08 Nov 3 Day Tour: Ring of Kerry
Place: Ring of Kerry (with overnights in Killarney, Portmagee, and Dingle)
Cost: €275 per person (includes gas from and back to Dublin, a 99 ice cream and 4 pints per day)
There is so much to see in Kerry, but our main goals for this weekend getaway were to visit Dingle and see the Kerry Cliffs. Mission accomplished, with some serious fish chowder and perfect pints along the way.
Evening: Drive to Killarney from Dublin
We drove to Killarney from Dublin in the late afternoon, a four-hour drive including gas stops at such establishments as Barack Obama Plaza (if you’re American, this is a can’t-miss). We checked in at Asheville House, a classic B&B just a few minutes walking from downtown Killarney, and headed into town for a casual pub crawl. We followed the music and vibes and honestly can’t recall where we stopped in, but you’ll find plenty of class pubs with traditional bands and stag parties for additional entertainment.
Day 1: Gap of Dunloe, Sneem, Portmagee
Breakfast is included at Asheville House, and the scrambled eggs with smoked salmon were excellent. Ross Castle, Muckross House and the Torc Waterfall are all right in this vicinity, but we chose the Gap of Dunloe for our main stop of the day. The Gap was a 20-minutes drive around Lough Leane from the B&B and there is a big parking lot with a café at the base. You’ll see loads of horsedrawn carriages continuing on from that point, and while there are signs cautioning against it you can absolutely continue driving past that point and all the way through the Gap in a small car.
We decided to hoof it, and encountered some wild wind and hail on our hike, not just your average Irish drizzle. Despite the wind-burn and soggy bottoms, we had an awesome time hiking alongside the sheep, and it’s breathtaking once you get into the Gap.
We walked for an hour and a half to get to the iconic bridge (pictured in the background above) which probably would have only been an hour on a milder day, then turned back. We changed into dry clothes, grabbed a coffee at the café and drove to Ladies View for yet another breathtaking view. Then we drove an hour to the adorable, tiny town of Sneem for the best lunch two hungry kids could ask for at the Village Kitchen. The fish chowder here is the best (of many) we’ve had in Ireland and the paninis are on point. From Sneem, the two-hour drive to Portmagee is entirely coastal, and it’s (shocker) gorgeous the entire way.
We stayed in the only Airbnb option in Portmagee at the time and the host was absolutely lovely, but we had to drive a mile down into town and it would have been a lot nicer to stay right in the little town center. “Little” means there are precisely two establishments right next door to each other that serve food and beer, and you should go to both of them. The fish and chips at the Fisherman’s Bar were delicious.
Day 2: Kerry Cliffs, Bray Head / Valentia Island, Inch Beach, Dingle
We were able to shackle breakfast at the Airbnb, and no matter where you stay in Portmagee you’ll be within five minutes of the Kerry Cliffs. Like many of the cliffs in Ireland, they’re unassuming from the parking lot. Then, you walk for just a minute and see this:
After hanging out at the cliffs and wondering if sorcery would be a lucrative career, we drove out to Valentia Island and walked the Bray Head Walking Loop (2.8) miles. It’s a gorgeous walk and you can see the Dingle Penninsula if the sky is clear. From Bray Head, you can take the quick little €6 ferry to Cahersiveen and continue on an hour and a half coastal drive to Dingle, with a stop to walk along stunning Inch Beach.
In Dingle, we stayed at Murphy B&B (not to be confused with the B&B directly next door above Muphy’s pub,) and loved it. Dingle is hands-down our favorite Irish town, and you’ll be fully entertained pub-hopping and snapping photos around town for a day. Foxy John’s and Dick Macks mustn’t be missed. We highly recommend a tour of the Dingle Distillery which is basically boozy adult storytime with an animated local who tells you the history of gin, Irish whiskey, and the distillery itself. Dingle Gin is delicious and quite famous around Ireland. If you have more time than we did, spend your second day on a boat tour around the peninsula hunting for Funghi, the infamous local dolphin.
Day 3: Sleahead Drive, Conor Pass, Return to Dublin
The Irish breakfast was great at Muphy B&B, and the host was correct in telling us we could not leave Dingle without taking the stunning Sleahead Drive. This is what we found:
There is a big sign along this drive to hold baby lambs. Pull over immediately, and do it. Sleahead loops you back to Dingle, and from there we braved the iconic Conor Pass. This tiny road is not for the faint of heart, but it isn’t nearly as long or testy as the coastal roads in the northeast part of the country. There’s a big parking area where you can take in the view along the Pass, and there is a hike across the road from the car park that takes you about a mile up the hill (beware the knee-deep muddy water if it has rained recently) for this view:
The beautiful lesson learned was that best mates will hike through any amount of bog water and sheep shit together for the views. We drove back to Dublin from there, with a glorious final stop at Counihan’s Shop in Tralee for the biggest 99 ice creams we’ve had yet, because that’s how you end any weekend trip in Ireland.
Check out the Ring of Kerry Tripsheet here.