Today’s wanderlusting will bring us to another golden spot in the south-west of Ireland in county Kerry, the famous “Ring of Kerry” which seems to have been competing for a number of decades with Kerry’s other gem that we already explored in the previous blog post “Dingle Peninsula” over a tourist’s first place choice on the podium.
In today’s article, we will be finding out together what makes the Ring of Kerry so special and why it should make your bucket list of the places you’d look to visit. Travelling through middle-earth all the way to mordor and just like Bilbo Baggins, be able to return home with the classic say “there and back”… *sigh
Located in the south-west of the country on the Iveragh Peninsula, the 179KM or (111 mile) long circular tourist route, finds itself on the path and as part of the ‘Wild Atlantic Way’ (which preserves Ireland’s natural beauty and as mentioned previously, stretches from the southern town of Kinsale in Cork all the way to the Inishowen Peninsula in the north of the country).
The Ring of Kerry is known as ‘Mórchuaird Chiarraí‘ in Irish and just as Annascaul (from our previous article) is an area rich in it’s archeological remains and hence has much to exhibit, such as the ‘Dunloe ogham stones’, many old monasteries and castles, a number of stone forts scattered around the peninsula with one such example be the ‘Loher Stone Fort’ in the south-west of the peninsula with more examples of such structures that we are going to explore on our journey together, in just a second.
Facing the Atlantic ocean, The Ring of Kerry features many gorgeous sandy beaches along it’s magical coastline, a carved out landscape out of rock dating back to the last Ice Age 10,000 years ago and even more and more waterfalls and mountains as one proceeds inwards, with the highest peak in Ireland ‘Carrantuohill’ at 1,038.6 metres placed in the near centre of the Ring. The Ring may be regarded as a majestical dream for a photographer (like me.. heh), just like Disneyland in Paris for children, with so many opportunities for one or more great shots that the marvelous scenery only allows for.
For those who are planning on staying longer, the Ring of Kerry offers many recreational activities for it’s holiday residents, from water-sports to golf and horse riding, fishing or other activities like cycling or walking, just give’s one the good old taste of the South-western Kerry-ish summer.
On our today’s journey we will be hopping around the map, from one golden breath taking spot to the other, hence giving this article a second title “the best of the Ring of Kerry in a nutshell”, giving you the necessary information your searching for starting with Killarney National Park or (if your taking this journey to a whole different level by imaging your in the Lord of the Rings)
…. it’s Shire.
Stay tuned to find out which place on the Ring did the Irish Time’s Newspaper regard as “the most photographed place in Ireland” and where you might find the world’s tallest dogs.
Killarney National Park
The Killarney National Park may be considered as the starting point, the gateway to the Ring of Kerry.
‘Páirc Náisiúnta Chill Airne’ in Irish, was the first ever national park established in the country of Ireland. Located on the western outskirts of Killarney town, the park began to expand from 1932 since it’s creation in that year when the Muckross Estate was donated to the Irish Free State. Nowadays the park covers a distance of 102.89 km2 (as given by wikipedia). The park is prounounced to be of high ecological value due to a number of factors such as the park’s diversity and the wide variety of species aswell as extensivesnes of habits that the park accomodates, with a number of them having to be addressed as ‘rare’.
The park’s significant beauty can be noticed almost at every corner, oak and yew woodlands, to it’s lakes and the mountain peaks that stand proud on the other side of them. The Killarney National Park’s landmarks that seem to belong with the nature in the park part of a giant painting at a galery exhibition, include the tudor styled 19th century mansion ‘Muckross House’, the 15th century built Franciscan Friary, the Ross Castle looking over Killarney’s lower lake, built in the 15t century also and the Torc waterfall among others that together with the examples mentioned above, we will discover more in detail in a future blog post.
Areas of Natural Beauty & Viewing Points
Some of the best known viewing points one will stumble upon, once leaving Killarney or the gates to the Ring of Kerry, are the Gap of Dunloe, Moll’s Gap (between Killarney & Kenmare) and of course, the Ladies View Viewing point, which is regarded as one of the most photographed places in the country of Ireland, according to the Irish Times Newspaper.
Great Skellig or ‘Sceilg Mhichíl‘ in Irish, is another golden spot that takes the list of places to visit when exploring the Ring of Kerry and probably one of the more trickier one’s to get to aswell. Located just of the coast, 11.6km (7.2 miles) west of the Iveragh Peninsula stands the twin-pinnacled crag known as the Skellig Michael.
The name ‘Skellig’ is derrived from the Irish language whilst the Island itself was named after the archangel Michael. The Island has a loooong and almost, fascinating history, that goes back millions of years to it’s formation, with the rise of the island and later it’s detachment with the mainland due to rising sea levels. For the duration of it’s existance the Island remained largely uninhabited until an Augustinian monastery was founded there, with an estimate of only 12 monks plus an abbot who lived there at a time. The exact time of the establishment of the monastery remains un-certain to this day, with certain figures relating between the 6th and 8th centuries.
So.. let’s just say that humans really do get around and have stepped foot almost everywhere, even the places thought to be near impossible to reach !
Nowadays, the Island is known for it’s twin peaks and the valley in between known as ‘Christ Saddle’, the monastic settlement that features remains of a tower house, a megalithicstone row aswell as the ‘Wailing Woman’ which is a cross-inscribed slab. The Island may no longer be inhabited by people but it does feature a variety od species like a colony of razorbills and 50 grey seals, among a few others.
The Blue Pool
The Blue Pool is an enchanting nature sanctuary which is home to much of it’s freely roaming wildlife that can be found along the Cloghereen Blue Pool Walk. It is a horseshoe shaped body of crystal clear water with it’s gorgeous shade and colour green, placed within the peaceful ambiance of the forest.
The Cloghereen Blue Pool Walk is located just outside of Killarney town and hence the gateway to the Ring of Kerry, with one’s choice whether to make the Blue Pool Walk an idealistic and excitement building intro to their journey or a calm and settled outro.
Beaches of the Ring of Kerry
Dingle Peninsula’s rival from across the sea in the neighbouring peninsula, also has a spot to show off what it’s proud of. So let’s explore some of these places together. Starting of with the northern coastline beaches of the Peninsula.
Rossbeigh Beach or ‘Ros Beithe‘ in Irish, is a beach located 1.6km from the village of Glenbeigh. This long sand spit and dunes beach features a lovely sandy beach with amazing views into the atlantic and the mountains that can be observed from the beach of the Dingle Peninsula to the north and the mountains of Iveragh Peninsula to the south.
The beach is considered an important habitat for flora and fauna by organisations like Castlemaine Harbour Special Area of Conservation or the proposed Natural Heritage Area. The beach offers a variety of diffreent activities that maybe dependant on the beaches fast changing tides, aswell as the annual horse racing festival that takes place at the beach at the end of summer.
Near the Rossbeigh beach to the east, only 3 miles away from Glenbeigh stands the sheltered beach of Dook or ‘Dook’s Beach‘ and to the west Kell’s Beach which is described as another lovely sandy beach on the coast of the Iveragh peninsula that offers beautifal views of the Dingle bay, the Dingle peninsula aswell as the Blasket Islands.
Whitestrand, St.Finian’s Bay, Reen Rua and Ballinskellig are some of the more known beaches on the western coastine of the Iveragh peninsula. With Whitestrand located slightly further north from the ones mentioned above, the beach forms part of the Valentia Harbour and hence offers some of excellent views of Valentia Island (that we will be exploring soon), aswell as Begnis Island.
Reen Rua Beach goes by two other names ‘Reen Roe’ and ‘Rinroe’, located between Waterville and Balinskelligs, Reen Rua Beach is regarded as the perfect place for watersports and surfing, especially for beginner surfers with the beach having a sandy bottom.
Southern coastline beaches of the Peninsula include Derrynane Beach, which is an extensive sandy beach near the Derrynane House and south west of Caherdaniel, the sheltered Castlecove Beach which takes it’s visitors by surprise with it’s breath-taking views. The beach is known for it’s beauty, it’s turqious waters and clean white sand.
Further to the east one can find a route to the Coral Beach, which differs to all the other beaches we talked about within this article and is different to all other beaches found in Ireland, as this southern coastline beach is made from dried and sun-bleached algae rather than sand.
The Coral Beach would be regarded as an unusual and almost rare site to see in Ireland, which is definetly a good reason to pay it a little visit along with a camera, whilst on the road.
One cannot talk about Valentia Island without mentioning the coastal village of Portmagee (or in Irish ‘An Caladh‘ which litteraly means ‘the ferry’ and is more locally known by this name), that connects this Island to the mainland.
On the Iveragh peninsula, south of Valentia Island lies the village of Portmagee and thanks to the Maurice o’Neill Memorial Bridge built in 1970, an easier and faster access to the Island is guaranteed. Some argue that because of this bridge, Valentia is no longer an island.
Portmagee, described as a ‘small picturesque’ coastal fishing village with brightly painted houses all in different colours one after the other is one of a unique site on the Ring of Kerry with the history of this town described as a ‘paradise for smugglers and pirates’. Portmagee prounounced as the tourism town of Ireland back in 2012, offers lovely views of the Valentia Island, the Atlantic and the gigantic mountains right to the south of the village aswell as many different activities from the obvious fishing to boat tours around the Skellig Islands. We recommed visiting Portmagee especially if your a photographer.
Knightstown and Chapel town are known to be the only villages on the Island of Valentia which along with some of other places and landmarks on the Island, are connected with some of the most narrow roads that are found in the country, even narrower than the standard in Kerry!! … what the heck?
However that shouldn’t discourage you from exploring the Island. Besides the amazing scenery the Island has to offer and views of the Iveragh peninsula to the south aswell as Dingle peninsula to the distant east, theres a number of places to explore from the most popular tourist site in the north of the Island the Lighthouse, the Old Slate Quarry, the Tetrapad Trackpad (which features footprints of the the first ever creatures that roamed through the land approx. 350 million years ago), the Bray Head (highly recommended for photographers but not only) and the St.Brendan’s Well.
The Skellig Experience gives insight to those interested in the history and the culture of the Island aswell as Skellig Island and the monks who once lived there (which we already touched on earlier in this article). The Central Auditorium aids with that purpose, thanks to the audio visual presentation on the life of a monk living on the Island back in the 6th century. The centre exhibits content on the lighthouse aswell as artefacts that relate to the Valentia Island.
The Landmarks of the Ring of Kerry
The Ring of Kerry along with the Iveragh peninsula is home to a number of castles, stone forts along with a variety of other archeological remains that make the peninsula rich in that matter, as mentioned earlier. All of the places that we are going to explore together, underneath this heading within the article, are equally worth the visit, just how the beaches and landscapes of the Ring of Kerry are regarded as a photographer’s paradise, this special and unique part of the journey will become a sweet spot for all those studying the people from the past and hence generally interested in history.
Some of the most well-known castles on our journey around the ring include, the Ross Castle and the Castlelough Castle ruins stand on the edge of Lough Leane in Killarney National Park, the 1830s Manor House Dromore Castle in Templenoe and the four storey tower house Dunkerron Castle, located on the western shore of Ballinskelligs Bay and constructed by MacCarthy Mórs back in the 16th Century stands the Ballinskellig Castle, standing on a grass hill facing the sea near to the town of Cahersiveen one may find the Ballycarbery Castle, The Wynn’s Castle next to the town of Glenbeigh (also known as the ‘The Glenbeigh Towers’), the Ballymalis Castle northwest of Beaufort. The Derryquin Castle ruins and the castle ruins south of the Cahergall Stone fort located in the north-eastern side of the peninsula near Cahersiveen and the marina view.
Other landmarks on the Ring of Kerry include St.Mary’s Cathedral in Killarney, the Kellegy Church on the Kenmare – Killarney road, the Beehive Cells and the Stone Pillars near the Skellig Islands, the O’Connell Memorial Church in Cahersiveen town and the already mentioned above, Cahergal Stone fort which among tourists is one of the more popular landmarks to visit. Other examples of Stone forts found on the Ring are the Staigue Stone Fort and the Leacanabuaile Stone Fort both north west of the marina view, the Caherdaniel Stone Fort, the Loher Stone Fort north of Beenarourke (which is another great viewing point).
The Dunloe Ogham stones south of Beaufort may be the more known if not, the only example of an Ogham Stones site on the entire ring, in contrast to the Dingle peninsula which has more. However these eight standing in a semi-circle stones of different heights prove to be of great historical significance and there is a certain theory believed by the locals that seven of these eight stones once were the roof of an underground passage.
The stones at Kenmare town and ‘Íoċtar Ċua‘ in Irish, or the Eightercua stones north of Castlecove and Whitestrand are both boulder burials and are also some of the archeological remains that represent a historical significance on the Ring of Kerry.
Discovering the History of the Ring of Kerry
Since we have touched on the word ‘history’ in this article post, we might aswell submerge ourselves a little bit deeper within that area and get to know the mighty Ring of Kerry, from a different angle.
Of course, there wouldn’t be many articles out there on the web that would refer to the history of the Ring as a whole (as one entity), bar how two decades ago in 2008 satellite navigation systems failed to provide bus drivers with the correct directions in the anti-clockwise direction around the ring. The Ring of Kerry (simularily to the Slea Head Drive, from our previous article), is a drive that covers a large distance with a number of towns, villages, landmarks or other places of beauty that appear either on the drive or are located nearby and the only history that the Ring as a whole would be known for is the reputation the Ring of Kerry has been and is currently building, how it is one of most popular and known tourist attractions in the country of Ireland.
With that being mentioned, the Ring of Kerry however encompasses a bunch of different places that do have a history waiting to be explored, with some key figures in Irish History who actually come from the Iveragh peninsula such as…
Daniel O’Connell, a 19th century political leader who was also known as ‘the liberator’ is known for his campaigne for catholic emancipation that touched on the rights for catholics to sit in the Westminister Parliament which were denied for more than 100 years, aswell as the repeal of the ‘Acts of Union’. O’Connell throughout his career in Irish politics built a huge following among the Irish aswell as support and to this day is remembered in Irish History as an important figure. Today, the Derrynane House near the town of Caherdaniel, serves as a Museum that commemorates the life of Daniel O’Connell and his family, where one can explore more about the history of the politican.
Kerry Woollen Mills
Have you ever heard of a company that runs it’s business for over 300 years ? Well if not, then this may be your first time.
Located just outside of Killarney town in Beaufort, we will come across the 17th century old Kerry Wollen Mills. These Mills have been in business for over 300 years and still to this day continue the traditions laid out by their founders (..oh boy would they be impressed if they only knew right ?)
However that doesn’t mean the procedures used remain the same, of course not, the Mills take advantage of the modern and up to date technology, styling for today’s perceptive customers from the country of Ireland aswell as overseas.
The Bog Village
The Kerry Bog Village Museum located west of Glenbeigh near the Caragh Bridge and Caragh Lake is another spot on the Ring of Kerry to check out if one is interested in Ireland’s rural history and heritage. The Museum offers it’s visitors the insight into the lives of our great ancestors who lived through the famine years in the late 19th century, the conditions they lived in, their lifestyle aswell as their culture and customs.
The village has thatched cottages furnished with authentic antiques on display, along with an array of rural farm equipment that can be found outdoors, that was once used by the farmers and turf cutters of that time.
At the Kerry Bog Village, one can come across the ‘Kerry Bog Pony’ which was once almost extinct, aswell as the word’s tallest dogs known as the ‘Irish Wolfhound’.
Cahersiveen Heritage Centre
Moving south-west of the Bog Village to the Cahersiveen Heritage Centre. Constructed between the years 1870 and 1875 by the British Government, was originally known as the Royal Irish Constabulary Barracks.
As explained in one of the articles found on the website dedicated to the building on ‘The Old Barracks’, in order to understand why the Barracks were built and established there and why the building was regarded as a matter of importance for the British Government, one must travel back in time to 1866, where telegraph communication was established for the first time between America and the continent of Europe, with a telegraph cable being laid across the Atlantic stretching from Valentia Island and Newfoundland.
The project at the time was regarded as a big expense for the British Government who gradually became ever more concerned about the security of the cable once a rising by the Irish locals took place that raised worries of further uprisings that could endanger the project, hence the Barracks was constructed to fight against the growing threat.
The Barracks nowadays serve as a museum which explores the history of the building and in greater debth.
Originally coming from the town of Kenmare, south-west of Killarney, the Kenmare Lace is an Irish needleepoint lace which is made with the use of a thread and a needle.
The history of the Kenmare Lace goes back to the 19th century where poverty following the Great Famine was experienced wildly across the country. The story begins with the sisters of the Poor Clare convent who arrived to Kenmare in 1861, who originally came to teach the children of the locality, introduced needlepoint lace to the women and girls of Kenmare.
Thanks to the Poor Clare nuns, the people of locality learned a skill that helped them earn a living during those difficult times in history, which was of course lacemaking, aswell as Kenmare being hugely known today for that beautifal lace.
Today, the ‘Kenmare Lace & Design Centre’ located in Kenmare serves not only as a museum, but also as a craft shop and a meeting place for lace makers from different corners of the world, where Lace is displayed, demonstrated and sold.
That’s all for this week!! Thank you for joining us on this journey around the Ring of Kerry. We hope you enjoyed reading this blog post and found it informative. Our up-coming article will be on Killarney National Park and our previous article on the Dingle Peninsula you may find here. You may share with us your feedback in our comments box below which will be hugely appreciated by our team.
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Au revoir and have a lovely weekend,