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Our Ring of Kerry Drive Guide (Includes A Map With The Stops + A Road Trip Itinerary)

Our Ring of Kerry Drive Guide (Includes A Map With The Stops + A Road Trip Itinerary)

A day spent driving the Ring of Kerry route is arguably one of the best things to do in Kerry.

Home to an endless number of scenic spots, historical sites, gorgeous towns and so much more, the Ring of Kerry drive (or cycle) is hard to beat.

Although it has stiff competition from Dingle’s Slea Head drive, the Ring of Kerry route packs a punch (especially if you follow our itinerary below).

In this guide, you’ll find everything from a Ring of Kerry map (with the stops plotted) to a full itinerary that shows you where to stop for lunch.

Some quick need-to-knows about the Ring of Kerry drive

ring of kerry route

The Ring of Kerry (red) + the Skellig Ring (blue)

The Ring of Kerry drive is arguably one of the best drives in Ireland. The route leaves Killarney and follows the N71 to Kenmare Village before taking the N70 out and around to Killorglin.

Although driving the Ring of Kerry is pretty straightforward, there are some important need-to-knows if you’re thinking about adding it to your Kerry road trip.

1. Where it starts and ends

The Ring of Kerry route starts and finishes in the lively town of Killarney. Now, although Killarney is the official start and end point, you can always join the route wherever you see fit.

2. How long is the Ring of Kerry drive

The Ring of Kerry route is a whopping 179km long (111 miles) and takes in the towns and villages of Killarney, Kenmare, Sneem, Caherdaniel, Waterville, Cahirciveen, Kells, Glenbeigh, Killorglin and Beaufort.

3. How long the drive takes

If you were driving the Ring of Kerry from start to finish without stopping, it’d take you around 2.5 hours. In order to give you sufficient time to get out of your car and explore, allow at least 7 – 10 hours.

4. What direction to drive

You should do the Ring of Kerry drive in a clockwise direction as tour buses go anti-clockwise by rule. You can of course drive either way, but driving clockwise ensures that you don’t get stuck behind 2+ tour buses. It also ensures you have better roads for the last section (Glenbeigh-Killorglin-Killarney) when you’ll likely be more fatigued.

5. The 2 routes

There are 2 ways to tackle the Ring of Kerry drive: the official route and the unofficial route (the latter is best, in my opinion). The official route (the red line on the map above) follows the original Ring of Kerry route.

The unofficial route takes a detour to include the Skellig Ring (the blue line on the map above). This addition is well worth adding to your Ring of Kerry itinerary, as you’ll discover below.

Our Ring of Kerry map with points of interest / the best stops plotted

Our Ring of Kerry map above contains 2 things: an overview of the route that includes the Skellig Ring, and the various different things to do and places to see.

Now, you don’t have to stop at all of these places (personally, I wouldn’t stop at a good few of them). You can pick and choose based on what you’re into.

Here’s an overview of what each of the pointers means:

  • Purple pointers (stage 1): The attractions in and around Killarney town
  • Yellow pointers (stage 2): The attractions in Kenmare and Sneem
  • Red pointers (stage 3): The attractions in Caherdaniel and Waterville
  • Green pointers (stage 4): The attractions in Ballinskelligs and Valentia Island
  • Pink pointers (stage 5): The attractions in Cahersiveen and Glenbeigh
  • Blue pointers (stage 6): The attractions in Killorglin and Beaufort

Now, if you’re thinking, ‘Eh where’s the Gap of Dunloe, the Black Valley and Carrauntoohil‘, there’s not actually on the Ring of Kerry route itself, but you can of course add them.

A 1-day Ring of Kerry itinerary

geokaun mountain and cliffs

Photo by mikemike10/shutterstock

Although it’d be better to tackle the Ring of Kerry drive over the course of 2 days (especially if you add in the Skellig Ring), it’s doable over the course of 1 day.

It’ll just be a busy aul day. And there’ll be a lot of driving about. But it’s doable if you’re visiting County Kerry during April and September, when the days are nice and long.

Below, you’ll find an easy-to-follow Ring of Kerry itinerary with timings to help you conquer the route in one go.

Now, this route doesn’t include everywhere plotted on our Ring of Kerry map – the itinerary below includes what I’d do if I only had a day.

Stop 1: Breakfast in Killarney (08:00)

best breakfast Killarney

Kick-start your Ring of Kerry road trip with breakfast in Killarney to get you fueled up and ready to rock for the day ahead.

There’s plenty of good breakfast spots in the Killarney (see them here) and, when you’re finished, you can have a ramble around the town.

Stop 2: Killarney National Park (9:00)

ross castle kerry

Photo by Hugh O’Connor on Shutterstock

Although I firmly believe the best way to explore Killarney National Park is by bike, you won’t have time if you’re tackling the Ring of Kerry route in a day.

So, aim for the car park near Ross Castle and then head for a stroll around the outside. You’ll get some mighty mountain and lake views here, too.

When you finish, head back to the car and drive around to the car park at Muckross House. You can admire the house from the outside or head inside for a look.

When you finish up there, you’re a short stroll away from the very old Muckross Abbey. Head in for a nosey around. There are several walks in Killarney to try here, if you have some more time.

Stop 3: Torc Waterfall (10:15)

torc waterfall killarney

Photo left: Luis Santos. Photo right: gabriel12 (Shutterstock)

Our next stop, Torc Waterfall, is just 19 minutes down the road from Muckross House, and it’s from here that you really start to get stuck into your Ring of Kerry road trip.

There’s a car park beside it and then it’s a short, 3-4 minute walk up to the waterfall itself. As a visit here is one of the most popular things to do in Killarney, it gets busy.

Insanely busy. So much so that, on the last 2 occasions that I visited, we couldn’t get parking, and had to skip it.

If you have more time in Killarney, both the Torc Mountain walk and Cardiac Hill are both worth tackling.

Stop 4: Ladies View (10:40)

ladies view killarney

Photo © The Irish Road Trip

Ladies View is one of those places that knocks you a little. If you visit in the winter, like we did in the photo above, you’ll find the area a fine shade of yellow and orange.

The view here is just incredible and it’s a short, 25-minute spin from the last stop. You can park right in front of the viewing point or right next to the cafe.

If you’re feeling peckish, or if you just fancy a coffee while you soak up the view above, there’s a new rooftop seating area in the cafe right next to Ladies View.

Stop 5: Moll’s Gap (11:10)

moll's gap

Photo left: POM POM. Photo right: LouieLea (Shutterstock)

The next stop on the Ring of Kerry drive is the mighty Moll’s Gap (7 minutes from Ladies View). You can park right next to it in the car park at Avoca.

Moll’s Gap is a bendy pass that offers spectacular views of the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks and the surrounding area.

It earned its name from Moll Kissane who ran a Sibin (an unlicensed pub) in the area during the construction of the original Kenmare Killarney road in the 1820s.

She was well-liked in the area. Possibly due to the fact that she sold homemade poitin and whiskey to the men working on the road.

Stop 6: Kenmare (11:40)

kenmare in kerry

Photo left: © The Irish Road Trip. Photo right: Lena Steinmeier (Shutterstock)

Kenmare is a handy 7-minute drive from Moll’s Gap. Now, if you’re not familiar with Kenmare, it’s a lovely little village that’s a lot quieter than Killarney.

However, there’s plenty of things to do in Kenmare and there are plenty of brilliant restaurants in Kenmare to nip into.

On this Ring of Kerry itinerary, as we only have a day, I’m going to recommend you grab a coffee and head for a wander around the village.

Note: If you fancy staying here, there are plenty of great guesthouses and hotels in Kenmare that you can book into.

Stop 8: Sneem (12:30)

things to do in Sneem in kerry

Photo left by SydneyRaunien (Shutterstock). Photo right via Gossip Café on Facebook

When you’re driving the Ring of Kerry, you’ll encounter a seemingly endless number of quaint little villages and towns.

One of my personal favourites is our next stop, Sneem. This is a short, 25-minute drive from Kenmare, so you won’t be stuck in the car for too long.

The views that unravel in front of you as you enter Sneem are worth the visit alone. Expect rolling mountains that appear to fold in upon you from every angle as you enter the village.

Stop 9: Derrynane Beach (13:15)

derrynane beach

Photo by Johannes Rigg on Shutterstock

Our next stop is arguably one of the best beaches in Kerry (and it’s easy the best of the handful of beaches near Killarney).

You’ll find Derrynane Beach near Caherdaniel, a 28-minute spin from Sneem. This is one of the most frequently missed Ring of Kerry stops, for some reason.

Derrynane Beach is reasonably sheltered and boasts a natural harbour, and there’s a lifeguarded on duty during the summer months.

Park up, hop out and head for a saunter along the sand.

Stop 10: Waterville for lunch (14:15)

Waterville in kerry

Photo left by Nenad Basic on Shutterstock. Photo right via Brookhaven House

The next stop in our Ring of Kerry guide takes on a 16-minute spin to Waterville. Now, as you may have copped, we’ve completely skipped Caherdaniel, here.

If you fancy seeing Caherdaniel, you could grab lunch in the town and visit Derrynane House, if you like, but we’re going to power on to Waterville in this guide.

An Corcan Restaurant a great spot for a bite to eat in Waterville. Get in, get fed and then head for a walk along the beach.

Stop 11: Coomanaspig Pass (15:40)

Coomanaspig pass ring of kerry drive

Photo © The Irish Road Trip

I’ve just realised that I left our next stop, Coomanaspig Pass, off of our Ring of Kerry map, but you can’t miss it when driving on this route (it’s 30 minutes from Waterville).

It’s said that Coomanaspig Pass is one of the highest places in Ireland that you can reach by car. I never knew this place existed until I randomly ended up here a few years ago.

The views here are outstanding and it feels like you’re on top of the world as you being to descend down towards the entry point for our next stop.

Stop 12: The Kerry Cliffs (16:10)

the kerry cliffs portmagee

Photo left: VTaggio. Right: Johannes Rigg (Shutterstock)

Next up is another spot that’s missed by many driving the Ring of Kerry – the Kerry Cliffs (2 minutes from Coomanaspig).

I’ve visited the Kerry Cliffs twice now (once in summer) and on both occasions there was no more than 5 – 10 people there.

The views here are incredible and the cliffs are colossal. The viewing point is on private land, so you’ll need to park, pay (I think it was €5 when I was here last) and take the 10 minute walk to the viewing area.

Stop 12: Valentia Island (17:30)

valentia island in kerry

Photo left by mikemike10. Photo right: MNStudio (Shutterstock)

The next stop on our Ring of Kerry road trip is Valentia Island and it’s a handy 12-minute spin from the Kerry Cliffs.

Connected to the little town of Portmagee by the Maurice O’Neill Memorial Bridge, Valentia Island is one of Ireland’s most westerly points.

When you arrive on the island, head up to the car park near Bray Head. For those of you that fancy stretching the legs, you can do the Bray Head Loop Walk which offers brilliant views out towards the Skellig Islands.

When you’re done here, make your way up to the Geokaun Mountain and Cliffs (€5 entry fee), and start the steep ascent towards one of the best views on the Ring of Kerry drive.

Stop 13: Rossbeigh Beach (19:30)

rossbeigh beach in kerry

Photo left: 4kclips. Photo right: SandraMJ Photography (Shutterstock)

When you finish up on Valentia Island, you’re a 50-minute drive from the second last stop on our Ring of Kerry route – Rossbeigh Beach.

Now, if you want you can stop in Cahersiveen (refer to our Ring of Kerry map for ideas on what to do), but it’s getting late in the day, so we’re going to power on.

Rossbeigh Strand near Glenbeigh is a lovely stretch of sand for a ramble, especially after the long drive from Valentia.

Stop 14: Pints in Killarney

best pubs in killarney

Photo via the Arbutus Hotel Killarney

When you finish up at Rossbeigh, it’s time to head on to Killarney, and it’s here that our Ring of Kerry itinerary comes to an end.

If you’re thinking about staying in Killarney, these guides should come in handy:

The Ring of Kerry drive: Wrapping it all up

And that’s a wrap. The Ring of Kerry route itinerary that I’ve outlined above is pretty packed to say the least, but it’s suit those of you that only have a day.

If you have two days, you could spend the first tackling the National Park and the Gap of Dunloe. They alone would fill a day.

You could then do the rest of the Ring of Kerry route outlined on the map at the start of this guide, at a much slower pace.

Regardless of which way you tackle it, enjoy it, and don’t feel the need to tick off all of the various Ring of Kerry stops, as you’ll just end up spending all of your time driving.

FAQs about Driving the Ring of Kerry

Since first publishing a Ring of Kerry route planner many years ago, we’ve had hundreds (literally) of emails and messages asking various questions.

I’ve tried to tackle the most FAQs below, however, if you have a question that we haven’t answered, ask away in the comments section.

Is the Ring of Kerry drive worth doing?

Yes, it is. The drive takes in a clatter of great attractions along and the Ring of Kerry route is very straightforward and easy to follow.

How long does it take to go around the Ring of Kerry route?

If you were to drive the Ring of Kerry route from start to finish without stopping, it’d take you around 2.5 – 3 hours. In order to give you sufficient time to get out of your car and explore, allow at least 7 – 10 hours.

Where can I find a Ring of Kerry map with the best stops?

You can use our Google Map above, if you like (it has all of the stops plotted out), or you can buy a physical map in Killarney town.

What are the best stops on the Ring of Kerry drive?

My favourite stops, personally, are Valentia Island (this is part of the Skellig Ring – see map and comments above), Ladies View and Kenmare.

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Mark Townsend

Thursday 1st of September 2022

Excellent Keith, I'm really looking forward to riding the ring of Kerry by motorcycle in a couple of weeks, thanks for a great heads up!

Kevin

Wednesday 17th of August 2022

I have read that doing this trip clockwise is more dangerous in august because the roads are narrow, you are heading directly into many tourist buses and on the cliff edge ? What do you think?

Anders Bergåker

Wednesday 10th of August 2022

Awesome guide! Did an amazing one day tour today and your map and tips was a great help! I'd say 7h is a bit optimistic, plan for at least 10h! Cheers, Anders

Katie

Thursday 30th of June 2022

Can I take this route in December?

Sheila

Wednesday 8th of June 2022

I went to The Ross Castle. Has it always been by guide only? Of course we came at 11:30 and that time frame was full. We would have had to wait a hour for the next group. That was our first stop and have so much more to see. But a little sad we couldn’t wait.

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