Having driven the route 14 times now, I have a handful of Ring of Kerry highlights that I never tire of.
Some, like Torc Waterfall, are fairly well known while others, like the viewpoints listed below, tend to get missed.
The Ring of Kerry route contains endless attractions. In this guide, you’ll find stops that I’m confident you’ll enjoy. Dive on in!
My Ring of Kerry highlights
It’s worth taking 30 seconds to look at the map above before you scroll. It shows some of the main things to do on the Ring of Kerry along with the main towns.
1. Killarney National Park
Killarney National Park is home to many of the Ring of Kerry highlights. Although it was only in 1932 when it became Ireland’s first national park, its story goes back much further.
There is evidence of human life in the park from over 4,000 years ago, during the bronze age. In fact, as you explore the park, you’ll discover one historical site after the other.
The most notable is the 15th century Ross Castle which stands proudly overlooking the glorious Lakes of Killarney. Then there’s the opulent Muckross House, which dates to 1843 and boasts 65 Tudor-style-rooms.
One of the most impressive Ring of Kerry highlights is located a short spin from the centre of Killarney – the majestic ruins of Muckross Abbey. You can explore them on foot for free (keep an eye out for the ancient yew tree growing at their centre!).
2. Torc Waterfall
A visit to Torc Waterfall is one of the more popular things to do on the Ring of Kerry. However, it comes with a warning – this place gets painfully busy at times.
I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve visited Torc only to have to drive on due to a lack of parking. The easiest way to visit is to rent a bike in Killarney Town and cycle to it through the park.
Torc is 20 metres high and very easy to access. From the parking area, it’s less than a 10-minute walk away. The falls gets its name, which means ‘wild boar’, from a tale from Irish folklore.
3. The tunnel
OK, so this isn’t actually a stop, but bear with me. Since the first time I did this drive with my parents back in the early 90s, I’ve always loved the buzz of passing beneath this tunnel outside of Killarney.
You’ll stumble upon it if you’re following our 1 day Ring of Kerry itinerary along the road between Killarney and Ladies View (here on Google Maps).
You tend to come across these tunnels a fair bit in this part of Ireland. Turners Rock along the Ring of Beara is another fine example.
4. Ladies View and Moll’s Gap
As you make your way along the N71 towards Kenmare, you’ll pass two of the more famous Ring of Kerry highlights. The first, Ladies View, is a viewpoint right by the side of the road.
The view got its name back during Queen Victoria and Prince Alberts visit to the area in 1861. It’s said that the Queens ‘ladies-in-waiting’ were so taken by the view that it was named after them.
As you continue along the road you’ll drive around a bend before arrive at an Avoca Cafe. From the parking area here you’ll get a good eyeful of Moll’s Gap.
It gets its name from Moll Kissane who ran a ‘Shebeen’ (an unlicensed pub) at the time when the Killarney to Kenmare road was being built in the 1820s.
It’s said that those building the road were so grateful for Moll’s Poitin (a ‘hard liquor’ sometimes made from potatoes) that they names it after her.
5. Kenmare and Sneem
Although there are plenty of things to do in Kenmare, it’s Reenagross Woodland Park, Kenmare Stone Circle and the colourful buildings on Henry Street that steal the show.
The magic of Sneem first hits you as you enter the village and the mountains that act as a backdrop for the area meet your eye.
Hop out and head for a ramble. When you see the bridge, make a beeline for it. It’s here that you’ll get a good look at the river and Sneem falls.
6. Staigue Stone Fort
One of the more unique Ring of Kerry sights is the ancient Staigue Stone Fort. It’s reached via a narrow country road, not far from Caherdaniel.
It’s believed that the fort was constructed sometime between 300 and 400 AD, during the Iron Age. Many ancient sites from the same period are dotted around Kerry.
Staigue Stone Fort is well preserved given its age. It would have been built to act as a defensive structure, likely for a local king.
If you visit during the summer months, there’s a coffee van (Roast at Staigue) and a toilet on-site.
7. Derrynane Beach
One of my favourite things to do on the Ring of Kerry is to visit Derrynane Beach during the mild summer months, early morning, before the crowds arrive.
This is one of the most beautiful beaches in Ireland and thus attracts the crowds. Derrynane is sheltered and backed by sand dunes. However, while the water looks inviting, there are strong currents in places (look for the no-swim signs).
There’s plenty of history to be discovered in the area. If you’re at the beach, keep an eye out for Abbey Island with its ancient burial ground.
Nearby, you’ll find Derrynane house, which was the ancestral home of politician Daniel O’Connell (1775-1847). You can tour the house and see artefacts from his life.
8. Coomakista viewpoint
Many of the Ring of Kerry highlights are the viewpoints that you stumble upon as you make your way around the route (follow our 1 day Ring of Kerry itinerary if you’re not sure where to start).
One of the better-known viewpoints along the way is known as the ‘Coomakista viewpoint’. As it’s a Wild Atlantic Way discovery point, there’s dedicated parking right beside it.
Even on fine days this place is blustery! As you gaze out to the horizon you’ll notice two islands. No, they’re not the Skelligs – you’re looking at Deenish and Scariff islands.
9. The Skellig Ring detour
Thousands of people have followed our ROK guides over the years and this detour gets mention in every ‘Cheers’ email we receive.
When you leave Waterville, aim for Ballinskelligs and head for the beach. This is your first taste of the Skellig Ring. Soak up views of the beach, the mountains and the castle before heading to the stop below.
Coomanaspig is a Wild Atlantic Way discover point and there’s a nice bit of parking where you can admire the view from. However, the magic of this place kicks-in as you begin your descent.
On a clear day, it’ll feel like you’re driving into an oil painting. By all accounts, Coomanaspig is one of the highest places in Ireland reachable by car.
11. The Kerry Cliffs
The Kerry Cliffs stand at a whopping 1,000 feet high and they are some of the most impressive cliffs in Ireland.
They formed over 400 million years ago and they are now easily reachable via privately owned land that you pay to enter (around €5/6).
There’s a bit of a steep climb to the various viewpoints here but the reward is some of the Wild Atlantic Way’s finest coastline.
12. Valentia Island
A stone’s throw from the Kerry Cliffs along the Skellig Ring is the magnificent Valentia Island.
It was on Valentia that the world’s first transatlantic telegraph cable was built over 150 years ago!
The island offers views of both the Iveragh and Dingle Peninsula on a clear day.
13. Cahergall Stone Fort
We’re leaving the Skellig Ring now and heading for Cahergall Stone Fort a short drive from Cahersiveen.
It’s thought (although not confirmed) that Cahergal was built at some point during the 7th century. When you see it for yourself, you’ll likely be surprised at how in-tact it looks.
The reason for this is that it was reconstructed in places. There are little stairs attached to the inner walls which stand between 6 and 13 ft high.
On a fine day as you admire the fort and gaze around at the panoramic view that takes in mountains and ocean, you’ll understand why this is one of the more popular things to do on the Ring of Kerry.
14. Rossbeigh Beach
Located a short spin from Glenbeigh, Rossbeigh is an impressive 7km in length and the perfect spot for a stroll. You’ll also often see surfers attempting to tame the waves just off the shoreline.
One of the finest views in the area can be experienced on the nearby Rossbeigh Hill Walk. It’s a tough and very steep hike that takes in some outstanding views of the beach and beyond.
15. The optional detours
So, now that we have the various things to do on the Ring of Kerry out of the way, it’s time to look at some attractions that lay a little off the main route.
One well worth heading for is Ballaghbeama Gap, pictured above. This is a narrow road that snakes through the mountains around a 55-minute drive from Killarney.
The Gap of Dunloe is one of the most popular attractions in the area. You can see it on a long walk from Kate Kearney’s cottage or you can take a boat tour that brigs you to the head of the Gap.
For those looking for a challenging hike, Kerry’s Carrauntoohil is Ireland’s highest mountain. It’s a tough climb and navigational experience is needed.
FAQs about the best things to do on the Ring of Kerry
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘What Ring of Kerry sights are the most unusual?’ to ‘Which can be reached by camper?’.
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 main Ring of Kerry highlights?
For me, Ladies View, Ross Castle, Muckross Abbey and Derrynane Beach are the best things to do on the Ring of Kerry. The Torc Mountain trail is another great stop if you like a hike.
What is special about the Ring of Kerry?
An area of immense natural beauty, the Kerry’s famous Ring route is home to a wealth of history, areas steeped in history and countless colourful and charming towns and villages.
What is the best part of the Ring of Kerry?
Many of the Ring of Kerry highlights I’ve mentioned above can be found on the first ‘half’ of the route, between Killarney and Waterville. This section is, in my opinion, the most rewarding section of the drive.
Keith O’Hara has lived in Ireland for 34 years and has spent most of the last 10 years creating what is now The Irish Road Trip guide. Over the years, the website has published thousands of meticulously researched Ireland travel guides, welcoming 30 million+ visitors along the way. In 2022, the Irish Road Trip team published the world’s largest collection of Irish Road Trip itineraries. Keith lives in Dublin with his dog Toby and finds writing in the 3rd person minus craic altogether.