Around Ireland In 18 Days: A Coastal Road Trip Of A Lifetime (Full Itinerary)

Day 6. West Cork to Kerry

It feels like we’ve been on the road for months at this stage.

Although, maybe it just feels like that because I’ve been typing this guide out over the course of a few days (pop a comment in the comment section below if you’ve gotten this far!) and my fingers feel like they’re about to fall off.

Another mighty day is in store for all you fine folk follow along – let’s get at it!

1. Jumping Aboard Ireland’s Only Cable Car

Dursey Island Cable Car
Photo by Babetts Bildergalerie (Shutterstock)

Allihies to Dursey Island Cable Car – 22-minute drive (leave Allihies at 9, arrive at 9:22). Point your car in the direction of Dursey Island and get ready to board the only cable car in Ireland.

Originally opened in 1969, the Dursey Island cable car remains, to this day, the most used means of transport across the choppy waters of the Dursey Sound.

The cable car runs 250m above the sea and takes just 10 minutes to transport explorers from the mainland to the most westerly of West Cork’s inhabited islands.

When you reach the island, have a ramble around and enjoy spectacular views of the Beara Peninsula.

2. Kenmare

Kenmare town kerry
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

Dursey Island to Kenmare – allow for 2 hours (leave Dursey Island at 10:40, arrive in Kenmare for 12:40).

The road that’ll take you to Kenmare is a long and beautiful one, with an ever-changing tapestry of mountains, colourful towns (stop in Eyeries for a gander) and craggy coastline.

I haven’t put any stops in here, but I’m factoring in that it’ll take us 2 hours (the drive according to Google maps is 1 hour and 26 minutes)

When you arrive in Kenmare head to Mick & Jimmy’s Restaurant for a bit of lunch. Once you’ve eaten, have a stroll around the town.

Kenmare is somewhere I could see myself living. The people (the ones I’ve encountered the three times I’ve visited, anyway) are lovely, the pubs are buzzing and the town is surrounded by endless adventure opportunities.

Get your fill and let’s get going.

3. Sneem

o'sheas pub sneem

Kenmare to Sneem – 28-minute drive (leave Kenmare at 1:40, arrive in Sneem for 2:10). Our next stop is the little village of Sneem on Kerry’s Iveragh Peninsula.

The view that unravels in front of you as you drive into Sneem is worth the visit alone – rolling mountains seem to fold in upon you from every angle as you enter one of Kerry’s most wonderfully quaint villages.

Imagine winding down with the below view laid out in front of you after a hard day exploring!

I love this place. We aren’t spending long here on this trip, but take a little time to admire the mountains that surround the town as you walk through.

4. The Sandy Shores of Derrynane Beach

Derrynane Beach
Photo by Dwyerkev (Shutterstock)

Sneem to Derrynane Beach – 27-minute drive (leave Sneem at 14:30, arrive to the sand for 15:00).

Our next stop is a beach that you’ll regularly hear people ranting and raving about. You’ll find Derrynane Beach just two miles north of Caherdaniel on the Ring of Kerry.

The minute you step out of the car and start to soak up the view, you’ll understand why so many people recommended adding it to your itinerary. Derrynane Beach is beautiful.

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

On the day that I was there, there were only three other people walking along the beach. A great little spot to clear the head.

5. The Wonderful Town of Waterville

Waterville Kerry
Photo by JordiCarrio (Shutterstock)

Derrynane Beach to Waterville – 20-minute drive (leave the beach at 15:35, arrive to Waterville for 15:55). I never need to plan a visit to Waterville.

It’s like my subconscious arranges every trip to Kerry so that one way or another, I just end up there.

An amazing friend who is unfortunately no longer with us took me here many years ago and the place holds an abundance of happy and sad memories for me.

I’m drawn to it constantly. And always will be. For those of you that are hungry or in need of a coffee, nip into An Corcan (the steak sandwich is unreal).

It’s a pokey little cafe/restaurant and the people working there are beyond warm and friendly. Waterville is lovely. Park the car. Stretch the legs.

Fun fact: the town was a favourite holiday spot of Charlie Chaplin. He and and his family first visited the town in 1959 and came back every year for over ten years. You’ll see a statue of him in the center of the village in his memory

6. Driving the Skellig Ring

the skellig ring in kerry
Photo by Tom Archer

Waterville to Portmagee (via the Skellig Ring) – 44-minute drive, but we’re allowing for 2 hours – leave Waterville at 16:30, arrive in Portmagee for 18:30). The next two hours are going to be special.

We’re about to travel along an 18km route that links Waterville to Portmagee via Ballinskelligs. Expect raw, wild, magnificent scenery, with the jagged outline of Skellig Michael on the horizon rarely far from view.

The Skellig Ring is a very straightforward drive, where you’ll discover the best it has to offer as you spin along it. The one stop-off point I’m going to recommend is the Kerry Cliffs.

I’ve visited the Kerry Cliffs twice now, and on both occasions, I was one of maybe 2 or 3 other people that were there at the time.

The cliffs, which are over 1,000 feet (305 meters) high, offer spectacular views of the Skellig Islands and Puffin Island.

This is one of those places that makes you really aware of how powerful mother nature is. The thunderous crash as waves collide with sharp cliff face rings out in your ears constantly.

7. Portmagee for the night

Portmagee in Kerry
Photo by Tom Archer via Tourism Ireland

You should arrive to Portmagee for around half six or so. I’m going to recommend that you stay in the Moorings Guesthouse, which is at the heart of the lovely little village of Portmagee.

Check-in and then head down to the bar for some food and a couple of pints.

You may have seen videos from this pub back when Star Wars was being shot in the area (Mark Hamill was shot pulling a pint at the bar).

14 COMMENTS

  1. I have been using your guide for the past few months to plan my Ireland trip set for April 2019. I figured it was about time I dropped a comment!! 🙂 Your guide has helped me tremendously as it seems to encompass everything we are looking to find in Ireland…. raw natural beauty, unique experiences, good coffee, and good beer! Can’t thank you enough. I hope to comment again once we return!

    • Ah, thank you. I’m glad. Getting comments like this make it worth it.

      I hope you’re trip goes well.

      Cheers,

      Keith

  2. This is seriously the best travel guide ever. I was getting stressed because I’ll be solo traveling all of March and haven’t planned much (by design) and this gives the perfect outline of exactly the things I want to do and see. So thank you for the enormous amount of time this must have taken. So much appreciated.

    • Haha! Cheers dude.

      Glad you found it useful. This took roughly 3 weeks of research and writing… and rewriting.

      I hope the trip goes well.

      Keith

  3. We’re traveling to Ireland in November, 2019 and thank you very much for your outline and information. Question: On maps, it shows Northern Ireland almost like another country. Do you need anything to pass from Ireland to Northern Ireland and back, or is it all in the same? Seems trivial, but it could make a big difference if we plan to do things in Northern Ireland and then we could possibly not have the proper travel documents. Also, do you know if your passport is all you need or if you need a travel visa? Thanks for your time. Have a great day!. WandanTexas

    • Hi Wanda,

      You’re welcome.

      Northern Ireland is technically part of the UK, so it is regarded as a different country.

      Currently, there is no form of ‘hard’ border, but there’s been a lot of talk about the potential of one with Brexit looming.

      If you’re driving a rental car, this is where things can get tricky. I had one from Europa car recently and was told I’d be automatically charged (they have GPS devices within the rental) whenever my car passed into Northern Ireland – the max total charge was 90 euro, I believe.

      If you’re renting a car, be sure to check this in advance.

      I hope this helps.

      Keith

  4. Hi,
    This is a great guide, but if you had a few extra days…
    Three Castle Head is also stunning. You are close enough to it when you are heading for brow head. Well worth it!
    Lough Hyne in Skibbereen is also beautiful, lovely forest walk and salt water lake to swim in. Night time kayaking with the bioluminescent water a must!
    Enjoy,
    Joanne

    • Thanks for the recommendations Joanne.

      Love Lough Hyne in particular. Did the forest climb with my dad last summer on a hot day in July – great spot!

  5. Question for Keith and others. We have a wonderful opportunity to spend a month in Ireland and in previous trips we’ve enjoyed many of the same activities you do…hiking, enjoying the featured sights and geography in general, informal dining, great pubs, etc. We have never been north of Westport, county Mayo. Would it be worth it to spend a week in the Sligo / Donegal region? If yes, we would rent a house for the week. Is there a town that would be central to this region that you could recommend as a home base? We would be there in late August/early Sept 2020.
    Thanks in advance for your response (or anyone else who could add their thoughts)

    • Hi Bill.

      Abbbbbbbbbbbsolutely spend a week in Sligo and Donegal.

      There’s a tonne of things to do in both, regardless of whether you decide to do something active or just chill.

      Personally, I’d spend half in Sligo and half in Donegal.

      Here’s a guide to 48 hours in Sligo that should help, along with a 3-day guide to the best things to do in Donegal.

      In terms of where to stay – I love Strandhill and Rosses Point. For Donegal, it’s hard to beat Ardara.

      I hope this helps!

      Keith

  6. Hi Keith,
    I am planning our road trip to Ireland in october and I love your Instagram account. I like to use your suggestions for our schedule.
    On day 11 you suggest to leave Westport and Achill on the same time (16:55) ? So this is a pretty long day 😉 I prefer to stay an extra night on Achill Island. What do you think?
    Thanks
    Uli

    • Aha! OK, that’s clearly a mistake on my part. I’ll get those times updated!

      I love Achill, personally.

      There’s nothing bad that can come from a second night spent there.

  7. Hi Keith,

    I am considering travelling to Ireland this summer via road-trip and AirBnBs. While researching, I found your blog and found it very helpful and resourceful.

    I am travelling from New Delhi (India) with my extended family (infants, toddlers, siblings, wife, parents etc.). Assuming this might be our only trip to Ireland together as a family, I am interested in covering Ireland comprehensively within a limitation of 11-13 days.

    Is it possible to shorten the suggested 18-day itinerary to the above duration by bypassing some of the locations or sites. I understand this would mean we missing a few locations, but need your help.

  8. Really digging this blog!! I have the travel blog so bad and Ireland is next on the list – your recommendations are speaking to me! Thanks for taking the time to create all the wonderful road trips / ideas.

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