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The Skellig Ring Drive: A Guide With A Map + Stops

The Skellig Ring Drive: A Guide With A Map + Stops

The Skellig Ring is an often-overlooked scenic drive/cycle that covers a breath-taking 50km, if you include Valentia Island.

It starts a short distance from Waterville before following the coast to Ballinskelligs, Portmagee and then on to Valentia.

It can be done as an extension to the Ring of Kerry drive and it includes stops like the Kerry Cliffs, Coomanaspig Pass and more.

Below, you’ll find a map of the route along with an overview of the main stops along the way. Cheers!

Some quick need-to-knows about the Skellig Ring drive


The Skellig Ring drive / cycle isn’t as straightforward as you might think.

Take 30 seconds to familiarise yourself with the map above, first, and then scan the key info below:

1. Location

You’ll find the Skellig Ring, an extension of the better-known Ring of Kerry route, on the Iveragh Peninsula. It’s a 1-hour and 20-minute drive from Killarney and just under 2 hours from Dingle.

2. What it’s all about

The Ring of Skellig only really kicked-off after the Skellig Islands achieved fame for their appearance in the Star Wars movie. The scenic route links the towns of Waterville, Ballinskelligs, Portmagee and Valentia Island. The scenery is wild, the towns are quaint and route packs a punch.


3. How long is it

The Ring of Skellig stretches for around 50km. If you were to drive it without stopping, it would take 1.5 hours. Allow at least 3 for stops. If you’re cycling it, allow at least 3.5 hours.

4. Main attractions

The Ring of Skellig is home to some of the best things to see in Kerry, like Geokaun Mountain, the Kerry Cliffs and spectacular coastal scenery.

A map of the Ring of Skellig

Above you’ll find a Skellig Ring map with the various bits and bobs marked out.

The pink arrows show the towns: Waterville, Ballinskelligs, Portmagee and Knightstown (Valentia).

The blue arrows show the various different things to see and do, from Skellig Michael and the Kerry Cliffs to some lesser-known attractions.


A Skellig Ring itinerary

Right – let’s look at an itinerary. Below, you’ll find a route to follow with all of the main stops.

Now, although you can start the Ring of Skellig route wherever you like, I’m going to start this one from Waterville.

1. Waterville


Photos via Shutterstock

When you arrive at Waterville, hop out of the car, stroll along the prom and head over to Waterville Beach for a gander.

Before you hit the sand, peer around for the Charlie Chaplin statue. Waterville was said to be one of his favourite places to go on holiday!

This is one of the more scenic Ring of Kerry towns and it makes a great base to explore the peninsula from!


2. Ballinskelligs


Photos via Shutterstock

When you leave Waterville, aim for Ballinskelligs. It’s a 15-minute drive away along the coast.

This is a town that thrives during the summer months, but that tends to be fairly sleepy outside of them.

Hop out and head off towards the ruins of Ballinskelligs Castle which was built by the  MacCarthy Mór clan during the 16th century.

You can see it from afar as you saunter along the beautiful Ballinskelligs Beach. You can also see the ruins of the 12th century Ballinskelligs Abbey.

This entire area would have been strongly linked with the monks that once inhabited nearby Skellig Michael Island.


3. Skelligs Chocolate

Our next stop, the Skelligs Chocolate Factory, is a short 10-minute drive from Ballinskelligs.

Now, in years past there was a tour of the factory here that came in handy for those driving the Skellig Ring when the weather was poor.

However, it’s not clear if the tour still runs. From what I can tell, you can still visit and buy chocolate, but the tour may no longer be running.


4. Coomanaspig Pass


Photos by The Irish Road Trip

At 797 ft/ 248 meters above sea level, Coomanaspig Pass (10 minutes from Skelligs Chocolate) is one of the highest points in Ireland that you can reach by car.

Driving up here is an experience and a half, but it does nothing to prepare you for the view on the other side.

There’s a large parking area (it’ll be on your right) and by God it gets fierce windy!

The views from parking area are outstanding, but the magic really happens when you make your descent, as you’ll see from the photos above.


5. The Kerry Cliffs

Kerry Cliffs

Photos via Shutterstock

The Kerry Cliffs are about a 1-minute drive from Coomanaspig Pass and they’re arguably twice as impressive as the Cliffs of Moher in Clare!

There is an entry fee of around €5/6 and then it’s a 10-minute walk up to viewing platform.

At their highest point, the Kerry Cliffs stand 1,000 ft above sea level and they are over 400 million years old.

I have been here 4 or 5 times over the years and, even during the summer months, they’re rarely too busy.


6. Portmagee and Skellig Michael

beehive huts on great skellig

Photos via Shutterstock

When you finish up at the cliffs, you’re a short, 5-minute spin from Portmagee. Now, you can grab some food in Portmagee, if you like.

Or, if you were very organised, you can take one of the Skellig Michael boat tours (book far in advance) which leaves from the town.

You can get onto Skellig Michael on one of the Landing Tours or you can sail around both islands on an Eco Tour.

If you can’t get one of the tours, don’t worry – you’ll see them from afar from countless viewpoints along the Ring of Skellig.


7. Valentia Island

Geokaun Mountain

Photos via Shutterstock

Our final stop on the Skellig Ring Drive is Valentia Island, and it’s connected to the mainland at Portmagee by a bridge.

Now, you could easily spend a day here – there’s heaps of things to do on Valentia Island.

If you fancy a walk, the Bray Head trail takes around 1 hour and 10 minutes and it treats you to mighty views of the Kerry coast.

If you just fancy a drive and a view, aim for Geokaun Mountain and Fogher Cliffs. You can drive right the way up to the viewpoint on the left in the photo above.

I’ve stated in many articles on this site that a visit to Valentia is one of the best things to do in Ireland, and I stand by it!


Where to go next

So, if you’re staying near the Skellig Ring, happy days – you can explore it at your leisure.

If you’re visiting it on a day trip, from say Killarney, you’re best-off including it as part of a 1-day Ring of Kerry itinerary like in the map above.

It’ll be a long day, but a very rewarding one. Hopefully you found this guide helpful. If so, let me know in the comments!


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Hugh O'Donnell

Friday 18th of August 2023

I am a tour guide and just checking if roads are suitable for Sprinter mini bus 20 seats?

Keith O'Hara

Friday 18th of August 2023

Hey Hugh. God. I'm not sure to be completely honest with you (I've only ever driven it in a fairly pokey car). Would it be worth using google street view to suss it out?


Thursday 23rd of March 2023

I’m staying in Cahersiveen and have to say it is absolutely lovely. It’s not far from Portmagee but it is a town well worth visiting. Stay five days so you can experience the liveliness of the people. Walk the town, drink in one of the many pubs, attend mass at Daniel O'Connell Memorial Church of the Holy Cross. Hire a taxi driver (ask at the Hardware Store for the best drivers) and hike the beautiful trails in the area. See the Cahers (Rings) up close or walk the Pilgrimage of Cnoc an Dobhar. You will love this beautiful town for sure but bring waterproof coats and waterproof hiking boots for sure if you are here in the month of March. Yes, it’s still green even when there’s snow on the ground!!


Sunday 19th of February 2023

Great stuff, mate. Esp little things like the Google map download and off-the-tourist route options. Thank you!

Cathi Mac

Saturday 29th of January 2022

I love love your guide to ireland. I’ve been planning a trip since a few years and yours is one of the best I’ve found. Thanks Cathi Mac

Brian Jones

Tuesday 14th of January 2020

I love this road trip ! So glad that the tourist buses don’t run on this route

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