If you’re in search of the best things to do in Kerry, you’ve landed in the right place.
Located in the South-West of Ireland where it’s squeezed between Cork and Limerick, Kerry is arguably one of the most scenic counties in Ireland.
In the guide below, you’ll discover looooads of places to visit in Kerry in 2021, from tourist favourites to ‘hidden’ gems.
Table of Contents
The best things to do in Kerry (a quick overview)
The first section of this guide will give you a nice, speedy overview of the most popular things to do in Kerry, like the Ring of Kerry and the various hikes and walks.
1. Drives and cycles
If you’re looking to explore by bike or car, you’re in luck – Kerry is home to some of the best drive and cycle routes in the land.
Some can be conquered over a couple of hours while some are best done in chunks, over several days. Here are the best of the bunch:
2. Hikes and walks
Arguably the best things to do in Kerry involve lashing on a pair of hiking boots and heading off into the mountains.
Now, for some of the walks in Kerry, you won’t need a huge amount of planning while for others, like Carrauntoohil, you’ll need to 1, be an experienced hiker or 2, have a guide.
Here are some of our favourite hikes and walks in Kerry:
- Mount Brandon Hike
- Torc Mountain Walk
- The Dingle Way
- Carrauntoohil Hike
- Cardiac Hill
- Killarney National Park Walks
3. Beaches galore
If you’re in search of places to visit in Kerry that’ll take you away from the crowds, you’ll find peace and quiet on many of the beaches in Kerry.
Unless you visit the more popular spots during the summer… then they’ll be mobbed, at times! Some of our favourites are:
4. Unique attractions
There are plenty of places to see in Kerry that lay slightly off-the-beaten-path and that rarely make the covers of shiny tourist guidebooks.
Which is a shame, because places like Ballaghbeama Gap (pictured above) and the Kerry Dark Sky Reserve are all well worth visiting. Here are some of the more unusual things to do in Kerry:
- Ballaghbeama Gap
- Puck Fair (Ireland’s oldest fair)
- The Kerry Dark Sky Reserve
- The Great Blasket Island
5. Historical sites
You’ll find places with immense historical significance scattered right the way across the county, and I’m not just talking about the many castles in Kerry.
There are plenty of unique and unusual places to visit in Kerry, like Skellig Michael and Kenmare’s Stone Circle, that’ll tickle the fancy of history fans. Places like:
6. Towns and villages
Before you decide on what to do in Kerry, it’s worth having a think about where you’d like to stay during your visit.
Some of the best places to visit in Kerry are the lovely little towns and villages that you’ll find scattered around the county. Here are a handful to checkout:
The best places to visit in Kerry
The next section in our guide to the best things to do in Kerry focuses on specific places to visit and things to see/do.
You’ll find the more popular Kerry attractions in this section. Later in the guide you’ll discover hikes and walks and the more unusual places to visit in Kerry.
1. The Kerry Cliffs
I’ve visited the Kerry Cliffs twice over the years, 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 305 meters high, offer spectacular views of the Skellig Islands, Puffin Island, and the surrounding countryside.
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.
2. Conor Pass
A drive along the very narrow pass is one of the more unique things to do in Kerry. It’s also something that tends to terrify some nervous drivers.
Conor Pass runs from Dingle out towards Brandon Bay and Castlegregory, and is one of the highest mountain passes in Ireland, standing a whopping 410 m above the sea level.
The narrow road snakes alongside the mountain and weaves its way along sharp cliff faces on one side and an enormous drop to the other.
You can pull in at the side of the road before the pass and admire the views around you. Now, if you’re driving in Ireland for the first time, this may sound intimidating.
But don’t worry – take your time, drive carefully, and keep calm if a vehicle approaches you from the opposite direction.
3. Valentia Island
If you read our guide to Valentia Island in Kerry, then you’ll know I’m borderline obsessed with this place.
Valentia Island is pretty damn special. The island boasts a wealth of history and the scenery throughout is incredible.
In the photo above, you’ll see some of the views that you’ll be treated to as you stand and gaze out from the viewing point on Geokaun Mountain.
This really is one of the best places to visit in Kerry. And if you visit off-peak the chances are you’ll only encounter a handful of people.
4. Torc Waterfall
Torc Waterfall is a handy 7 kilometres from Killarney Town. You can park the car here. I can’t recommend visiting here early in the morning enough.
As a visit here is one of the most popular things to do in Killarney, it gets insanely busy, and parking can be impossible.
If you can, try and get here early in the morning (and by early, I mean early).
On my last two visits here the place was overrun with crowds, which made getting parking a nightmare and also meant the place was swarming with people.
Kenmare is one of those towns that I could see myself happily retire in. I spent 5 weeks here not long ago and I loved every minute of it.
Kenmare is surrounded by knock-you-on-your-arse scenery, the people are lovely (based on my last 4 visits), and there’s plenty of great restaurants and pubs to nip into.
There’s also plenty of walks to do nearby and an almost endless number of adventure opportunities a short spin away. Here’s some Kenmare guides to hop into:
- 11 Of The Best Things To Do In Kenmare
- 9 Of Best Hotels In Kenmare For A Weekend Break
- The Best Restaurants In Kenmare For A Tasty Feed Tonight
6. Coumeenoole Beach
This place really is wild. What you won’t get from the image above is the sheer power of the wind that gushes over you as you hop out of your car/off your bike here.
A place that’ll bash away the stickiest of cobwebs. For fans of the film ‘Ryan’s Daughter’, you may recognise Coumeenoole Beach as it was one of the locations used in the movie.
7. Killarney National Park
A visit to Killarney National Park regularly tops the lists as one of the best things to do in Kerry. Why? Well, it has a little something for everyone.
The park, which is over 102.9 km², is home to endless walks, historical sites and points of interests. The best way to explore it is by renting a bike in the town and spinning around it.
Here are some places to visit in the park:
8. The Skellig Islands
The Skellig Islands lie off the coast of Kerry and can be reached by ferry from Portmagee Pier. However, they are one of the trickiest tourist attractions in Kerry to reach.
There are two types of tours for those of you that want to visit Skellig Michael: The landing tour (this is the one where you’ll get onto Skellig Michael) and the Eco Tours (this is where the ferries circle the islands).
The Landing Tours need to be booked well in advance, as there is a cap on the number of people that can step onto Skellig Michael each day (180 visitors).
The Eco Tours are easier to get onto, but still need to be booked in advance. The Skelligs are one of the most sought-after places to see in Kerry for good reason!
9. The Dingle Peninsula
Home to the lively Dingle Town, the Dingle Peninsula tends to attract visitors in their droves each and every year.
The Peninsula is one of the most popular places to visit in Kerry thanks to the seemingly endless number of things to do on it, from the Slea Head drive to hikes, walks and much more.
In the guides below, you’ll find everything you need to explore Dingle:
- 24 Of The Best Things To Do In Dingle
- 11 Dingle Pubs That Are Perfect For Post-Adventure Pints
- The Best Restaurants In Dingle For A Tasty Feed Tonight
- 11 Gorgeous Hotels In Dingle You’ll Love In 2021
10. Moll’s Gap
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 a woman named Moll Kissane.
Moll ran a shebeen (a small pub) in the area during the construction of the original Kenmare Killarney road in the 1820s. It’s said that 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.
11. The Skellig Ring
Expect raw, wild, magnificent scenery, with the jagged outline of Skellig Michael on the horizon rarely far from view.
The Skellig Ring route is a pretty straightforward drive that doesn’t need a whole load of planning. You’ll discover sights and scenery around every narrow bend.
12. The Ring of Kerry
The Ring of Kerry is arguably the best-known driving and cycling route in Ireland. This is a 179km-long, circular route that takes in a clatter of the best scenery in the county.
If you’ve never taken a spin along it before, you can expect rugged landscapes, mountains, rural coastal towns and villages and much, much more.
13. Dun Chaoin Pier
Dun Chaoin Pier is the departure point for the Blasket Island Ferry. You’ll find it at the northern end of a small secluded bay enveloped by rocky cliffs.
You can take a stroll down the pier itself or admire the view from above (be careful – the cliffs here are unguarded and the area that surrounds them is uneven).
When viewed from above, the narrow, winding road that leads to the pier can only be described as a wonderful little slice of architectural madness.
The quirky road combined with the gorgeous rocky peaks that jut out from the water in front of the pier makes for a wonderfully unique scene on County Kerry’s dramatic coastline.
14. Ladies View (one of the most popular Kerry attractions)
Ladies View is a scenic viewpoint on the Ring of Kerry, on the road that takes you from Killarney to Kenmare.
It got its name after Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting* visited here during the royal visit in 1861 and were completely taken by the view.
This is one of the more accessible tourist attractions in Kerry, as you can, quite literally, park right in front of it.
What to do in Kerry if you fancy an active break
If you’re wondering what to do in Kerry that’ll give your legs a big aul stretch, you’re in luck – Kerry’s home to a good variety of walks and hikes.
From Ireland’s highest mountain to some lesser known hills and peaks, there’s a walk to suit every level of fitness in the guide below.
Carrauntoohil is the highest mountain in Ireland. It stands at a whopping at 1,038.6 metres and is the central peak of the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks.
There are several routes to choose from here. The most popular route is the Devil’s Ladder, as it’s the shortest route (4 to 6 hours) to the top and boasts a track that, when kept to, is easy to follow.
If you plan on climbing Carrauntoohil, be adequately prepared. The mountain range can have changeable weather, which means experience or a seasoned guide is essential.
You can find a full guide to climbing Ireland’s highest peak in our detailed guide to the Carrauntoohil hike (the Devils Ladder trail).
2. Mount Brandon
For those of you visiting Kerry and looking for a decent hike that offers magnificent views of the Kerry coastline, the Mount Brandon hike will be right up your street.
At 952 metres, Mount Brandon is one of the tallest mountains in Ireland. As you can probably gather, this is one for the more seasoned hikers (or for those with a guide!)
The Pilgrims’ Path is arguably the most scenic (and one of the most difficult) routes to the summit of Brandon. It follows a clear path and takes between 4 and 5 hours (depending on pace) to complete.
The summit of Brandon is one of my favourite places to go in Kerry when staying in Dingle, as you dodge the crowds and the views are out of this world.
3. Torc Mountain
An early morning walk at Torc Mountain is hard to beat. The walk to the summit, which is reasonably moderate, takes between 2 to 2.5 hours and rewards walkers with scenery throughout.
Expect a panoramic view that takes in Killarney town, the National Park’s lakes, Muckross House, and more.
There’s clear paths to follow and sleepers (the wooden boardwalk seen above) that make the journey to the top all the easier.
4. The Dingle Way
If you’re looking for things to do in Kerry on foot over a number of days, look no further than the mighty Dingle Way.
This is a roughly 176km route that takes walkers around the gorgeous coast of the Dingle Peninsula over the course of 8 days.
This one should appeal to the more seasoned walker, considering its length. With that being said, if you’ve less time to play with, you can easily join the trail at any number of points.
5. The Black Valley
The Black Valley is one of many places to visit in Kerry that makes you feel like you’re the last person left on earth. I’ve been here twice over the years.
On both occasions, I met only a handful of people. Peace, quiet and endless scenery. A combo that’ll soothe the soul.
Interestingly enough, the Black Valley was the last place in Ireland to be connected to the national electric grid way back in 1976!
6. Rossbeigh Hill
There are few things to do in Kerry where you’ll get a view that rivals the one from the Rossbeigh Hill walk.
If you like to explore by foot and you’re in search of places to visit in Kerry where you’ll be able to stretch the legs and get a mighty view, get yourself to Rossbeigh.
The Rossbeigh Hill Loop Walk takes between 3 and 4 hours depending on your fitness levels, and it offers a magnificent view out over the surrounding countryside.
The view of Rossbeigh Beach that you’ll be treated to is worth the trip alone. A perfect spot for an early morning hike.
7. Cardiac Hill
The Cardiac Hill walk is one of those hikes that you’ll feel in your legs for about two days after you’ve finished it!
Kicking off near Killarney Town (find where in this guide), Cardiac Hill kicks-off with hundreds of grueling steps that need to be conquered.
When you reach level ground, you’ll have plenty of viewpoint to soak up some brilliant vistas of the surrounding area.
If you’re wondering what to do in Kerry that’ll get the blood pumping, look no further than Cardiac Hill.
8. The Gap of Dunloe (one of the better-know Kerry tourist attractions)
A visit to the Gap of Dunloe should tickle the fancy of those of you looking for things to do in Kerry on foot! The Gap of Dunloe was formed around two million years ago when Killarney’s ice age took hold.
As the snow and ice were steadily pushed northward through the Killarney Valley, it gave the mountains their distinct, jagged appearance.
It was this event that resulted in the formation of what we now know as the Gap of Dunloe. You can park your car near Kate Kearney’s Cottage and ramble or cycle along the road here (takes between 2 and 3 hours, depending on pace).
Now, to be perfectly honest, I wouldn’t know a good wave if it bit me on the arse. But I’ve heard tell from many a surf fanatic that Ballybunion is a solid spot to catch one.
For those of you looking to hit the waves during your visit to Kerry, the lads at Ballybunion Surf School will be more than happy to oblige.
You can join a lesson on Ballybunion’s Men’s Beach. If you’re brave enough to hop into the icy waters of the Atlantic, that is.
10. Glenchaquin Park
Gleninchaquin Park is special. There’s no two ways about it. This is a long narrow valley that was formed by glaciation about 70,000 years ago.
And, although quite a bit of time has passed since the valley formed, little has changed. Expect waterfalls, lush green meadows and gorgeous woodlands.
The best way to explore the park is to set off on one of the park’s many walks. They range in length and difficulty, so you can take your pick.
Unique things to do in Kerry
Some of the best things to do in Kerry are, in my opinion, the places that either 1, take you off-the-beaten-path or 2, treat you to a nice, unique experience.
This section of the guide is packed places to visit and things to see in Kerry that tend to get missed by many visiting the county.
1. Ballaghbeama Gap
A spin along the road up the wonderful Ballaghbeama Gap is the perfect activity for those of you looking for things to do in Kerry that’ll take you away from the crowds.
Ballaghbeama cuts across the mountains in the centre of the Iveragh Peninsula. The road takes you along an isolated scenic route where you’ll meet little traffic, plenty of sheep and endless mountain views.
I did this drive with my Mam a few years ago and we’ve been chatting about it ever since. Take your time, soak up the views and enjoy the silence.
2. Coomanaspig Pass
I came across this place by complete fluke. We were on a trip to Kerry in October, it had rained all day, and, just as we reached the area that I now know as Coomanaspig, the sun started blazing away.
Check out the photo above to see what I mean. It’s said that Coomanaspig Pass is one of the highest places in Ireland that you can reach by car.
If you approach from the Kerry Cliffs, you’ll climb a steep hill. It’s at the top of this hill that you can pull in and admire a mighty view of the surrounding countryside.
3. The Kerry Dark-Sky Reserve (one of the most unusual things to do in Kerry)
There’s a corner of Kerry that has been designated an International Dark Sky Reserve by the International Dark-Sky Association.
Known as the Kerry Dark Sky Reserve, it’s one of only 3 Gold Tier Reserves on the planet and the only Gold Tier Reserve in the Northern Hemisphere.
Sounds cool, but what does it mean? It means that on a clear night the sky in this part of Ireland is scattered with astronomical sights that you can admire with the naked eye.
4. The Great Blasket Island
A visit to the Great Blasket Island will make you appreciate what Ireland of old would have been like.
You’ll find the island off the tip of the Dingle Peninsula, roughly 13 kilometres west of Dingle town.
It’s here that you’ll have the opportunity to explore over 1,100 acres of unspoiled, largely mountainous terrain to your heart’s content.
If you’re looking for things to do in Kerry that’ll take you away from the crowds while immersing you in some of the best scenery Ireland has to offer, get yourself here.
5. Glamping and camping
If you don’t fancy spending the night in one of the many hotels in Kerry, there’s plenty of alternative accommodation on offer.
6. Crag Cave (perfect for when you’re looking for places to go in Kerry in the rain)
If you’re looking for things to do in Kerry when it’s raining, then get Crag Cave on your list. Crag was discovered by divers in 1983 and is thought to be over 1 million years old.
The cave here is an ancient fossil cave system that was once filled with water, which eroded the rock into a beautiful maze of carved tunnels and chambers.
I hadn’t heard of this place until a friend visited at the start of the summer. The reviews online are top-notch (4.3 out of 807 reviews on Google) and the tour sounds excellent.
7. The Puck Fair
A visit to the Puck Fair (Ireland’s oldest festival, as it happens!) is hands-down the most unique of the many things to do in Kerry.
If you’re thinking to yourself, ‘Isn’t that the mad festival down in Kerry where they do something with a goat?!’ then yes, you’re spot on. Every summer, the festival at Puck takes place.
The first day of the festival is known as ‘the gathering’ and involves the Puck goat being enthroned on a stand in the town square.
On the last day of Puck (‘the scattering day’) the goat is removed from his stand and his reign as king Puck ends. He’s then eaten by all in attendance… that’s a joke – he’s returned to the wild Kerry mountains.
8. Castle accommodation
Fancy splashing the cash and staying in one of the many castle hotels Ireland has to offer? Give Ballyseede in Kerry a crack!
You’ll find Ballyseede in Tralee in Kerry, a stone’s throw from the Dingle Peninsula. Visitors to this hotel can expect an elegant interior, cosy drawing rooms, and plenty of nooks and crannies to relax in.
The castle dates back to the late 1500s and is set on 30 acres of native woodland. Oh, if you’re a fan of dogs you’ll be happy to know that there’s a resident wolfhound.
9. Tralee Bay Wetlands Eco & Activity Park
If you’re in search of fun things to do in Kerry, the final spot in our guide should be right up your street.
For those of you staying in or near Tralee, try and etch out some time to get to Tralee Bay Wetlands Eco & Activity Park.
Located on the fringes of town, Tralee Bay Wetlands Eco & Activity Park offers a unique escape that’s over 3,000 hectares in size.
Explore the flora and fauna of the area on a boat tour, a boardwalk or from the 20-metre high viewing tower. There’s also plenty of other things to do in Tralee when you finish up!
What County Kerry points of interest have we missed?
I’ve no doubt that we’ve missed out on plenty of Kerry attractions that need to be added to the guide above.
If you’d like to recommend and things to see in Kerry, shout away in the comments section below and we’ll check them out! Cheers!
FAQs about the top things to do in Kerry
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from what are the best things to do in Kerry to dodge the crowds to where to go in Kerry to get the best views.
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 Kerry?
This will vary depending on who you ask but, in my opinion, the best places to visit in Kerry are 1, Valentia Island, 2, Kenmare (as a base to explore from) and 3, the Dingle Peninsula.
What are the best places to visit in Kerry to soak up views (and avoid crowds)?
Many of the things to see in Kerry that attract the most visitors are the places that are easily accessible by car or tour bus. The likes of Torc Mountain and Mount Brandon are incredible, if you like hiking, but places like Coomanaspig Pass and the Kerry Cliffs tend to be quiet and the views are incredible.
What are the more unique and unusual Kerry attractions?
It’ll depend on how you define unique/unusual, but the likes of the Blasket Islands, the Dark Sky Reserve and parts of the Skellig Ring are very unique spots to have a nosey around.