan to protect the bay from pirates, Ballinskelligs Castle is an iconic part of the shoreline and the effect of the wild winds here can be seen in its erosion.
In the 1870’s, Ballinskelligs became home to one of the first cable stations in Ireland and played a part in the revolutionary success of the transatlantic cable laid from Ireland to the United States.
Things To Do In Ballinskelligs (and nearby)
One of the beauties of Ballinskelligs is that it’s a short spin away from a clatter of other attractions, both man-made and natural.
Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from Ballinskelligs (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).
1. Head off on the Ring of Kerry drive/cycle
Situated just a 10-minute drive from the Ring of Kerry route, Ballinskelligs is in a fine location to join the legendary circular drive.
Featuring some of the country’s most dramatic views alongside epic castle ruins, the Ring of Kerry the most comprehensive way to see this striking part of southwest Ireland.
If your fitness can handle it, then you can try cycling it too (polite reminder – it’s 180km-long so plan ahead wisely!).
2. Or take the often missed Skellig Ring
With the ragged outline of Skellig Michael as its striking highlight, the Skellig Ring is only 32km long, but it packs a mighty punch!
Not only is it a road less travelled with far fewer tourists than the Ring of Kerry, you’ll witness some pretty unreal sights along the way.
3. Take your pick of one of several mighty beaches
The majestic unspoilt landscapes of this corner of the county mean there are a ton of great beaches to explore. in fact, the area is home to one of our favourite beaches in Kerry.
A testament to its quality and cleanliness, Balinskelligs Beach has been a Blue Flag beach for over 10 years and its sublime golden sands have to be walked to be appreciated.
Also check out nearby Reenroe Beach (good for swimming) and St Finian’s Bay (amazing sunsets featuring the distant silhouettes of the Skellig Islands).
4. Step back in time at Ballinskelligs Castle
Sitting quietly at the end of a narrow peninsula on Ballinskelligs Beach, the 16th century Ballinskelligs Castle is now in a state of ruin thanks to the erosion of 500 years of being whipped by Kerry’s wild coastal weather.
Originally constructed by the MacCarthy Clan in the 16th century to protect the bay from pirates, it’s now in much quieter state but is an interesting window into medieval Ireland.
Although this is one of the lesser-known castles in Kerry, it’s worth having a nosey around during your visit.
5. Have a ramble around Ballinskelligs Abbey
A little further down from the castle and part of the Skellig Monks Trail, Ballinskelligs Abbey dates from around the 15th century.
Surely one of Ireland’s more picturesque abbeys, the monks who worshipped here had previously lived on the seemingly-uninhabitable Skellig Michael – probably a wise idea to move in the end!
Though it’s now in ruins, the fine craftsmanship is still evident and is an interesting place wander through.
6. Take a boat over to the Skelligs
‘Breath-taking’ can often be a pretty overused word in travel guides, but I promise you it isn’t out of place here!
Ragged, singular and epic, the Skellig Islands are a unique part of the Kerry coast and you can take a boat tour to get up close to them.
Leaving regularly from the village of Portmagee, the tours actually take you to Skellig Michael where you can climb its steps, explore the ruined monastery (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and see the distinct wildlife.
7. See the stars from the Kerry International Dark-Sky Reserve
One of the many benefits of being in such a remote and magical corner of Ireland is the lack of light pollution. It’s for this reason that the Kerry Dark Sky Reserve thrives.
Almost as far as it’s possible to be from the bustle of Dublin and with the natural protection from the Kerry Mountains, you’ll be able to view the stars and constellations in clear view.
Book a Star Gazing Experience with an expert who’ll be able inform you what it is that you’re looking at.
8. Visit the Skelligs Chocolate Factory
If there’s a chocolate factory in a more spectacular location than this, then I’ll be very surprised!
Nominated by Failte Ireland as one of ’50 secret destinations of the Wild Atlantic Way’, Skelligs Chocolate have been plying their trade since 1996.
Backdropped by beautiful mountains and just a stone’s throw from the lovely St Finian’s Bay, they’re in a great spot to sample some sweet delights while exploring the scenery.
9. See the Kerry Cliffs
While the Cliffs of Moher get all the attention along the Wild Atlantic Way, it’s easy to forget there’s some more cliffs a little down the coast that are just as spectacular.
Located on the Skellig Ring in-between Portmagee and The Glen, the Kerry Cliffs stand over 1000ft above the wild Atlantic and were formed in a desert environment 400 million years ago. Take in the mighty vistas and get a great view of Puffin Island too.
10. Take a spin over to Valentia Island
One of Ireland’s most westerly points, Valentia Island is an interesting place that’s well worth a visit during your stay in Kerry.
If you’re there on a clear day then make sure you take a trip up to Geokaun Mountain and take in its awesome 360-degree panoramic views.
The Slate Quarry is a very distinct part of the island (their slate was used to build the Houses of Parliament in London!), while the walk from Knightstown to the Lighthouse at Cromwell Fort is lovely too.
Ballinskelligs Hotels and Accommodation
Although there are no hotels in the village, there’s several places to stay in Ballinskelligs that boast excellent reviews.
Note: if you book a hotel through one of the links below we’ll make a tiny commission that helps us keep this site going. You won’t pay extra, but we really do appreciate it.
Guesthouses and B&Bs in Ballinskelligs
But, of course, there’s always the classic way to stay and Ballinskelligs is a great location for a guesthouse or B&B experience.
Hotels in Ballinskelligs
The geography in Ballinskelligs means that it’s a little too small to find a proper hotel but thankfully there’s no shortage of them nearby and they have great access to the Skellig Ring.
Waterville and Cahersiveen on the Ring of Kerry are both less than a 20-minute drive from Ballinskelligs and have a fine selection of hotels to rest your head before you go off exploring this epic landscape.
Ballinskelligs Pubs and restaurants
If you fancy a post-adventure pint or if you just want a quick meal before hitting the nest after a long day exploring, you’re in luck.
While Ballinskelligs is small, it packs a punch pub wise. Below, you’ll find our favourite places to eat and drink.
1. Cable O’Leary’s Pub and Restaurant
Named after a 19th century local hero, Cable O’Leary’s Pub and Restaurant is a fine place for a pint and something to eat that’s perfectly located behind Ballinskelligs Beach. In fact, with its sweeping views across the water to the distant mountains beyond, it might be one of the best beer gardens in Kerry (and perhaps the country?). Come down for some fresh fish and chips and take it all in.
2. Sigerson’s Bar – Tig Rosie
A village pub for over 100 years, the family-run Sigerson’s Bar – Tig Rosie has the community atmosphere that is sometimes lacking when you head off to holiday destinations. Located right in the middle of the village, you can’t miss its distinct red exterior and the welcome inside is bound to be a friendly one. Enjoy a smooth pint and a bit of conversation with locals, as well as the regular evening music sessions.
3. The Atlantic Grill
Being in such a scenic part of the world means that heading outdoors and exploring is what it’s all about. The Atlantic Grill is a perfect takeaway for on-the-go eating or enjoying your food with a serious view! Located just across from Cable O’Leary’s, their charming bar specialises in fresh fish and handmade burgers. Check out the fresh hake and chips or their famous Surfers Burger, a mighty sandwich featuring locally sourced beef.
FAQs about visiting Ballinskelligs in Kerry
Since mentioning the town in a guide to Kerry that we published several years ago, we’ve had hundreds of emails asking various things about Ballinskelligs in Kerry.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
What are the best things to do in Ballinskelligs?
- Head off on the Ring of Kerry drive/cycle
- Or take the often missed Skellig Ring
- Take your pick of one of several mighty beaches
- Step back in time at Ballinskelligs Castle
- Have a ramble around Ballinskelligs Abbey
Where are the best places to eat in Ballinskelligs?
- The Atlantic Grill
- Sigerson’s Bar – Tig Rosie
- Cable O’Leary’s Pub and Restaurant
What are the best places to stay in Ballinskelligs?
- Skellig hideaway
- Seaside B&B